What Will You Do With Your Extra Hour?

PARTNEREDPOSTIn the words of Ned Stark, ‘winter is coming’. But in the real world that’s less a sign that white walkers will soon be invading our land so much as the onset of grey gloomy skies, cold wet weather and long, dark nights.

I always hate the switch to British Summer Time in the spring – that loss of an hour feels so much more than a mere 60 minutes. But at least it’s offset by the delights of spring, with days growing ever longer and brighter, and a calming profusion of lush green and colourful flowers.

In contrast, winter is heralded by the return to Greenwich Mean Time with clocks going back by an hour on the 30th of October. Most years, I greedily take that as an extra hour in bed, or at the very least an hour longer to read a good book or have a long hot soak in the bath.

But this year I’ve been asked by Elizabeth Shawto use that hour do something thoughtful for someone else instead’. I love this idea! It’s a perfect reminder that a single hour is enough time to make a difference to those around you. It’s easy to be put off thinking about what you could do to help others because of the assumption that you can only contribute usefully if you volunteer several hours a week on a regular basis or take part in a huge time- and energy-intensive event.

Of course, that’s not true at all and what I want to talk about are the easily achievable small gestures you can do to improve someone else’s day and bring a little more happiness into the world.

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Source image from shutterstock.com, text added by me

I am lucky to know many enormously decent, kind and lovely people. When I asked for their ideas on the kinds of things we can do to help others if we have just one hour to give, the response was staggering (in a good way) and hugely inspiring. I want to share with you all the things my friends do to make the world a brighter place.

All of these are ideas that you can do if you have an ad hoc hour or two spare.

  • Does your area have a local homeless shelter? (Citizens Advice should be able to provide a list). Instead of going shopping for yourself, go out and buy items to give to the shelter which they can distribute amongst their residents. A friend of mine who does this whenever she can recommends asking the shelter for guidance, first. For example, if you’d like to buy food items, ask whether residents have access to cooking facilities and if so, whether they have use of an oven, a stove top, a microwave, a fridge… and choose your donations accordingly. Ask what toiletry and hygiene items are most in need – toothbrushes, toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, moisturiser, female sanitary items, shaving foam and razors
  • In a similar vein, get in touch with your local food bank and ask how and when to contribute. At mine, you can leave donations pretty much any day of the week, but with others they are only able to accept donations on certain days. Your food bank will be able to give guidance on what they are particularly short of as well as items that are considered a special treat. I like to donate a mix of affordable food essentials – pasta, sauces, tinned food – with a few items that may be a welcome treat – chocolates, good quality biscuits, a nice jar or honey, jam or chocolate spread. (And a note for fellow food and drink bloggers – if, like me, you are often sent product samples beyond what you need for review, consider donating what you can – just make sure everything you give is within the use by period).

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Image from shutterstock.com

  • If you grow fruit and vegetables in your garden or allotment, you’ll almost certainly already be sharing gluts with friends, family and colleagues. You may also be able to donate fresh produce either to a food bank (check if they can handle fresh produce first), or to a local homeless shelter or other organisations that cook and feed those in need.
  • Even if you can’t offer your time on a regular basis, local charities can often use help on an ad hoc basis. Organisations that provide meals to the homeless are often happy for help with kitchen prep, even if you can only offer it now and again. If you have specialist skills, can you offer to help with their accounts, tax returns, website or marketing? Maybe the organisation in question has an administrator who could do with better Excel skills – commercial training courses can be expensive, but a one-to-one lesson from a patient and willing helper could be just as useful. One of my friends is a master chef and he donates his time by way of cooking classes for a community cooking school, for various events and demos, and at his local shelter. A family member of mine has run cooking classes for a local education group, helping parents learn to make good, affordable and nutritious food for their families.

