Casserole Club’s #CasseroleChristmas Campaign

Ah, Christmas.

Here at Casserole Club we love the feeling of preparing for the big Christmas dinner. Roast potatoes smothered in gravy. Stuffing the turkey until it’s full, then sitting down with family and friends to share food and stories.

In the last year our wonderful Casserole Cooks have been sharing extra portions of delicious home cooked food with older Diners in Barnet, Tower Hamlets, and Reigate & Banstead in Surrey.

Over the festive season we want to encourage people to think about their older neighbours who might be spending Christmas alone, and how you could help them by taking part in projects like the Casserole Club.

That’s why this year we’re asking our Cooks to share a portion of their Christmas dinner with an older neighbour this Boxing Day.

If you live in Barnet, Tower Hamlets or Reigate & Banstead, then sign up to Casserole Club and we can match you with an older neighbour this Christmas.

If Casserole Club isn’t currently in your area we’d still love you to sign up so we can let you know when we’re live in your area.

Throughout December we’ll be sharing 25 ways to help, including how to take part in Casserole Club if you live in one of our active areas, some of our Cooks’ favourite Christmas recipes and some heartwarming Casserole Club stories to get you in the festive mood.

You can follow along by liking the Casserole Club Facebook page, following @Casserole_Club on Twitter or checking back on this blog for the latest updates.

We’re calling it the #CasseroleChristmas campaign. Get involved here.

Member Meet Up Follow Up

Thursday evening, settled into a corner of very comfy chairs at UrbanNine in Reigate, we met up with 6 local Casserole members to chat about the service, plans for the future, and hear their honest thoughts on where things are headed.

We talked about everything from how they found out about Casserole and why they decided to sign up, to the future of the service in Reigate and Banstead and how Casserole might be funded. Everyone who showed up had some brilliant and insightful things to say – some of which confirmed ideas that we’d been thinking about already, and others which opened our eyes to some new opportunities within the community.

Maggie, Natasha and Liz listening intently

“I want someone down my road who I can pop round and visit on a saturday morning” – Ruth

“I would love for [my grandmother] to have this type of service, and that’s why I signed up.” – Natasha

We talked about the potential of connecting with local churches, primary schools and nurseries (where parents are most likely seeking ways to get involved in the neighbourhood and word can spread quickly across the playground), and sheltered housing to reach more potential members. When discussing the idea of expansion and scale, we talked, and all agreed in the importance of having someone dedicated within the community to help manage members and be a face to the service in the area. We chatted about how Casserole could be a source of great comfort and assurance to adult children who may live far away from their ageing parents, and how there shouldn’t be set criteria for who qualifies as a Diner.

I can’t fit everything we talked about into this blog (otherwise you will be here for ages) but one of the greatest moments of the whole evening was watching as new members asked one of our more veteran cooks, Maggie, about her experience in Casserole – what it’s like delivering meals, how does she arrange them, does she enjoy it, etc… Maggie’s accounts of getting on with her Diner Pam, the laid back way in which they arrange their meals (Maggie cooks once a fortnight, and just rings Pam up at the beginning of the week and says “Do you fancy eating ____”) seemed to appease some of the apprehension new members may have had about arranging their first meal and by the end of the night, you could tell they were inspired to get cooking as soon as they can.

While most people who sign up to Casserole are avid cooks, one of our members signed up in spite of the cooking – “Even though I hate cooking, I think the idea is amazing, so I signed up.” So no excuses – even an aversion to the kitchen doesn’t have to be a reason to not get involved in something good!

One final word – our Casserole members are bloody supportive. Every ounce of challenging questions, local advice and words of encouragement they supplied were exactly the type of constructive feedback we thrive on to improve and develop the service. When we spoke of the difficult nature of finding Diners, Ruth immediately piped in, “It’s a slow burn, but you will get there,” with a circle of nods and comments on how a service like this, one built on trust, inherently takes longer to grow, but that it becomes all the stronger because of that. So a huge thanks to those members who took time out of their evening to drop by and talk to us – we couldn’t do it without you!

Food Friends in Surrey

During our 8 or so months (and counting) working in Surrey on Casserole, we’ve been lucky enough to discover, befriend and partner with some pretty awesome organisations and businesses that are doing great things with food and cooking in the area. Since we are all about sharing the love, here’s a little run down of some of our favourite food-related finds and why you should check them out!

Local Food Surrey – This is THE place online to find everything you want to know about local food in Surrey. They have lists of top food producers, small businesses, farm shops, restaurants, foodie events, recipes, and articles to inspire home cooks to buy local and celebrate the culinary delights that Surrey has to offer. Find out what local delicacies are available near you and support Surrey’s food businesses!

East Surrey College – We’ve been chatting to East Surrey College since almost the very beginning of our time in Redhill about how the college and Casserole can work together to support our members. Apart from having a beautiful new building, the college runs a brilliant series of adult cookery classes (ranging from one off evening courses to longer multi-week sessions) that are perfect for any avid cook looking to pick up a few new tricks and recipes and have a bit of fun. Just the other night, we ran a special Indian Cooking to Share class for a few of our Cooks which went swimmingly (given the positive response from this first one, there are sure to be plenty more i the future!), and was a great opportunity to get Casserole members together doing what they do best.

