Happy Mondays at the festival marquee (recipe here)

Sustainable Bungay’s “Community Kitchen” crew got busy on Castle Meadow preparing a 2-course meal for 115 diners.

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Margaret leads the setup crew, organising tables and the exquisite Turkish-themed decorations to the venue.

Angie and Terry spud-bashing before turning their hands to the finer aspects of preparing the feast. All of our fresh ingredients came from local smallholders and retailers.

Josiah sourced (and cooked) quinoa from a farm he works with in Essex (contact <josiah@hodmedods.co.uk> if you want to buy some.) The recipe for our adaptation of Kiser is given below.

Lewis got the job of prepping all the salads!

Gemma and Christine with the lemony courgettes get ready for service.

Lots of other volunteers make it possible for us to make a modest profit despite using top-quality ingredients and charging only £5 a head. Thanks to everyone who helped make this event such a success.

We’re proud to say that by careful segregation of recyclables and compostables we consigned just 1 carrier-bag of rubbish to landfill in the process. Promoting low-carbon, community-focused lifestyle choices is a key part of Sustainable Bungay’s work.

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Kiser with quinoa (serves 2-3)

1 small onion, 1 clove garlic, 1 tbsp olive oil, 2 tsp paprika, 1/2 tsp ground allspice, 1/2 tsp chilli flakes, 1/2 tsp salt

60g quinoa, 2 tbsp tomato purée, 1 tbsp honey, 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar, 240 ml boiling water, 50 g toasted walnuts

Little gem lettuce leaves, fresh mint and coriander to serve

Soften the onion and garlic in the oil.

Add the spices and cook for a few seconds.

Add the salt and quinoa, tomato purée, honey and balsamic vinegar and mix well.

Cover with boiling water, cover the pan and simmer gently for 15 minutes or until the quinoa is soft and the liquid absorbed.

Take off the heat, add the walnuts, roughly chopped and set aside to cool.

Fill the lettuce leaves with spoonfuls of the mixture and sprinkle with the chopped herbs.

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Photos and washing-up thanks to Simon Bloom 😉

 

Happy Mondays in the Transition Free Press

A version of this article appeared in the Autumn edition of the Transition Free Press

In March, Happy Mondays, Sustainable Bungay’s monthly community meal, was visited by a journalist from Delicious magazine. She was researching a story about groups like ours who are growing, cooking and eating food together. For those of us usually absorbed in menu planning, dressing the room, cooking and washing-up, stepping back from the fray to answer questions about why these celebrations of local, seasonal food happen was a useful opportunity for reflection.

Happy Monday-1457Happy Mondays is inspired by the shared meals we struggle to find time for these days; based on seasonal food and simple recipes, with all ages involved in cooking and eating – sharing their skills and the effort. They’re the kinds of meals we might have seen and experienced in southern Europe or in the English rural tradition of harvest and celebration – sadly both are now less common than they once were.

Our aim is to use local and seasonal produce from gardens, farms and allotments in and around Bungay and we hope to demonstrate that cooking with great ingredients needn’t be expensive or complicated – and that the results are delicious. We decorate the room with garden and wildflowers and seat all our guests, 50 or 60 every month, round a single table to encourage conversation and a sense of community. We aim to make the meals as accessible as possible, charging £5 for two courses to cover our costs. The money we take, around £6000 so far, is mostly spent locally on ingredients, kitchen hire and equipment.

The meals offer a chance to find out what’s happening locally, either in general conversation or between courses when someone explains how we arrived at the menu; initially we’d feared these talks would seem intrusive, but we’ve discovered that people enjoy hearing about the food they’re eating – whether it’s back-garden hens, gardening in a changing climate or an update from our community beekeepers.

As well as the social and economic benefits there’s an environmental rationale behind our meals; cooking and eating together uses less energy and creates less waste. And our meals are quietly vegetarian; this simplifies the kitchen work and helps us demonstrate how easy it is to eat less meat.

Two years on from our first plans, hatched in the pub after a Sustainable Bungay core group meeting, and Happy Mondays has served almost 1000 plates of local food, has a team of 5 or 6 who plan the menus and source the produce and a pool of 20 or 30 who cook, wash-up, dress the room, greet and lay the table. We’re no longer fazed by the Community Centre’s idiosyncratic cooker and confidently turn out two courses for 50 people every month. Where once we had to advertise and struggled to fill every chair, now we’re always oversubscribed.

As a collective we’ve started calling ourselves Bungay Community Kitchen and see opportunities beyond Happy Mondays – opportunities that could see us creating employment and offering training as well as spending money with local farmers, growers and independent retailers.

Book Now for Happy Monday – 15th April!

Happy Mondays with the Community Kitchen is always a celebration of the best local and seasonal ingredients: the room will be decorated and the welcome warm. But it will also offer opportunities for volunteers to build their kitchen confidence, learn about local suppliers and discover new recipes and ideas.

Our aim is to highlight what’s growing in and around Bungay in gardens and on farms, show how local, seasonal eating is not only healthy, enjoyable, good for the local economy and environmentally sound but also exciting and surprising.

In time we hope there will be a Happy Monday every week, but at the moment our aim is a monthly meal. If you’d like to get involved, perhaps supplying ingredients from your garden to the kitchen, cooking, suggesting recipes or helping meet and greet please do contact us.

When: March 18th, 6:45 for 7pm
Where: Bungay Community Centre, Upper Olland Street
Cost: £5 for 2 courses
Menu: Our April meal takes is inspired by the hard winter and late spring, turning the shortage of field or foraged foods we’ll be dipping into the store-cupboard, using crops grown sheltered from the weather and making use of spring plants in hedgerows and field edges to garnish our meal: Mushrooms stuffed with hazelnuts, a nettle pesto, barley and beetroot risotto, carrot and mustard salad and a warm salad of black badger peas.