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Cake sale image by Jo Brigdale, individual orange cakes

  • Have you got a spare hour in the  kitchen? Bake a cake (or two or three) to give as a gift or donate for fundraising. One of my friends suggests freezing extra cakes, and she can then donate several at a time when there’s a bake sale. Another loves to surprise neighbours with cakes and other baked treats now and then, just because.
  • One of my favourite ideas for those who enjoy baking is a scheme called Free Cakes For Kids, run entirely by volunteers. Members provide birthday (and other celebration) cakes for children (and occasionally adults) who wouldn’t otherwise have them. A friend of mine has signed up to her local group and finds it a lovely way to do something small that has a huge and positive impact on someone’s day. Recipients can be referred by schools, social workers and other aid organisations. The requests are sent out to volunteers by email, and there are enough volunteers in my friend’s group that there is virtually always a volunteer who can accommodate each request.

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Cakes made by my friend Jennie for Free Cakes For Kids

  • One way of doing something that can benefit a whole community is to join a community group that organises activities in your neighbourhood. A few of my friends belong to church groups and other community groups, and one is a member of Good Gym, a community of runners who combine exercise with doing good. Members of these various clubs take part in group activities such as litter picking, weeding and gardening in parks, community gardens and other communal areas, fixing or painting park benches, fences and railings, planting trees, running fundraisers or community social events, and helping elderly locals with home and garden chores. The advantage of these groups is that while some members may be able to attend every time, those who can only attend sometimes are still welcome.

On a more personal note, there are plenty of small gestures that can make such a big difference.

  • If you have any elderly or housebound neighbours, go around for a cup of tea and a chat, perhaps taking a cake or some biscuits with you. Those with reduced mobility and living on their own, can easily become lonely and isolated. If you don’t know anyone personally, contact Age UK (a merger of Age Concern England and Help the Aged) and ask if they know anyone in your vicinity who may appreciate a visit.
  • One of my friends helped a neighbour decorate their home for Christmas. Getting decorations down from the loft and putting the tree up can be difficult, and for some it might be easier not to bother with a tree at all than to ask for help from others. A good tip from my friend is not to just tell someone to ask you if they need any help, but to make a few suggestions of specific tasks you could help with – it’s easier for people to say yes to a specific offer of help than to ask for something they feel may be too much of an imposition.
  • What kind of tasks could you offer to help with? An hour’s time is plenty to mow a lawn, tidy up a garden, sweep autumn leaves or clear the front path of snow, or do other small maintenance tasks such as repainting a front door or garden fence.  Perhaps you could do someone’s weekly shop for them at the same time you do your own – it can give more peace of mind to have a friend or neighbour to do this rather than relying on supermarket deliveries – especially for those who are not confident ordering online. Think about whether any of your neighbours or friends could benefit from this kind of help, or again, ask Age UK if they know of people in your area.

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Collage created using images from shutterstock.com

  • Do you have friends suffering from depression or anxiety? Offering to accompany them for a walk in a nearby park or the local neighbourhood can be hugely appreciated; a way to get some fresh air and a different perspective.
  • Professional babysitting services can be very expensive and many people simply can’t afford them and may have no extended family who can help. Offer to babysit for a friend (whose children know you) or have their children over to yours for a few hours so the parent(s) may enjoy some time out.
  • Do you know someone who is a full time carer to an elderly, disabled or chronically ill relative? Perhaps you could take their place to allow them to get out of the house for an hour or two – not everyone has extended family that can share the role. If you don’t know anyone personally, you may be able to find a local carers support organisation that could connect you with someone in your vicinity.

Although I’m focusing predominantly on the kinds of gestures you can make even if you only have the odd hour or two now and again, my friends also mentioned many ways of volunteering for those who can give time more regularly.

  • These range from joining your children’s school Parent Teacher Associations, where there are all manner of activities you can help with, to becoming a leader for a local Guide or Scout group – a great way to help children in your community learn new skills, develop confidence and be more active.

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To make a small gesture of their own, Elizabeth Shaw are offering a hamper of their delicious products to one reader of Kavey Eats. Click here to find out more and to enter.

Kavey Eats was commissioned to write this post by Elizabeth Shaw Luxury Chocolates. All opinions and suggestions are my own.

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The Big Chocolate Tea Party + Chocolate Teaser soufflé Recipe

I was a lucky child. Neither my sister nor I experienced any major accidents, illnesses or health issues. Our occasional visits to hospital were brief and easily dealt with by our local hospital or local health services.

