Mon 11 Aug 2014
Breaking bread is one of the most ancient and time-honoured ways of bringing people together. When people sit down to share in the comfort of eating a meal together, very little else matters. It’s about nourishing the body and taking pleasure in some good food with those in your community.
This is the thinking behind the cafes at Crosscare, a non-for-profit organisation that provides services to the homeless and disadvantaged. Unlike soup kitchens, the Crosscare cafes are beautifully decorated and look and feel like a lovely restaurant – complete with a blackboard of specials and wait staff. They are also open to the public, which means you may have a table of office professionals next to one with an elderly widower who comes for lunch every day. The prices are cheap and the same for everyone: €3 for a three-course hot lunch and even less for a sandwich or full breakfast.
I learned about Crosscare a few months after I started working for Kellogg’s, because we donate lots of cereal to all of their facilities through our Breakfast for Better Days program. The bulk of the food is donated and there are many people who volunteer their time to keep the place running smoothly.
Ever since my first introduction to Crosscare I’ve been wanting to get some bloggers together for a volunteer day, and last week a team of six descended on two Crosscare cafes for a day of cooking and lots of laughs. My team, which included Roseanne from LikeMamUsedToBake and Lily from A Mexican Cook in Ireland, went to the Holles Row location while Bill & Sharon from Gunternation and Caryna from Caryna’s Cakes headed to the Portland Row cafe for the day.
The challenge for the day was two-fold: The first was making a fantastic main course lunch meal with whatever ingredients were available to us. As the food is donated, you never know on any given day what you’ll have there. The second, and this was my additional challenge, was to make a dessert incorporating one of our Kellogg’s cereals. We popped on our fabulous hairnets, donned our red aprons and got to work.
The head chef, Louise, directed us to a huge portion of minced beef in the fridge – a good start. Next, we raided the pantry and came out with all the ingredients for a hearty beef lasagne. For dessert, we decided on a rhubarb crumble with a Crunchy Nut topping. Out came the massive pots, pans, knives and chopping boards and the fun began. We texted our mates at the Portland Row cafe and were surprised to find that they, too, were doing a lasagne (but vegetarian, thanks to a donation of garden-fresh courgettes) and a cake – also containing Crunchy Nut cereal. Great minds!
We spent the next few hours chopping, slicing, mixing, sautéing and baking. By the time the early lunch crowd showed up at the cafe, we were ready. It was so much fun to walk around the cafe talking to patrons and getting their immediate feedback on our food. It was thumbs-up all around (whew!).
Thanks to the lovely kitchen staff at Crosscare we managed to get through lunch service without burning the place to the ground! We all genuinely enjoyed the day and look forward to coming back to do this again very soon. I’d love to do more work with bloggers, Kellogg’s and Crosscare in the near future; reading the responses to our tweets and Instagram pics from the day, it seems there’s a lot of interest from our fellow blogger friends.
A massive “thank you” to Ciara, Louise and all the staff at Crosscare for helping us put this day together, and to Lily, Bill, Sharon, Roseanne and Caryna for taking the time to lend their mad cooking skills for a great cause!
If you work around either cafe, pop in for a home-cooked lunch for a bargain price.
Rhubarb Crunchy Nut Crumble
For our crumble, we worked with tinned, unsweetened rhubarb and made enough for about 40 people, so I’ve adapted the recipe to serve 6-8. You can use tinned or fresh rhubarb of course; if the latter, simply stew the rhubarb until it’s soft in a bit of water – about 30 minutes on a low simmer.
500 grams of cooked, unsweetened rhubarb
Zest of one orange
1 large thumb-sized piece of ginger, peeled
100 grams of caster sugar
85 grams of butter, chilled
140 grams of plain flour
60 grams of brown sugar
120 grams of Crunchy Nut cereal
Preheat oven to 190C (or 180C fan).
Put the cooked rhubarb into a pot and add the orange zest, ginger and sugar. Cook on medium heat until it starts to bubble; lower the heat and simmer for a good 15-20 minutes. Set aside to cool for 15 minutes and remove the piece of ginger.
Pour the rhubarb mixture into a greased casserole dish and set aside. In a large bowl, combine the butter, flour and brown sugar using your fingers. You’ll want to crumble these ingredients together until the butter starts to clump with the flour and sugar. Now add in the Crunchy Nut cereal, crushing it with your fingers as you put it into the bowl. Using your hands or two butter knives, crumble it all together until the mixture is in clumps the size of peas. Sprinkle the mixture over the rhubarb and bake for 40-45 minutes, or until the top is lovely and golden.
Serve with ice cream or custard!