Food Chaining

It seems like it’s been a while since my last Food Chain post, so just a quick re-introduction to the charity and what it’s all about.

On Sunday mornings, a group of cheery volunteers meet in different locations round London, and cook up a feast which then gets divided into several hundred take-away meals which are hand delivered to HIV-positive people round the city.

Antiretroviral drugs can control HIV infections, but if sufferers don’t have a diet of good food, their immune system can’t effectively rebuild itself and fight infection. The horrible thing is that when you’re healthy, cooking can be a joy—but if you’re ill, weak, and you’ve lost your appetite, then even venturing into the kitchen must be absolute hell.

So, one of the main aims is to make the food as appealing as possible. The Food Chain offers Caribbean and African options on the ever-changing menu, and also caters for all manner of dietary requirements. Each recipient is given a lunchtime main course and pudding as well as a light dinner. Every member of their family is given an identical meal, so there’s no sharing going on.

Everything kicks off early on Sunday mornings at four kitchens in London—Bermondsey, Highbury, Kentish Town and Tooting. There are usually teams of about 12 in each kitchen (apparently there are 850 volunteers in total though—so you’re not encouraged to volunteer every week, but maybe once every month or so).

Usually you’re put in a group of two or three, and are given a couple of aspects of the meals to prepare—around 11:30am everyone helps box up the portions, then they’re whisked off by a different set of volunteers who deliver the meals round London.

If you fancy doing something useful with your Sunday mornings, then I really do recommend The Food Chain—it’s very easy to join, it’s a lot more productive than church, and it’s INFINITELY more productive than mooching about with a hangover—there isn’t even any good tv on Sunday mornings, so go on—give it a go.

If you happen to be reading this, and you know somebody who might benefit from The Food Chain’s work, then you can download the referral sheet here.
If you want to learn more about cooking for people with HIV, then click here to access Ian Craddock’s cookbook online which is actually very interesting.

Right—enough plugging the charity—here’s what I made this Sunday. Now, I have to admit it’s wouldn’t be my meal of choice, seeing as the one food I really can’t handle is peanut butter….but all considering, it was a huge success, and is a really quick, cheap and easy recipe if you’ve got friends coming for supper, and you like this sort of stuff…!

African chicken in peanut sauce

Ingredients (enough for about six)
2 onions
1 stem of fresh ginger
10 tomatoes (diced)
1 scotch bonnet
1 pot of peanut butter
6 chicken portions (probably best cooking chicken on the bone eg. thigh, but breast would also work)

Firstly dice the onions, thinly slice the scotch bonnet and grate the ginger. In a deep frying pan, gently fry them all (adding them one at a time in the order listed).

Now, I was making just the sauce (we cooked about 80 chicken breasts-on-the-bone, then they were all finished with different sauces dependent on whether they were African, Caribbean or standard menu choices, or meals for people with dietary requirements). If, however, you wanted to cook the chicken in the whole dish, then I suppose you’d add it at this stage – make sure that the outside of the meat is nicely cooked all over, then add all the tomatoes.

In a separate pan, boil 500ml of water, and then add the peanut butter to it. This will look absolutely revolting, but don’t panic. Instead, give it a hearty stir, and then add it to everything else—and suddenly it’ll look quite tasty.

If you’re just making a sauce, then season and serve. If however you have decided to cook chicken in the dish, then you’d better let it simmer for at least ½ hour. Check the chicken is cooked, and then serve. If you’re looking for inspiration about what to serve it with, then see the African-themed meal below which contained fried plantain, wilted spinach and yam. Yum!

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