But some families are not so lucky. Some families have to deal with serious childhood sicknesses that are desperately worrying, may require specialist treatment and can result in short or long stays in hospitals far from home. How hard it must be for parents to handle the extra stress of journeys to and from home and hospital, trying to simultaneously provide love and support to the child in hospital and as normal an environment for their other children, let alone trying to keep on top of work commitments and everyday chores.

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The Sick Children’s Trust provides free, high quality ‘Home from Home’ accommodation as well as emotional and practical support to families who have seriously ill children in hospital. Founded in 1982 by two paediatric specialists Dr Jon Pritchard and Professor James Malpas, the charity has ten houses based at major paediatric hospitals across the UK and it costs them just £28 per night to provide their much-needed service. They currently support around 3,500 families a year and demand is growing, as children must increasingly travel long distances for the specialist treatment they need.

At a recent launch event for the trust’s Big Chocolate Tea Party, I listened first hand to the stories of parents who had stayed in one of the homes, and unsurprisingly, it made a huge difference to each and every one of them. The accommodation allows the parents and any siblings of the sick child to stay together in a location close to the hospital, providing not only a base to sleep but also a place to rest, to unwind and to emotionally recharge during a very tough time.

The Sick Children’s Trust is once again asking supporters to host their own Big Chocolate Tea Party between now and May to help raise funds to support the charity’s work.

They aim to raise £100,000 which will go a huge way in helping them support sick children and their families. Remember, just £28 provides a room in a Home from Home for a night.

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Edd Kimber’s S’more Choux Buns and John Whaite’s Chocolate Teaser soufflé

Paul A Young, master chocolatier and Vice President of the Sick Children’s Trust has been inspired and touched by the charity’s work. The Big Chocolate Tea Party gives him “the perfect opportunity to use [his] love of chocolate to fundraise in a fun and indulgent way while supporting many families who are facing the most difficult of circumstances miles from their home.”

Paul,  Raymond Blanc, Edd Kimber and John Whaite have provided recipes to inspire anyone keen to get involved, you can find ideas and download some of these recipes and fundraising materials here.

Alternatively, email email chocolate@sickchildrenstrust.org for a free party pack, which includes more recipes.

As a thank you for taking part and helping to raise funds to support the charity’s homes, all those who host a party or bake-off during the May 2015 Big Chocolate Tea Party campaign will be entered into a draw for a chocolate tea weekend for two in Paris, including Premium Leisure Eurostar tickets, two nights bed and breakfast accommodation in a five star Paris hotel and a pair of tickets to Salon du Chocolate, the prestigious annual chocolate show.

John Whaite’s Chocolate Teaser soufflé

This recipe is blissfully easy, but more importantly, it’s decadently perfect for a lazy, indulgent brunch. The mayonnaise isn’t a typing error – I use mayonnaise a lot when working with chocolate cakes I need to be gooey. The mayonnaise adds an egg-like texture, which helps create an unctuous inside because it doesn’t coagulate like an egg.

Makes four

Ingredients
2 tsp golden caster sugar
100g dark chocolate, roughly chopped (60% is fine, don’t go overly bitter)
70g milk chocolate, roughly chopped
2 tbsp golden syrup
5 eggs, separated
1 tbsp mayonnaise
200g Maltesers, roughly bashed
For the sauce
100g milk chocolate
100ml double cream
100g Maltesers, bashed to fine pieces
Essential equipment
4 x 200ml ramekins, very well greased with butter
Baking sheet

Method

  • Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/Gas 6.
  • Sprinkle the sugar into the greased ramekins and shake about so the sides and base are covered.
  • Place the chocolates and golden syrup into a heatproof bowl and set over a pan of barely simmering water. Allow the chocolate to slowly melt together with the syrup, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and allow to cool, but not set.
  • Meanwhile, put the egg whites into a mixing bowl and whisk until they are fluffy and stiff.
  • Beat the egg yolks into the chocolate along with the mayonnaise. Gently fold in the roughly bashed Maltesers, before very gently folding in the whisked whites – you want the mixture to be a smooth, even- toned batter, though of course with humps of Malteser.
  • Divide the mixture between the ramekins, cleaning the rim of each with your thumb. Set on to the baking sheet and bake for 10–12 minutes, or until beautifully risen. They may crack on top, but who cares – you’re going to be diving in soon anyway.
  • To make the sauce, simply place the chocolate and cream in a heatproof bowl and set over a pan of simmering water. Stirring occasionally, allow the chocolate to melt into the cream until you have a smooth, glossy sauce.
  • To serve, tell the eater to take a spoonful out of the centre, then pour in some of glorious, warm sauce.

