Expert help with home-made liqueur.

Liqueur glasses of the pale yellow liquid being clinked together Long-term friend, Peter, shared his years of experience: he presides over the National Association of Wine and Beer makers (www.nawb.org.uk), is a national judge and multi-prize winner.  He helped me turn a few lemons and some vodka in to a very respectable home-made version of Limoncello liqueur from Italy.

You can watch us make it on YouTube or download the recipe from bakingblind.com

Dead easy – the most arduous bit was remembering to shake the jar every day!

Two laughing people and lemonsServe at room temperature or chilled and you could pour over ice-cream.  You can experiment with different fruits: oranges, raspberries, limes or a mix.

You can experiment with different fruits: oranges, raspberries, limes or a mix.The funnel lined with a damp coffee filter is held firmly above the large jar.

 

Penny Melville-Brown OBE

Disability Dynamics ltd www.disabilitydynamics.co.uk

Helping disabled people to work since 2000

penny@bakingblind.com

Professional chef supports Baking Blind.

Penny and Mike hovering over a small stainless steel pan of strawberries.Outstanding to have Mike give his time, enthusiasm and expertise in sharing his recipes and tricks-of-the-trade with me.  Together we made a glorious ice-cream and two different sauces to ripple through – perfect as there is some hope of sun this summer.

Cooking alongside a professional chef could have been daunting: would I be quick enough, accurate enough and clean enough?  On the day, no fear as we happily cooked together: he realised what might be tricky and we found ways of working around blindness.  Exactly what I’d like to achieve if my bid for the international Holman prize should succeed.

I’ve eaten his food for years when he was working at my favourite local brasserie and his ever-changing range of home-made ice-creams was always my favourite dessert choice.  He even catered a big birthday party for me a couple of years ago.  This is a chef on top of his form who has recently launched his own business: catering for that special private dinner party at home to big corporate functions extending over whole weekends.The pale cream ice-cream served in two glasses, each with a different flavour so one has red strawberry stripes and the other, brown caramel sauce.

You can watch us working together: we didn’t include the noisy churning in the ice-cream maker because not everyone has one but the recipe can still work with just a freezer and occasional stir to break up the ice crystals.  The salted caramel sauce would work with lots of other puddings – especially the sticky toffee sort – while the strawberry compote is delicious by itself or with meringues, a crisp biscuit, and some sponge – endless variations!  And absolutely none of this is difficult and every ingredient is easy to find.  Desserts that are so wonderfully wicked that they need to be locked away in a freezer – preferably with guards and barbed wire!

 

Penny Melville-Brown OBE

Disability Dynamics ltd www.disabilitydynamics.co.uk

Helping disabled people to work since 2000

Watch me make them on YouTube or download the recipe here

You Tube

penny@bakingblind.com

Blind Navy veteran is UK finalist in international competition.

I’m hugely lucky to be a finalist:  hundreds of blind people from all over the world have taken part In the San Francisco-based Lighthouse Holman competition with outstanding ideas and amazing ambitions.  Yet we are only the flag-bearers: there are millions more blind and disabled people globally with equal aspirations and determination.  But it can take the Head and shoulders of Penny smilingsort of imagination behind the Holman prize to unleash all that talent.

Baking Blind  started as a modest and simple home-grown venture.  After years working in the disability field, I needed a better way to change attitudes. Brother Martin had some spare time so he videoed while I baked and the YouTube channel was born in time for Christmas.  But an idea alone doesn’t get far if no-one else knows about it!

The Holman competition was the new catalyst:  Challenging me to voice my goals, demanding more visibility and galvanising a rather modest toe-in-the-water towards a more professional splash.    After six months, I’m still at the start of the learning curve but we are making progress.

Penny chopping while filming for bakingblind.comI’ve thrown caution to the wind and want to take Baking Blind global!  If I succeed, the competition would make travel across six continents possible for me and my current videographer – cooking with professionals and home-cooks, sighted or not.  Thanks to the support of enthusiasts in America, Costa Rica, Australia, China and Malawi, we’d gather enough material to produce a whole year of vlogs and blogs.  Probably most importantly, the prestige of the competition would lift the profile of everything we are trying to do: creating a Launch pad to change minds about life with blindness in all those countries and, perhaps, even further afield.

Now, amazingly, there is just a chance to take another leap forward.  Next month, a committee of the best and brightest blind people internationally and the author of the James Holman biography will judge the projects of us 11 finalists and announce three winners in early July.

There’s a Navy theme too that is important personally: the competition commemorates James Holman who, like me , lost his sight while serving in the Royal Navy, but he went on to travel the globe solo about 200 years ago as celebrated in the “A Sense of the world” biography.  It’s difficult to imagine how he managed without all the technology and equipment that nowadays makes life with blindness possible.    But I hope that our shared military backgrounds give me some of his courage and character.  His early years in the Navy were spent just a few miles from where I live and there are almost certainly still some landmarks he would have recognised in Portsmouth Naval Base where I often worked.    This year adds another dimension: it is the centenary of the Women’s Royal Naval Service so I’ve already been sharing Navy memories and Baking Blind ideas through the WRNS 100 Facebook page.

So please wish me luck and keep your fingers crossed – I’m trying to balance the excitement with the reality of a great bunch of fellow finalists.  You can check out their inspirational ideas.

