‘Cooking with Ed’: A hospice project to promote independence

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Date published: Thursday 21st November 2019 | 11:16 GMT

Our first course of Cooking with Ed was a success!

St Clare has launched a new project to support and empower older men struggling with the everyday gripes of preparing and cooking meals.

“Our Cooking with Ed project aims to support older men who have little experience in the kitchen to prepare and cook their own meals – something that many men have been lucky enough to trade for other household responsibilities!” explains Ed Firth, Head Chef at St Clare Hospice, who runs the project alongside Chef Sam Heggarty.

St Clare launched Cooking with Ed after receiving feedback from our current service users, who expressed a lack of knowledge and confidence in meal preparation after the death of their wife or partner. After a successful funding bid and receipt of a £2,753 grant from the Savoy Educational Trust, the project was launched on Wednesday 2nd October. The funding will pay for the first and second course at St Clare, in full.

Toad in the Hole cooked by participants during Cooking with Ed
Toad in the Hole cooked by participants during Cooking with Ed

“For many men, cooking and kitchen duties are not at the top of the list in taking care of themselves, due to the fact that they may have never needed to cook throughout their lives,” Ed continues. “But the ‘Cooking with Ed’ project has not only equipped our first participants with the techniques, skills and recipes to feed themselves and other family members – it has also got them inspired and motivated to cook, as well as giving them an understanding of good nutrition and healthy eating. It’s all about convenience, and tips and tricks, as well. We’ve discussed batch cooking and freezing meals, as well as planning ahead for the week and writing shopping lists. We’ve really enjoyed delivering this project, and so have our participants, which is brilliant!”

Three local men enrolled on the first ‘Cooking with Ed’ project – individuals already known to St Clare through our existing hospice services. Ron Dudson, 80 from Bishop’s Stortford; Malcolm Smith, 74 from Loughton; and Bruce Marshall, 75, from Ongar. The programme included a 6-week course, where participants met every Wednesday evening for a tailored cooking lesson with St Clare chefs Ed Firth and Sam Heggarty. On the last evening (6th November) participants prepared a ‘Come-Dine-With-Me-style’ meal for friends and family, hosted in the Hospice Dining Room in Hastingwood.

The Hospice kitchens provided the perfect space to practice preparing and cooking meals
The Hospice kitchens provided the perfect space to practice preparing and cooking meals

Malcolm, who took part in the Cooking with Ed course over the six weeks, said, “The course has been brilliant. I had been looking for a course to help me improve my basic cooking skills, so when I was offered a place on Cooking with Ed, I jumped at it.

“Ed and Sam’s enthusiasm for cooking really rubs off on you! Their thought-provoking ideas on transforming a basic meal, by changing or adding a few ingredients, are inspiring. You can make a number of different dishes by tweaking a recipe, which is really convenient.”

Commenting on how the course has made a difference to him, Malcom added, “For me, Cooking with Ed has been more than a cooking course. During the classes, we have always found time to sit down, have a cup of tea and a chat – and be able to talk freely about our late wives. It is sometimes useful to be able to talk about your feelings with others who are on same path as you.”

Bruce Marshall enjoying cooking a penne pasta dish during the course
Bruce Marshall enjoying cooking a penne pasta dish during the course

Bruce Marshall, who also took part in Cooking with Ed, commented: “I’ve never really been into cooking before, but since the course I’ve found that I’ve been cooking more than ever! I really enjoyed the course. I would

definitely recommend something like this to others who might want to improve their cooking skills. We had a great time with Ed and Sam; they were brilliant and very patient too. The only problem now, is that I have to do some of the cooking this Christmas! And my grandchildren have been asking me to cook all kinds of things – like trifles, meringues, all sorts! I also go over to my daughter’s house once a week now and we cook a meal together.”

Ron Dudson also commented on his participation in Cooking with Ed, and said: “The project was great, and everything we cooked was really nice. The sausage toad was probably my favourite dish! One of the great things about the project was that Ed printed off the recipes for us to take home as well, so that we could continue cooking after the course. Ed and Sam were really helpful and taught us lots of different recipes. After each evening, we took home what we had cooked to eat, and we also froze some of it as well so that we could have it over the next few weeks!”

Director of Patient Care, Carolanne Brannan, added: “This has been a revolutionary development in our services at the Hospice – and a direct response to delivering the support that our patients have asked for.

“Cooking and enjoying a meal is an integral part of everyday life, especially as we get older – not only in regards to health and nutrition, but also as an opportunity for socialising and engaging in a gratifying hobby. The ability to cook a meal is also one of the highest expressions of independence – providing a nutritious meal for both yourself, as well as friends and family. It’s also about choice and freedom; having the confidence to choose, and cook, what you will eat for yourself.

“Cooking with Ed has formed part of our mission to promote independence amongst local people, and encourage local communities to become more resilient – one of our four strategic aims here at St Clare Hospice. We are really proud of the teams who have helped to deliver Cooking with Ed, including our kitchen staff, Day Therapy team, Patient & Family Support team and Community Engagement team.”


Find out more about St Clare’s services

If you are living with a life-limiting illness or experiencing bereavement, in the West Essex and East Herts area, you can find out more about which St Clare support services are available to you by calling the Hospice on 01279 773700.

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