Noughty but Nice and Keeping Refreshed at Happy Mondays

This post from Mark Watson first appeared on the Transition Network website. The original is here.

Mark is one of the Network’s Social Reporters, a small group from all over the UK and beyond who write individual reflections on Transition – both in their communities and more broadly. Over the summer the Social Reporters are writing shorter pieces – Postcards from the Edge – like this one about our last Happy Monday.

Do pop over to the Social Reporting Project on the Network website and have a look: www.transitionnetwork.org/stories

Bungay community centre, Monday, late afternoon. I have spent the past hours gathering and infusing herbs for the herbal refresher I am making for Sustainable Bungay’s Happy Monday meal.

These events happen once a month with a different theme, using as much local food as possible and are organised and prepared by the Community Kitchen subgroup of Sustainable Bungay. Anyone can join in and help out or just come to enjoy the food and atmosphere. This month’s meal is also a Happy Birthday celebration for all those of us who’ve arrived at an age with ‘0’ in this year.

I’m hot, I’ve been unable to find any organic, unwaxed lemons in town and outside everyone seems to be moving at a snail’s pace as the heat increases towards the end of the day. It must be nearly 30 degrees and I’m definitely feeling the effect of my particular 0 (which is no longer 30). The infusion of over twenty herbs (picked both from home and from the community garden at the library) smells amazing, but it’s still piping hot, people will be here in forty minutes and WE DON’T HAVE ANY ICE!

Margaret (another 0) offers to go down the road for the ice after she’s finished the flowers for the table. Charlotte cools the infusion by transferring it from jug to pot to saucepan to pancheon and puts in the summer fruits and flowers. I add a little sugar, fizzy water, a bottle of Nick(0)’s homemade raspberry wine and some blackcurrant cordial, testing as I go to get the right balance.

I’ve stationed myself in the main room where it’s slightly cooler. Janet ties balloons on the windows and I carry on pouring and stirring and testing. Thane and Emma are among the first diners to arrive. “Great!” I said. “Tell me what you think of this. I don’t want it to be too diluted.”

“It’s certainly strong enough,” they said. “Adding more water would be fine. It’s really refreshing!”

The mood of the kitchen is the usual one of intense concentration as everyone in the crew goes about producing the dishes: Josiah rolling the falafels he’s made from British fava beans, Christine preparing a raspberry coulis for her cup cakes, Lewis testing the beetroot for the Moroccan salad. Cucumbers and tomatoes are sliced and onions are chopped for the accompanying dips and sauces. “Charlotte, can you do the yoghurt sauce?” says Nick almost at the last minute, whilst he washes up several large pans.

The drink is finally ready and living up to its name. People are arriving and everybody wants some.

“This is delicious,” says Sally. “You must tell me what herbs you used.”
“Well, there are over twenty five, with a strong base of lemon balm and lemon verbena, and… I’ll come and tell you about it later,” I said. And there was plenty for everyone, with Dano (but not Dan0), taking the pancheon round the table so people could have seconds.

The meal was great, too – falafels, pitta bread, salads, sauces, oven-baked wedge potato chips, followed by cup cakes each with its own candle – and that raspberry coulis! The candles were lit, the lights were dimmed and there was silence for a moment before we all sang Happy Birthday. Janet (yet another 0) and I laughed as we both realised we were singing happy birthday to ourselves and tried to add an ‘us’ in there somewhere, which didn’t rhyme but never mind.

PS There were even more 0 birthdays in Sustainable Bungay this year than I mentioned here: Elinor, Eloise, Jon and Dee also celebrated the beginning of new decades. So cheers to you too, guys!

Candlelit cup cakes – a silent moment before breaking out into Happy Birthday; Peppermint (ricola) flowers*; Dano offers Margaret another glass of herbal refresher; oh those cup cakes, in the kitchen – all by Josiah Meldrum, except* by Mark Watson

Happy Mondays – coming up this summer

What we need is a big big cooking pot
Big enough to cook every wonderful
Beautiful, trustworrthy, lovely idea we’ve got

From Harmony by the Happy Mondays

The monthly Happy Mondays Community Meal comes around all too soon and for the kitchen crew, myself included, it’s heads down and kitchen knives at the ready for a 4pm start. There’s always an air of quiet anticipation in the kitchen as we begin, but also a determined food prepping professionalism. Despite the community centre oven’s temperamental fits, and maybe a last minute dash for that vital ingredient, there’s a great feeling of satisfaction when, with moments to spare, another delicious meal is all plated up and ready to eat.

We cater for around 50 people at 7pm on the third Monday of each month: beautiful seasonal flowers always decorate the long table, thanks to Margaret and Beryl, and a friendly atmosphere prevails with chats across the table.

Planned up and coming food themes are: a Greek evening, an adults’ tea party and a Mexican night with a possible repeat of the legendary Moroccan theme with mint tea. This October we’re hosting a special meal to celebrate the honeybee with Bungay Community Bees who will be closing their apiaries for the winter. The meal will naturally include honey but will also highlight the many fruits and vegetables that rely on insect pollination. Dinner will be followed by a short talk on bees and beekeeping by Elinor McDowall of Bungay Community Bees.

A regular feature of Happy Mondays is Sustainable Bungay’s Abundance table; a table of free produce to share out. Please feel free to contribute if you have any spare plants or gluts of fruit and veg, and don’t feel shy about taking something home!

A great community meal is all about sharing and keeping it local. Book online here and bring along £5 per person, your own drinks / alcohol / partner / friend / enemy / neighbour / stranger as you see fit and join us for our next meal.

Text and image by Lesley Hartley