CREATIVE COOKING: Lesley McLean’s life was turned around when she completed the Jamie’s Ministry of Food cooking course.
CREATIVE COOKING: Lesley McLean’s life was turned around when she completed the Jamie’s Ministry of Food cooking course. Rob Williams

Basic British cooking moves to a new world of possibilities

LESLIE McLean always thought of herself as a very basic cook.

She avoided chillies, and didn't even dream of eating something like Thai, let alone cooking it.

That was before she decided to enrol in the 10-week course at Jamie Oliver's Ministry of Food earlier this year, which, after celebrating its third birthday earlier this year, is expecting to deliver its 4000th graduate in the coming months.

"I am a very basic cooker; I live by myself so I didn't do much cooking at all. When I did cook it was always things like sausages, and steaks, and roasts and things like that. Very basic, very British cooking," she said.

"I'd been past the Ministry of Food outlet there and it caught my eye and I thought 'Oh, I might try that'."

"One of the biggest things for me is that I didn't use very much vegies or things like that either and that was one of the things they seem to do.

"That was one of the things that attracted me. If I could learn to use more vegies and things like that it would be good for me anyway.

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"I try completely different foods now. My daughter used to get angry with me because I wouldn't try Thai or anything with chillies in or things like that. I was just 'no, no, no. I don't eat that'. I do now. My tastes have completely changed."

She enjoyed the classes so much she now volunteers at the Ministry of Food helping others get as much out of the course as she did. She's not the only one.

Ministry of Food Australia CEO Alicia Peardon said people who went through the course regularly had such a good experience they decided to volunteer after it ended.

"It's the relationships people build out of the course that is amazing. So many of them after the course is complete then volunteer," she said.

Ms McLean said one of the key lessons she got out of the course was cooking isn't as daunting as it can appear.

"You see on MasterChef they do risotto and it's called the 'death dish' and nobody does risotto. I can cook risotto! It's amazing. It does take a little bit of time to do, but it's easy, it's not hard," she said.

It has also introduced a new $50 five-week course to allow more flexibility in attending the course, a price Ms McLean said she realised when during doing the course herself was a bargain.

"It sounds a bit expensive at first, but when you think about it. It's $10 a course, they supply the food, and you take home what you cook," she said.


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