Thank you to The Sick Children’s Trust for inviting me along to your launch event, and sharing with me the amazing work you do to help sick children and their families. Recipe and images courtesy of The Sick Children’s Trust.

The Soldiers’ Charity: Big Curry Lunch

It’s been a long time since we had a war that really touched ordinary Brits; a war that threatened us on our home ground. More than 60 years, in fact.  So perhaps it’s easier now than it was back then for people to feel disconnected to our armed forces; out of sight is out of mind. The arenas of war in which our military fight now are far removed and unfamiliar; we see them daily on the TV and in the papers, but it’s hard to really understand what our soldiers are doing, why they are doing it and what they are going through, on our behalf.

But whatever you think about the rights, wrongs or justifications of any given military action; what you think the role of our military ought to be; your opinions on the global socio-economic-political environment in which we (and our military) operate and the best ways to make the world a safer place… none of this should stop you from being thankful to the men and women who put their lives on the line because our country asks them to.

I can’t imagine the life of a soldier, in combat or not.

Nor can I imagine what it’s like, for both serving and retired soldiers (and their families), to discover that your country is unwilling or unable to give you all the support you need during and after your time of service.

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ABF The Soldiers’ Charity is there to fill that gap, whether it’s financial assistance when in need; help in organising and funding training, education and support to secure employment after leaving the army; practical (and emotional) help in adapting to physical disability, including modifications to homes and transport; top up grants to cover the costs of care homes for elderly veterans…

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Great Hall, Royal Hospital Chelsea; Dan, with whom we shared a wonderful chat over lunch

Last month, I was privileged to attend an event to launch ABF The Soldiers’ Charity Big Curry, the charity’s now annual fundraising campaign which invites supporters to host their own Big Curry events across the UK, to help raise money for the charity. The launch event saw an eclectic group of professional chefs, food writers, bloggers and random celebrities attend a wonderful Big Curry lunch with the Chelsea Pensioners. Cooked by Gurkha master chef Pemba Lama (author of The Ultimate Nepalese Cookbook), the feast was served in the Great Hall at the Royal Hospital Chelsea.

It was an enormous pleasure to take our places amongst the pensioners and join them for this lunch. I was also delighted to meet Pemba Lama and his publisher Annie Watsham, having posted a review of The Ultimate Nepalese Cook Book, sales of which support the Gurkha Welfare Trust .

The Soldiers’ Charity has been supporting our soldiers and their families since 1944. If you’d like to step forward and help them with their work, read more about how you can contribute, here.

If you’re thinking of cooking a big curry feast at home, here are some menu planning tips from Mamta’s Kitchen.

Curry For Change – Find Your Feet

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Curry for Change is a fundraising and awareness campaign by charity Find Your Feet.

Find Your Feet is a small organisation currently working in the most remote areas of India, Nepal, Malawi and Zimbabwe. They help poor rural families improve their agricultural practices so they can grow enough food; support them in finding their voice so they are better able to speak up for themselves when it comes to defending their rights, dealing with injustice and corruption and claiming any meagre grants or benefits that might be available; and help them to create income streams which allow them to find their feet.

The Curry for Change campaign aims to raise awareness of the charity’s projects in India, through a celebration of Indian cuisine and by doing so, hopes to raise £10,000 towards it’s projects in all four countries.

 

The Indian project office is based in Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh, which is where my mum grew up and where most of her family still live. She had the great fortune to be born into a family that lived in comfort, ate well and could afford to educate all their children to university level and give them the best start in life.

But many in the state don’t share that good luck and live lives of hardship, poor health, grinding poverty, prejudice and injustice.