 

Penny Melville-Brown OBE

Disability Dynamics ltd www.disabilitydynamics.co.uk

Helping disabled people to work since 2000

You Tube

penny@bakingblind.com

Some you win, some you lose!

Watch me make them here or download the recipe

White bowl of colourful shredded leaves, sliced onions and peppers with golden mango pieces.

Smashing lettuce: a great trick to remove the Iceberg lettuce core.  Hold it firmly with the stem side down.  Smash the stem firmly on to the worktop and you should just be able to remove all the core intact.  It feels and sounds pretty brutal first time but really works.

My regular co-cook, John the taxi-driver, was madly enthusiastic about the healthy mango dressing for a summer chicken salad and the low-carbohydrate bread for club sandwiches. John and Penny close up to the frying pan to catch the smell of mango, chilli and lime.

He was absolutely right about the first: fresh and zingy chicken that is perfect for hot summer days.  So simple that there’s nothing to go wrong and so delicious that you’ll want more!

But he was hugely disappointed with the gluten-free almond and coconut flour bread –chewing reduced it to a paste that went straight in to the bin.  If I try it again, I might add some xanthium gum and yeast, herbs, nuts, seeds or anything to improve the taste and texture.  Not one of our best experiments but worth a try if you are desperate!

Club sandwich cut in half to reveal layers of lettuce, chicken tomato and bacon

Penny Melville-Brown OBE

Disability Dynamics ltd www.disabilitydynamics.co.uk

Helping disabled people to work since 2000

You Tube

penny@bakingblind.com

The chaos of travel.

Me in my gardenHow can you make a journey of discovery nowadays?  I cast my hopes to the winds of social media and found new people around the world.

My goal with the Holman competition was to cook with new people wherever I could find them – through e-mails, social media, interviews and every other way I could think of.  My thanks go to the outstanding group of new and willing supporters spread far and wide: from Noam in Costa Rica who runs his own speciality Jungle Culinary Adventures. To Stephen in Malawi who supports local women through re-recycling projects (Our World International),  from Jo in Virginia Beach with whom I haven’t had any contacts since our paths crossed in the Women’s Royal Naval Service nearly 40 years ago to Colin in Melbourne who used to cook in the Royal Navy too; others welcoming this complete stranger such as the Rotary Club in China plus Tom and Fran in Dover (New Hampshire, USA);  Rosemary in Kiama (Australia) is the sole previous regular contact – she took me cooking in Umbria last year.

If I’m lucky enough to win, all this generosity would enable me to travel through six continents  meeting even more new people,  cooking in amazingly different places and having the adventure of a lifetime.  I couldn’t have got even this far without all the help and enthusiasm from so many distant places and many others closer to home.  Just putting together the plans has been an exhilarating whirlwind so, fingers crossed, for the future.  The prize winners are due to be announced on 1 July.

 

Penny Melville-Brown OBE

Disability Dynamics ltd www.disabilitydynamics.co.uk

Helping disabled people to work since 2000

www.bakingblind.com

My youngest co-cook so far

Penny and Luke in the herb gardenRosemary, sun-dried tomato and olive savoury sconesWatch me make them on YouTube and download the recipes here

 

Young Luke turned his hand to sweet scones so I could focus on a savoury version.  He’s got his own YouTube channel too – game playing with his unique vocalisation for each character.

Luke cutting out his sweet scones

This is a basic scone mix that you can vary to suit the occasion and your taste buds.

For a traditional Cornish cream tea, split the scones horizontally and then spread with jam followed by whipped cream.  A Devon cream tea uses clotted cream before the jam.

Small savoury scones topped with a flavoured butter, pate, salami, ham or whatever else inspires you can make delicious canapes.  I’ve often used just a couple of tablespoons of horseradish sauce (instead of the olives, tomato and herbs) and topped the scones with smoked salmon or smoked mackerel pate with a thin quarter slice of lemon.

 

Penny Melville-Brown OBE

Disability Dynamics ltd www.disabilitydynamics.co.uk

Helping disabled people to work since 2000

You Tube

penny@bakingblind.comLuke adding his ingredients

Calling cooks and chefs around the world: your help please.

I have this wonderful opportunity: to cook around the world and show that just being blind doesn’t hold me (or others) back.Penny chopping while filming for bakingblind.com

As one of the 50 worldwide blind semi-finalists for the Holman prize, I now have about four weeks to flesh out my original pitch with a detailed plan and budget if I’m to reach the Final.   The prize commemorates James Holman who, like me, was blinded when serving in the Royal Navy.

probationery third officer melville brown WRNSI’m looking for people in different countries (whether chef or home-cook, sighted or not) willing to spend about half a day cooking with me – in cafes, restaurants, homes or anywhere else within reason!   These are the people who will make this whole adventure come alive: helping me bust myths about what blind people can do.    Together, we can capture some favourite and local recipes and share them across the globe through the Baking Blind YouTube channel, podcast, blogs and social media: there’s an example of me cooking with John and our sillier Comic relief fundraising episode.

My only concern is that the budget will probably be too tight for much travel away from main airports.  But I’m already trying to raise more funds and help-in-kind so that I can go further, meet more cooks and reach more people.

If you or someone you know could help, take part or would like to know more, just drop me an e-mail to penny@laylands.co.uk

Penny Melville-Brown OBE

Disability Dynamics ltd www.disabilitydynamics.co.uk

Helping disabled people to work since 2000

You Tube

penny@bakingblind.com