A Kingston University student has cooked up a way to help her fellow students create tasty, simple food and save money at the same time. Keen-cook Carla Fanning, 24, despaired at her university house mates' inability to cook. From boiling an egg to mashing potatoes, Carla soon found herself writing recipes for her friends in a bid to help them stay healthy and avoid buying expensive ready meals. "I began to think about the wider problem cooking poses for lots of students when they first move away from home," Carla said. "That's when I came up with the idea of writing a cookbook for students. I wanted to teach them some basic skills and give them a starting point that will hopefully inspire them to become more creative in the kitchen."
Carla began by researching food that her friends and housemates wanted to cook. Family favourites including soups, spaghetti Bolognese and Thai green curry proved popular. Carla decided to combine these with information on basic skills and equipment to make her cookbook a complete kitchen essential. "It's even more important now during the credit crunch that students aren't wasting money on expensive ready meals when they can make healthy, tasty dinners in no time at all," Carla said.
The psychology student sought help for her project from Kingston University and the University Students' Union's Junction49 initiative, a partnership between the Union and national youth volunteering charity Timebank which gives students the opportunity to set up and run projects that benefit their community. Martin Crosby, Junction49 support coordinator, helped Carla bring her cookbook idea to life using the talents of Students' Union design assistant Eleanor Wright and university-trained photographer Philip Mowbray. "The cookbook was a perfect project for Junction49 because it has a clear community benefit," he said. "Carla has the cooking skills and we were able to offer her the support and advice to obtain the funding and get the project up and running."
The University will be placing copies of the book in all halls of residence from September 2009 as well as sending 1,500 copies out to local schools and community projects. Director of Student Services and Administration Bruce Armstrong believes the project will help students learn to support themselves at a vital time in their lives. "I've got children about to go to university and I think a book like this is an invaluable resource as young people get to grips with life away from home," he said.
Voluntary organisation the Young Carers Project is also set to benefit from the new cookbook. Part of Kingston Carers' Network, the project supports children aged five to 18 who look after relatives with long-term physical or mental health needs. These children and young people often undertake a level of responsibility which would usually be associated with an adult, for example preparing meals at home.
Young Carers Support Worker Monika Michaliszyn, who organises a range of events, outings and activities for young people in Kingston, now hopes to use the books in a series of cookery workshops. "Lots of young carers often find themselves responsible for the cooking at home and I think this book will be very good for helping them, and also the adults, learn some new basic cooking skills," Monika said. "It's full of ideas and the simple, cost-effective recipes will be useful for families, especially those from poorer backgrounds."
Carla now hopes the cookbook will inspire a new breed of enthusiastic, young cooks. "I'm so pleased with the final product and I really hope that it helps students, parents and anyone who wants a simple introduction to cooking," she said.