Celebrating Black cultures at Healthy Living Platform

Black History Month has been celebrated in the UK for more than 30 years. It was originally founded in order to celebrate the contribution that people of African and Caribbean backgrounds have made to the UK over past generations. It has now expanded to include the history of Black people from all around the world.

Our community is made up of people from a range of backgrounds and a lot of our members are of black heritage. Prior to COVID, we would regularly host in-person cooking sessions, led by different parents within the community. One of the things we loved about this was getting to share foods from the many different cultures that reflect the community and hear the stories behind these foods.

As part of Black History month, we hosted a series of online talks and cook-alongs sharing stories related to Black cultures and food. These events can be found on the Healthy Living Platform Youtube channel and some of the recipes and stories in other posts.

We heard from Food Ambassador Adelaide from Angola who taught us about Angolan cuisine and growing up in Angola, and shared her Angolan soup recipe adapted for vegetarians. We heard from Ennieie and Therese  from Nigeria, about Joloff rice being cooked on just special occasions and their experience of life in the UK. Food Ambassador, Rosemarie entertained  us with her tales of traditional Jamaican ways of cleansing the body, referred to as ‘wash out’. 

We have our last online cook-along tomorrow (Thursday 29th) at 12, with Diane and Sharone: ‘A taste of Ghana and Jamaica with a twist’. We can’t wait for this. You can still sign up here

In our Healthy Living Kitchen we decided to focus on cooking food from Black cultures – African, Afro-Latin and Caribbean. We loved the challenge of learning new dishes and came up with different, delicious recipes each week. We always love to cook international food, but having a focus for the month was a great opportunity to diversify even more and cook some new dishes that reflect our community.

We made too many different dishes to list them all here but some real highlights of the month were:

Ethiopian berbere lentils with Ye’atakilt alicha (cabbage, potatoes & carrots)

Nigerian-inspired bean and spinach stew with jollof rice

Zimbabwean chakalaka

Rice n peas

Plantain burgers with jerk-roasted root veg

Ghanaian plantain and sweetcorn cakes

As we send our meals out to a really diverse range of people we have perhaps sometimes erred on the side of caution when it comes to spices. However, we have had some feedback that our meals could be spicier! We rose to the challenge and enjoyed making the most of spicy foods this month with piri-piri sauce, berbere spices, scotch bonnets and more! Since we are cooking with donated surplus the dishes may not always be exactly true to the original or traditional recipes. When we told food ambassador, Diana about adding kidney beans to her grandmother’s Ghanaian spinach stew recipe, joking aside that her gran ‘will kill me’,  she commented ‘It’s a remix then….Food is all about re-mixing – adding and taking out’. 

What we plan to do next

Although we are coming towards the end of Black History Month, this does not really mean the end. Rather the month has given us an opportunity to think about projects moving forward: from Black History Month to Black History matters!

We want to continue learning about and celebrating  Black cultures and the other ethnicities that make up our rich and diverse community.

We plan to continue hosting regular on-line talks and cook-alongs led by people within the Lambeth community. Maybe you have an idea for a talk or cook-along you would like to host. Is there a particular cooking skill or cuisine you would love to share, or maybe there is something you are interested in learning more about? We’d love to also share healthy recipes from some of the festivals around the world – we have coming up… Diwali, thanksgiving, Day of the day.

We also want to carry on providing meals in our Healthy Living Kitchen that reflect the food that our community love to eat.  If you’ve received our meals which ones have you loved?  Is there a dish from your culture that you think we could recreate? Are there any particular types of meals you are craving at this time? Perhaps you’d like to volunteer with us for a day to teach us your favourite (veggie) dish or run one of our online cook-alongs? 

Please email info@healthylivingplatform.com with any ideas you may have. We aim to continue to develop and grow as an organisation, and welcome all feedback and ideas.