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Bags of Taste Scheme comes to Cliftonville and Margate

The heady aroma of Singapore Noodles and buzz of excited chatter are reminiscent of a bustling Asian street market.

But the Far East made its way to east Kent as Margate folk clattered pans learning to cook the classic dish at Cliftonville Community Centre - and for just £1 a portion.

The session, attended by 15 people last Friday, is part of the Bags of Taste scheme, which is designed to bring people together while teaching them to cook healthy meals on a budget.

Annie the volunteers and budding cooks (4481727)
Annie the volunteers and budding cooks (4481727)

Annie Nichols is the charity's area manager for Thanet.

"It's been a lot of hard work but I have enjoyed every second," she said. "We are cooking really tasty food; they are not patronising recipes for 'poor people'."

The chef and food designer has worked for the likes of the Times, Observer and Waitrose magazine but is passionate about good food for all, which is the ethos at Bags of Taste.

The scheme sees the group observe a cooking demonstration with tips on how to reduce costs. For example, the Singapore Noodles uses crab sticks instead of prawns. They then cook the meal themselves at stations and all sit down together to enjoy lunch afterwards.

Leaning to cook at Cliftonville Community Centre (4481731)
Leaning to cook at Cliftonville Community Centre (4481731)

At the end of the afternoon there is a chance to buy a bag of ingredients to cook the meal again at home. Ms Nichols has been up and down the length of Northdown Road and beyond finding the cheapest ingredients, with some smaller independent ethnic speciality stores beating the likes of Aldi.

Volunteer Orla Morton-Dollman says the research into buying ingredients and getting in touch with groups has been worthwhile. She said: "Annie has been everywhere canvassing groups and getting people through the door; it's amazing."

People like East Kent Mencap's Rosie Forde came along to learn cooking skills.

The 35-year-old said: "It was really good. It's my first time here with my friend Christina. I have come from Westgate and will come next week."

Rosie Forde enjoyed the session (4481729)
Rosie Forde enjoyed the session (4481729)

Louise Brown, Annamarie Johnson and Laura Nickoll heard about the scheme through citizens advice and the job centre.

"I have learned how to peel an onion properly," laughed Louise.

For Matthew Hoyle the scheme offers a chance to socialise and enjoy the company of others at the dinner table.

Sulekha Dey, Matthew Hoyle and Ismat Shameem (4481723)
Sulekha Dey, Matthew Hoyle and Ismat Shameem (4481723)

The 48-year-old was joined by Sulekha Dey and Ismat Shameem.

Sessions are currently held at Cliftonville Community Centre on St Paul's Road, but there are plans to roll out Bags of Taste to other places in Margate and then Ramsgate.

To find out how to attend or volunteer visit www.bagsoftaste.org.

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