Cooking up a Storm!

Well we had fun last night!

Despite flooded roads and heavy traffic, eight of our Casserole members made it to East Surrey College for a class on Indian Cooking to Share. We’ve had the idea to run a cookery class for our members for quite a while, so we were so excited to finally get the opportunity to bring some of our community together to do a bit of what they do best – cook!

Our menu was one of Indian curries made completely from scratch – no curry paste here! After a quick introduction, we got to work on our Chicken Curry and Potato and Pea Bhaji. The room quickly filled with the clattering of pans, smells of fried onions, cumin, chilli and ginger. The reason we chose to do a class on curries is not only that it’s something most people might not know how to make from scratch at home, but it’s an ideal dish to share with others!

One of the most wonderful things about bringing people together in a kitchen, especially in a situation like a cooking class, is that strangers become fast friends. Within minutes of getting started, we heard laughter and banter between Casserole members as though they were old chums – once again, we saw food creating a glorious bridge between people and breaking down those barriers that might make getting to know someone a challenge.

Murtz and I spend a lot of time seeing people’s names on the website, reading their emails and hearing their voices on the phone, but nothing beats meeting them in person. Getting the opportunity to hear people’s stories, find out why their signed up and what they hope to get out of the service, and see them bonding with other members straight away is so invaluable to us, and makes all the hard work very well worth it.

In no time, our collection of ingredients were transformed into some top notch dishes that would give any curry house a run for it’s money! There were no kitchen disasters (although I *may* have overdone it with the chilli…) and everyone’s food looked absolutely delicious!

This first cooking class was a bit of a test run to see if people would actually be interested in attending, find out if it was a good way to get feedback from members, and help get members together to meet and make connections beyond the people they cook for – we’re chuffed to say all of the above seemed to work! After the fun of last night, we’ll definitely be looking to do many more of these, particularly as part of the thank you rewards that will be part of our new Plates feature.

Thanks to all the Casserole members who came along last night – it was an absolute pleasure to put faces to names and hear your enthusiasm for the service. We look forward to many more shared meals to come!

Now I’m off to enjoy the rest of my curry 😉

New Features!

Casserole launched in Beta at the end of May with our very first version of a full site. We have had some brilliant feedback from members so far, and are back with a few tweaks, changes and shiny new features to take Casserole to the next level of development. So without further ado, here are a few new things you will spot across the site:

About Page: In light of clarifying our message and how Casserole as a service works, we’ve revamped our About page to you a more thorough look at what Casserole is, where it came from, and how to use it best for you.

Neighbours: In our feedback, a few people mentioned how they would really like to be able to see what’s happening with Casserole, even if its not in their area – well now you can! You will notice in the there is a new section on your toolbar called Neighbours. With Neighbours you can see more easily what members are in your own area (and if you click on the Casserole icons, you can see a preview of their profiles), but you can also zoom out to see what’s happening with Casserole in areas both near and far!

Edit Profile: Huzzah! While before we had a bit of a clunky system where any changes to your profile needed to be made by us, you are now fully capable of managing your information yourself! Want to change your picture or fix your misspelt road name, not a problem.

Prices: When we launched the Beta site, we added in a function that gave cooks the option to charge a small amount for the meal they were sharing – this was met with some confusion and resistance from the Casserole community. By adding money into the mix, it seemed to muddle up our message a bit, which is the last thing we wanted to do. So, from now on, ad hoc meals shared on the site will be served up for free. For those people who decide to Pair Up (read the next section to hear more about that!), you will still have the option to charge, but for general meals shared openly on the site, those will be free across the board from now on.

Pair Up: This is a special new scheme set within Casserole for those of you looking for a more long-term, regular pairing with someone in your community. While the site is great for meals you want to offer up to the whole community, we learned through feedback that that’s not an ideal situation if you are cooking regularly for one particular person.

So, we’d like to introduce you to Pair Up – a scheme that matches a local cook and local diner and helps support a regular meal sharing arrangement between the two. These could either be a pair who met through an ad hoc meal on Casserole who wish to start sharing on a regular basis, or new Casserole members who would rather be matched with someone from the get go. Once a match is made, we will help you sort out a rough meal schedule (whether that is on a weekly or fortnightly basis), as well as whether you wish any money to be exchanged for meals (usually in the form of contributing to ingredients). After everything is set, we will send you gentle reminders before a meal is meant to be served, and ask you to let us know what you’ve cooked (more on why we want to know what you’ve cooked in the next section).

Part of the reason for Pair Up is to make sure Casserole can be used in a way that best suits you – whether its for an occasional meal or a regular schedule.

Plates: Every meal a cook serves through Casserole is a small action that can make a big difference in a diner’s life – and we want to make sure we track and celebrate those actions with what we like to call plates. For every meal you share, you will get a “plate” – this serves two purposes – 1) it helps us keep track of all the meals being served through Casserole to help measure social impact and growth and 2) it helps you mark some brilliant milestones in your involvement in Casserole. For every milestone (5, 25, 50, 75, and 100 plates – for now) you hit, Casserole will give you a celebratory token of appreciation (we’ll share more details on what those will be soon!) for being an active member of the community.

There you have it – a little tour of the shiny new things you will spot on the Casserole site today. As always, please let us know your thoughts – what you like and what you don’t – so we can keep improving Casserole.

Happy Cooking!