65 people. 150 kilos of fresh fruit and vegetables. Some amazing disco tunes. Great volunteers. A perfect space. Put it together and we have the Alchemic Kitchen Disco Chop. An opportunity to show what could be done with fresh but unwanted fruit and vegetables and to talk to our guests about their role as a food consumer and conscientious citizen.
This was our first public-facing event and we chose the weekend that Storm Hannah hit Liverpool. Torrential rain and wind didn’t put off our guests, they travelled to Love Lane and the hidden space of The Fig and the Wild’s converted railway arch. Made wonderfully welcome by Alison and her family, we set up 4 chopping and making stations for our volunteer chefs to work at. Jo foraged bluebells, wild garlic and cow parsley to bring a touch of spring to the room and created a messy play area for the many younger team members to decorate chefs’ hats and paint pictures. Superchef Michelle from Bay Tree Cookery School CIC set up her giant paella pan to add a bit of theatre to the day.
During the week, we’d been busy collecting unwanted, but still very much edible food from our contacts at local farms and markets. Jo, our Gleaning Co-ordinator, took a gang of volunteers out to a farm on Easter Monday. They gleaned 1.25 tons of beautiful fresh leeks, donating most of them to FareShare but keeping back 10 bags for our event.
- Leek and Potato Soup – to be delivered later to our friends at the local Salvation Army Hostel
- Vegetable Spring Rolls – using carrots, peppers, noodles, cabbage, leeks (of course)
- Vegetable Bhajis – made with leeks (yep), carrots
- Tomato & Ricotta pizzas – roasted squished tomato sauce, ricotta-ish from short date milk
- Potato Bravas – new potatoes, wild garlic and a few tomatoes
- Vegetable Paella –aubergines, peppers, mushrooms, leeks (obvs), courgettes
- Salads – beetroot, mixed leaves, iceburg, pickled cucumber
- Chocolate Beetroot Brownies
- Apple and Blueberry Whey Cakes
- Plum and apple compote – plums, apples & raspberries
Lucy bagsied the milk and tomatoes to prep for pizza making, and took the blueberries and some of the apples for cake making. Making ricotta-ish cheese and then using the leftover whey for a butter substitute in the cake making. No waste! And so you can try it yourself at home, click here for the Alchemic Kitchen’s Perfect Bhajis recipe. Volunteer Helena grabbed the fresh vacuum packed beetroot and made sinful vegan chocolate brownies for pudding. You’ll find her recipe on our Alchemic Kitchen blog.
Everything else was made at the Disco Chop itself. We were really pleased to welcome Paula from Transforming Choice as a volunteer for kitchen duty. We first met Paula back in February and she joined us at our day out in Manchester back in April. Paula was put in charge of making the leek and potato soup that we wanted to deliver to a local hostel. There were a lot of leeks to clean and chop so Jess from Feedback got stuck into the cleaning, and our first group of guests began tackling the chopping. Disco tunes were blasting and a steady stream of guests began arriving. We created 4 work stations – one for bhaji prep, one for spring roll prep, one for fruit prep and a pizza rolling space.
People chose a space and got prepping. The bar was opened and the gin started flowing. First up, making vegetable spring rolls – Dan proved himself a very dab hand at cooking them and our guests enjoyed them so much, extra wrappers were sent for!
Our veggie bhajis went down well and the pizza making got under way with our younger volunteers being supervised by host Alison as they rolled out dough, dolloped sauce and sprinkled ricotta-ish with abandon. Meanwhile, Michelle got on with the theatre of preparing potato bravas, followed by vegetable paella in her giant pan.
Paula quietly got on with preparing 20 litres of leek and potato soup, which Lucy dropped off to the Salvation Army hostel for Sunday’s supper. Plums and apples were roasted with Chinese five spice and a little brown sugar to make a delicious compote to serve alongside the whey cakes. We discovered it was one of our young guests’ birthday, so the whole room sang him a very happy birthday!
Our friends at Toast Ale had kindly sent us a few bottles to try and we also had our very first Alchemic Kitchen products for sale – Apple Pie Jam and Fruity Apple Chutney, made from 15 kilos of Bramley apples that were deemed too oddly shaped to sell. Tasted great though!
After supper was served, we got on with the clear up. It was a team effort to get the room back to tidiness. Jo took away all the veg and fruit peelings to her compost heaps at Plattfields Park. All cardboard, glass and cans were recycled. Any fresh food we hadn’t used was dropped off to the kitchen at Refugee Asylum Link, who prepare a daily lunch for 100 plus people a day who are seeking asylum in Liverpool. Guests took away doggie bags (well cartons) of paella and cake. Nothing was wasted, which made us all very happy.
Looking forward to the next chop!