On Wednesday 5 September two members of Southampton Sight along with Kate, Jackie and Angela visited Penny Melville-Brown at her home to take part in her Baking Blind series (www.bakingblind.com). Penny was one of the successful winners of the Holman Prize in 2017, Penny won the prestigious Holman prize for the innovative idea of taking Baking Blind across 6 continents. Sessions are videoed and published through her blog, social media and the Holman network across the world. As Penny says – ‘You don’t have to be blind to cook but it helps: extra sounds and smells, touch and tastes! Our ways of cooking may be different – because of where we live, what we can grow or what we can buy – having a disability doesn’t really matter. Food is the true universal language that breaks down barriers and brings us all together – no matter who, where or what we are.’ This enabled her to travel around the world and through the medium of cooking she met and cooked with professional and home cooks who shared their passion for cooking. Her project demonstrates that whether you are blind or not, you can cook and enjoy food just as much as someone who is sighted.

The three recipes that were being filmed were Sri Lankan beef and tamarind curry, chicken mushroom and leek pie and coffee and walnut cake. After introductions and a discussion about the plan for the day over a cup of coffee, the first person in the spot light was Steve who was cooking the curry. Before the days cooking he said, “I am out of practise with cooking things like curry but throw in the challenge of being filmed, cooking in an unfamiliar kitchen and it all made me feel a little apprehensive.”   The filming got underway and with support from Penny and once the sizzling of the spices, beef and vegetables could be heard Steve relaxed into his new role as ‘Curry Cook’. When the remaining ingredients were added to the pan and it was left to simmer and the sides were cleaned Steve could finally relax and enjoy watching everyone else cook and make a mess! J Special thanks to www.seasonedpioneers.com for donating all the yummy spices.

The second recipe of the day was my chicken, mushroom and leek pie adapted from Jamie Oliver’s 30 minute recipes. I couldn’t resist putting my twist on the pie by adding pancetta and replacing the spring onions with leeks. I remember feeling nervous and unsure of what to say but once Penny had introduced me to the camera I felt more at ease. Penny and I prepared the chicken and vegetables together before starting the cooking process. We had bought a new chopping gizmo but what a disaster, so Penny taught me how to use the knife properly. As this recipe needed stock, we experimented with talking measuring jugs and both got infuriated with the fact that one jug would apparently show on the display the measurement before speaking it which slowed down the process. The last challenge before topping the pie with pastry, was transferring the contents of the pan to the pie dish. This is quite tricky if both of you can’t see what either is doing – I’m surprised that neither of us made a splendid mess. Penny is more experienced than me at putting pastry on to a pie dish, so she showed me how to do this while being filmed, I think this was quite successful.

Once the curry and pie had been cooked it was time to enjoy the results and we sat outside to eat our lunch. Penny has lots of fresh herbs in her garden which we had used in our recipes and I was amazed it made such a difference. Everyone enjoyed both dishes and looked forward to Sue’s coffee and walnut cake for pudding as she was up next.

When asked how she felt about the day Sue said, “I remember feeling nervous about cooking while being filmed and not knowing where everything was as this wasn’t my kitchen”. When it was Sue’s turn to cook with Penny we were running out of time as the filming had taken much longer than anticipated. Sue and Penny used talking weighing scales to measure out the ingredients which caused much frustration as they are not the speediest and responsive of devices. They used a food processor to do all the mixing. Sue wasn’t used to this method, but she took it in her stride. The cake was made and was cooking in the oven; the next task was to make the butter cream filling and topping. This was quickly done and once the cakes were cooked and cooled in the fridge due to the lack of time the icing was liberally spread onto one of the sponges and sandwiched together. Lastly before tasting, the remainder of the icing was spread, and walnuts scattered on top. After the day Sue said, “Although we were pushed for time the cake wasn’t a disaster and I left feeling more confident about cooking.”

Penny not only spent time cooking with us but was able to share some of her gizmos from the kitchen including an Any Sharp knife sharpener and Joseph Joseph Cut and Carve Plus chopping board which we now have samples of in our rehab kitchen.

I would like to end by thanking Jackie for helping to make this day happen; I really enjoyed the day spent with Penny, Sue and Steve and have started to be more adventurous in the kitchen. Finally, I’d like to thank Penny for her hospitality, patience and enthusiasm for cooking.

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