All the practitioners in our cooking skills study group hope that people on their courses will make the recipes they have learned on the course again at home.
Most are encouraging course participants to choose the recipes for some, or all of the course sessions, and I have already written a post (see blog 14) that discusses making these kinds of choices.
We are now almost half way through a (very) basic analysis of evaluation materials from the 32 courses and some themes around recipes are emerging. Although all the courses taught a wide range of recipes between them, they did seem to fall into some common categories, such as:
- non (or minimal cook) dishes, (e.g. wraps)
- soups or snack/ side dishes (i.e.: potato wedges)
- quick or easy to prepare more familiar* meals (noodles, curry, pizza with pitta/pizza base)
- more time consuming, or more complex familiar meals (e.g. lasagne, homemade pizza, quiche)
- less familiar recipes (sardine pasta, cous cous)
Many of the course participants reported enjoying tasting a wide range of recipes made on the course, but which ones did they report making again at home? These were:
- soups and wraps were the most popular dishes, followed by
- easy or quick to prepare familiar dishes or snacks such as potato wedges, curries, noodle/ stir fry dishes, chicken fajitas/kebabs, however,
- more complex, or time consuming familiar dishes such as homemade pizza and lasagne were also popular
So far, all these recipes are using ingredient combinations that are likely to be familiar* to many people attending courses and possibly not pushing them too far out of their comfort zone. However, in one course we have looked at, the participants reported using slightly less expected recipes again such as sardine pasta and shakshuka. This challenged our thinking. But, this course was slightly different to the others, as it:
- ran for 12 sessions (most are between 4 and 8)
- was attended by men – mainly middle aged or older, all vulnerable (many of the other courses are attended by women, or both men and women)
The men also seemed to be quite adventurous in their food preferences and the course seemed very informal (neither of which are factors that would be easy to measure as part of an evaluation).
There’s also still a lot of other things for us to think about before making any conclusions about what recipes are the best, such as:
- Which recipes were chosen by participants and which were chosen by the practitioners?
- Did individuals choose their own recipe or was it chosen by the group?
- Were there any other course activities associated with popular recipes, such as; ingredients provided to take home, being made (or elements of it) more than once on the course, or any other factors?
- Comparing recipes used to those that were not used, e.g. soup recipes may have been popular because many courses made them
* deciding what meals/ ingredients are ‘familiar’ to a wide range of participants is a subjective decision. We’re basing this on the types of recipes in community cooking books and adhoc information from practitioners, but we will do further checking before we complete our analysis.