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

Why are people with health conditions and disabilities being kept imprisoned?

No, I’m not talking about all of those behind bars but the every day “prisons” that restrict our liberty to move freely around buildings and public spaces or to find suitable homes.  It’s been obvious for decades that the population is getting older which means more people acquiring impairments.  If the built environment, like any other aspect of life, can’t keep up with the changes, more and more of us will be fettered by the barriers of bricks and mortar.

The answer, summarising the House of Commons report https://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201617/cmselect/cmwomeq/631/631.pdf, is that to many who create, occupy or manage the environment seem to think that accessibility is just “nice-to-do”.  Imagine if architects, builders, planners, employers and others decided that other bits of law are equally optional?

And no-one is properly taking them to task: “the burden of ensuring that an accessible environment is achieved falls too heavily at present on individual disabled people, an approach that we consider to be neither morally nor practically sustainable.”

We need someone with a big stick to beat this drum for us:  they have nominated the politician who ends up leading the Department for Communities and Local Government after the election.

But, it’s not just top down: many planning decisions are made locally but the suggestion is that the Planning Inspectorate should be investigated for not paying enough attention to equality law when granting planning consent.

During the election campaign, we are hearing lots of promises about building new houses and the increasing cost of care as more people are living longer.  But absolutely not enough about “future-proofing” all those new homes so that they can still be lived in by people who are older and more likely to have disabilities.    And there’s no point making new buildings and homes work for everyone if it feels unsafe moving about outside because open spaces are too difficult to navigate.

It’s one more factor causing disabled people to be more impoverished and isolated (http://wp.me/p5FTN6-cD).

 

Penny Melville-Brown OBE

Disability Dynamics ltd www.disabilitydynamics.co.uk

Helping disabled people to work since 2000Lily flower arrangement

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

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

If you’ve got a long-term health condition or disability, what can you expect from your Jobcentre in the future?

Masses of people with health conditions and disabilities want to get back to work but help hasn’t always been right for them in the past.  The Government has been consulting on improvements and there are already signs of changes underway:

 Increasing understanding of disability in Jobcentres.

  • By august, local community organisations will be working with Jobcentres: giving expert knowledge, advice and support on disability issues to the Jobcentre staff and improving their understanding of the challenges disabled people face in getting and keeping jobs.
  • There will also be more specialist Disability Employment Advisers amongst Jobcentre staff to increase their colleagues’ disability understanding and help them better assist their clients.

 Additional support.

  • More people with health limitations for work can volunteer for Work Choice support (provided by various contractors).  Places have now been opened up for people who don’t have to be eligible for the Work-Related Activity Group (WRAG) element of employment and support Allowance (ESA) or the limited capability element of Universal Credit (UC).
  • 1,000 more people with mental health conditions can get up to 6 months help from the Mental Health Service to start and keep new jobs (for those on ESA WRAG and UC due to limited capability for work).
  • New Work and health Programme starts in November this year and will help those with health conditions and disabilities, alongside long-term unemployed people. This replaces the Work Programme which has just stopped taking on new people but anyone already on that programme will still get up to two years of their existing help.

 Increasing job opportunities.

In every Jobcentre area, there will be three specialist advisers targeting small local businesses with the “Small Employer Offer” – explaining what support is available when they employ someone with a long-term health condition or disability.  By building strong relationships with those employers, they’ll be able to give real practical help:   ensuring that people applying for jobs or work experience with the employer are a good fit and helping with claims for Access to Work (ATW).

 

Access to Work.

This financial help supports eligible people with long-term health conditions or disabilities to take up a job offer and keep existing jobs.

 

Penny Melville-Brown OBE

Disability Dynamics ltd www.disabilitydynamics.co.uk

Helping disabled people to work since 2000

You Tube

penny@laylands.co.uk