The Art of Living CookShop – Need that perfect baking pan or the best spatula you will ever use (seriously, the best!)? Art of Living is a family run shop in Reigate (they have another shop in Cobham too!) that is a bit of a wonderland filled with every type of cooking supply you could possibly need, are always experimenting with new gadgets (the food results of which they share with their customers). They helped spread the word about Casserole amongst their customer community when our Beta site went live, and we hope to do more with them in the future!

Chalk Hills Bakery – Chalk Hills Bakery is our favourite place to grab an artisanal loaf when we are in Reigate. Chris, the owner, went above and beyond when we asked for some help with our pop-up Lunch Table in Redhill a fewmonths ago,donating two whole bags of beautiful, freshly baked bread to accompany our free lunch feast. They bake all of their bread at Priory Farm (another wonderful place to visit!), use organic flour, and follow traditional, artisanal baking methods – their seeded sourdough is out of this world! 

There you have it, a few of our favourite foodie friends in Surrey. We hope you take the time to check them out, pop round for a visit and say hello! 

Casserole Lunch and Learn, come and join us

We mentioned it last week, but here is the full flyer for our upcoming Casserole Lunch and Learn event in Redhill – doesn’t it looks nice? Check out the details below, and click on the flyer to sign up to attend.

We hope to see you there (and don’t forget a dish to share)!

A Day at the Redhill Markets

Bag full of homemade treats….check, plenty of warm clothes…check, 6am start…check this could only mean one thing…. Casserole was hitting the markets in Redhill. 

After a long drive through South London we were finally up and about in Redhill to chat to local residents about the Casserole project and the trial we are starting next week. We thought what better way then to cook up some tasty treats and set up a stall in the Redhill Market (thanks to the lovely folks at Hughmark International who helped us get the stall and also to Rachel and Kirsty for cooking up some delicious treats). Check out the great little video Joe’s put together of the day.

Mmmmm... FOOD!

With a big bag full of banana bread cake, rocky road, marshmallow lollipops and choco cinnamon muffins we got loads of interesting people across to our stall to talk about Casserole. Using our simple COOK and EAT cards we signed up 16 new Casserole COOK’s as well as one new DINER and by the sounds of it they can cook some delicious dishes.

Some of the complete Cook and Eat cards, yum!

The cards asked cooks to jot down what they’re great at cooking and how far they wouldn’t mind travelling to share a meal and for diners they asked what they loved to eat and what they hated to eat as well as a bit of info on their dietary requirements. Loads of people shared their thoughts on the project and for those who wanted to sign up online as promised here are the links to the online forms.

To sign up as a Casserole Diner click through to this link and to sign up up as Casserole Cook it’s this link. We really quickly realised that loads of people mentioned that they would love to refer Casserole to someone that they knew and so we’ve made some little adjustments on the forms so that you can do that.

Signing up at the Casserole stall

We were overwhelmed by the amount of support from passersby and were thrilled to catch up with Sarah Finch Green Councillor for Redhill East who came to visit the stall and show support. The stall helped us to chat to people about what Casserole is and ways they can be involved but also helped us to get more of an insight into how the Casserole service could be developed and run in the future.

Cllr Sarah Finch visiting the Casserole stall

We are really excited to move forward into the trial period which should start next week (Monday 5th December), we already have three Diners signed up and by the looks of things they each have a couple of people interested in cooking quite close to them. Amazingly we even found that when flicking through the cards we had a “Diner” and a “Cook” who are essentially next door neighbours living on the same road. We had to double check we hadn’t made a mistake but true enough two people living next door to each (and don’t yet know each other) have signed up!

The trial is all about observing and learning as much as possible around how people found cooking, sharing, eating and organising around the service and rest assured we’ll be sharing our insights through the blog to let you know how it’s going so stay tuned!

Eat, Cook, Share: Casserole hits the markets

Roll up, roll up! Casserole is hitting the markets. This Saturday 26th November we’ll be running a Casserole stall at the Redhill market where we want to talk to all sorts of people about what we are doing. We want to spread the word about Casserole in Redhill and we’ll be on high street from 9.30 onwards so if you are passing by make sure you say hi. We’ll be explaining everything about Casserole and asking people what they think as well as trying to get more people on board with the pilot that we are running in the coming weeks.

Casserole will be at the market in Redhill, on Saturday 26 November

If you are out and about in Redhill or know someone who lives close by make sure you tell them to visit our stall, we’ll have tea and coffee and maybe even a little snack! If you are interested in knowing more about the trial then feel free to get in touch with Murtz ([email protected]) and if you are interested in signing up for the 2 week pilot then simply fill in the online form so we can get in touch with you.

The trial itself is simple as pie, all we want to do is ask a few people to cook 2 meals in 2 weeks and share this with someone we match them up with in their area. We’ll introduce everyone first and also make sure that everyone is cooking and eating things that they like.

If you are interested in being a “Cook” the form is here or if you are more interested in being a “Diner” the form is here.  If you are unable to access these forms from work and can’t get them at home either, drop Murtz a line a [email protected] and he’ll hook you up to cook or eat.