Find Your Feet, through their Curry For Change campaign, are asking you to help them improve the lives and prospects of communities that are isolated, marginalised and struggling to survive

 

There are two prongs to the campaign:

 

Dine Out

A number of Indian restaurants (including charity patron Atul Kochhar’s restaurants) have committed to asking diners throughout the month of June to add donations to their bills. Visit any of the partner restaurants any time in June, enjoy a wonderful meal and contribute to Curry For Change at the same time.

Other restaurants on the list for 2013 Atul Kochhar’s Benares and Indian Essence, Vivek Singh’s Cinnamon Club, Cinnamon Kitchen and Cinnamon Soho, Cyrus Todiwala’s Cafe Spice as well as Roti Chai and Regency Club. Hopefully, that list will be even bigger by the time June 1st rolls around.

 

Cook a Curry

Find Your Feet is calling on you to organise your own Curry for Change event to raise funds for their many projects.

Bring your family and friends together, ask them to buy tickets or donate during the evening and see how much you can raise.

It’s much easier than you think to cook a fabulous Indian feast at home and share with it family and friends.

When you register online, you’ll receive a bag of Indian spices, some great recipes from Atul Kochhar and Anjali Pathak, invitations and thank you notes for your guests, and a donation form and envelopes to collect contributions. And everyone who hosts a Curry for Change event will be entered into a prize draw for a personal cookery class with Anjali Pathak.

Mum and I have put together some Mamta’s Kitchen menu suggestions for you here. Or you can put your own selection of dishes together, we have hundreds and hundreds at mum’s site, Mamta’s Kitchen.

You have until November 30th to take part, so plenty of time to plan, invite, host and return the donations.

 

I’m posting today to give you a heads up and encourage you to get involved, either by visiting one of the partner restaurants during June, or hosting a fundraising curry night between June and November. Thanks for reading!

Tools For Self Reliance Cymru

Tools For Self Reliance Cymru collect old and unwanted hand tools, mostly those used by gardeners, and their volunteers clean, repair and sharpen them. They send their refurbished tool kits to grass roots community groups in Africa.

As they explain, "Tools mean work, and the chance to shape their future, just as important to a young person in Tanzania or Ghana today as it is in Britain."

Abergavenny-2003

In addition to sending tools to Africa, TFSR Cymru also buy tools and items made by blacksmiths in Africa, those they have supported in the past, and bring them back to the UK for sale.

TSFR Cymru also sell a large number of tools that they receive for refurbishment but which are not required by their African partners, either because they are easily made locally or are not needed there. These tools are also cleaned and sharpened, fitted with new handles where necessary and often have much more character than modern tools.

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We encountered TSFR Cymru at this year’s Abergavenny Food Festival when their box of rakes, hoes, cultivators, dibbers caught our eye. When we saw how reasonable the prices were, Pete could not resist purchasing a cultivator, which shall be put to good work in the garden and allotment in coming months.

There were also some smaller gardening and other tools available which would be ideal for gardeners, or as gifts for gardening friends.

Abergavenny-2005

Tools For Self Reliance Cymru are an independent registered charity based in Crickhowell in South Wales, and they collect tools from across Wales.

For those outside Wales, if you have friends and family closer to TFSR Cymru  or are planning a holiday, do look at whether you are able to contribute any old and unwanted tools for them to refurbish. TSFR Cymru have four groups in Wales as well as a network of collectors who also help them gather suitable tools.

 

(There is also a separate UK Tools for Self Reliance organisation which does similar work and may have centres near you).

 

With thanks to Abergavenny Food Festival for press passes to attend the festival.

Own a Colour and Help Save a Child’s Life

Thanks to Fuss Free Flavours, I learned about this lovely way of supporting UNICEF by naming a colour.

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Our perception of colours in the world around us is limited only by the complexity and sensitivity of our eyes.

But when it comes to representing colours on a computer screen, things are much more precise. Helen explains it really well: “computers do things by absolute values and each colour is defined by the amount of red, green and blue it contains on a scale of 0 to 255, making a total of 16,777,216 colours that can be displayed.”

Dulux have come up with a novel way of raising money for children’s charity, UNICEF. For a donation of £1 (or more, if you like) you can choose and name one of these 16.7 million colours. All the money raised will go directly to help transform children’s lives.

