Located in the heart of Leeds Market the team at Jamie’s Ministry of Food run 8-week cooking courses Monday to Friday with each session including ‘Cook’ and ‘Demo’ sections – lasting around an hour and half in total.
Within these sessions students are led through several dishes with the focus on making healthy, affordable dishes which can easily be recreated in the home environment. Recently, the Leeds Living team were lucky enough to be invited down to join a class in full swing and get a taste of the Jamie-esque action.
Joining a group already half way through their course I noticed the mix of ages and backgrounds of the people in the group. Everyone had enrolled for different reasons, yet they had all had positive experiences and looked forwarded to their weekly session with the JMoF team. One class member admitted that his chef brother had enrolled him to improve his culinary skills but I later watched on as he sliced up his onion with expert ease, proving how far he had come in only a small number of classes.
On the menu for our class was ‘Chilli con Jamie’ as well as a Mexican Street Food salad – two classic Jamie Oliver recipes which featured his characteristic twists such as the addition of coffee to the chilli sauce and a bucket load of lime to the salad. We were provided with all the ingredients and recipe sheets which included information on nutrition as well as how to best source the ingredients for the dish using local and ethically sourced produce.
When Jamie started up the Ministry of Food his aim was to get people cooking again instead of relying on ready meals and processed foods as a substitute for real home cooking. These meals were not particularly challenging to make (once you have been shown how to) but having someone guide them through definitely gave people in the class confidence and the space to develop their own strengths as well as exploring new ways to approach cooking.
Chatting with Simon, the project coordinator for Zest Health for Life who run the ministry in collaboration with Jamie Oliver Foundation and Public Health, he told us of the great many people he has seen pass through the ministry over the last five years and the positive experiences and skills they had taken away:
‘‘We teach basic cookery skills but there is a big focus on healthy eating and the best ways to shop – we are empowering people to make healthier choices wherever they can’’.
Leeds Market is a great resource for local, fresh food and JMoF takes advantage of their position sourcing everything, where possible, from market traders:
‘‘We are constantly trying to source our food as ethically as possible, things like sustainable fish and free range chicken and the market is great for that - we try to use as many ingredients as we can from Leeds Market. The beauty of working in Leeds Market is there is so much choice and variety and you get to see the seasonality of the food. We really encourage our students to buy local where possible.’’
Although I really enjoyed learning about the dishes and the practical cooking side of the class my favourite bit of the session was when we all sat down together after everything had been cleaned and packed away and tasted the dishes we had created. There was a sense of community and shared experience and it was lovely to all sit together and test out the fruits of our labours. The tutors and organisers hope these experiences and skills will be passed on by the members as a way of continuing the Ministry’s message:
‘‘It’s so satisfying to see people’s confidence and skills growing week on week. We hope people take what they learn back to their families and communities allowing for more people to see the benefits of healthy home cooking’’.
Whether you fancy brushing up your skills, gaining new recipe ideas or just want to get someone uni-ready with a few recipes under their belt, Jamie’s Ministry of Food is a friendly environment set on spreading the word about healthy affordable eating using delicious, easy to make meals.
Jamie’s Ministry of Food is open Monday to Saturday. Classes run on an eight-week basis at 10am, noon and 2pm or 1 hour ‘Taster’ sessions are also available. Courses are priced at £60 for a full course which includes ingredients but heavy discounts are available for students, Leeds Card holders and those in receipt of certain benefits.
To book classes drop in (Unit 524, Row G – Kirkgate Market) or call directly at 0113 242 5685.