The first two colours I’ve picked are the Mamta’s Kitchen logo colours, to celebrate our recent 10th anniversary, not to mention the fun of being featured on the Leon menu. (For those of you who don’t know, Mamta’s Kitchen is the family cookbook website that Pete and I run with my mum, Mamta).

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I’ve called them Mamta’s Kitchen Chilli Red and Mamta’s Kitchen Turmeric Yellow (though eagled eyed among you will notice a missing apostrophe in the yellow – names can be no longer than 30 characters).

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I am definitely going to choose and name some more colours; it’s well worth a teeny tiny pound for the fun let alone supporting a great cause!

I hope you name some colours of your own. Do let me know what colours and names you choose!

Mamta’s Kitchen 10th Anniversary Cookery Class

Mamta’s Kitchen celebrates its 10th anniversary in May 2011. During that time we’ve had over 6.9 million visits and we have over 1,400 recipes on the site, contributed by Mamta, family and friends and our readers.

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For those of you who don’t know, Mamta is my mum. Pete and I designed the site and do all the maintenance and support. Mum is the driving force behind the content.

To celebrate this anniversary, we’re holding a fundraising all-day cookery class in Mamta’s own kitchen, with proceeds going to the Khushboo Welfare Society (see below).

For those who can’t make this date, we hope to offer additional dates soon.

Date: Saturday 14th May
Time: 10 am to approximately 8 pm
Location: Mamta’s Kitchen, Luton, Bedfordshire
Price: £95 per person

Included

  • Lassi and cumin biscuits on arrival
  • A light lunch that you will cook together
  • A tasty dinner that you will cook together
  • Wine and soft drinks with dinner
  • Tea, coffee and biscuits during the day
  • Printed recipes


Provisional Menu

These are the dishes we are planning to make during the day, however the exact menu will depend on availability of ingredients, so we may switch one or more dishes nearer the time.

  • Lunch: Mixed pakoras
  • Lunch: Paneer Cream Tikka
  • Lunch: A Mix of Indian salads
  • Break: Chai
  • Dinner: Meatball curry
  • Dinner: Spiced Fried Fish
  • Dinner: Stuffed Aubergines
  • Dinner: Urad Daal Khada Masala
  • Dinner: Matar Pulao (Pilaf)
  • Dinner: Rotis & Pooris
  • Dinner: Vermicelli Kheer

Of course, we have never run this kind of event before, so we’re making our best guess on how much we can cover in the time. We may not manage to make every dish but we’ll cover as much as we possibly can and we have reserve plans to ensure that dinner shall be a feast, regardless!

Additional Information

The class will start at 10 am and includes a drink and snack on arrival, lunch and dinner, drinks and snacks during the day, and wine and soft drinks with dinner. We’ll aim to sit down for dinner at around 6 pm so finish time will be approximately 8 pm.

We are limiting class size to 5 students. They will be joined for the meals by Mamta’s little helpers, Pete and Kavita and possibly one or two other family members for dinner.

As the class is being held in a domestic kitchen, with a single oven and stove top, students will be working together to create the dishes and will need to take turns to participate. But don’t worry, there will be plenty of hands on experience throughout the day.

The (Luton) address will be provided on confirmation of booking. Plenty of (free) parking is available. Alternatively, you can train to Luton station which is a short bus/ taxi ride from our house. We may be able to collect you from the station if we can coordinate arrival times.

We will donate at least £60 from each student’s fees to the Khushboo Welfare Society. If ingredients costs come in a little lower than budgeted, we’ll be able to better that.

Khushboo Welfare Society is a small, voluntary NGO in Gurgaon (near Delhi), which provides multidisciplinary education for the development and rehabilitation of children, adolescents and young adults with mental and multiple disabilities. This is something that is not widely available in India, even today.

Booking

Please email Kavey@mamtaskitchen.com for further information and to book your place.

Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Relief – How you can help

Please visit my friend, MiMi’s blog to read about how you can help by donating to the Red Cross.

As MiMi points out, “Japan has asked for outside help, and for a country as proud as that to do so, they must be in severe need right now – faced as they are by earthquake, tsunami, nuclear emergency and an erupting volcano.”

Please consider donating what you can.