Recipe book from Beder’s charity brings mind and body into focus
From Beder’s Kitchen (Meze publishing) is an unusual cookbook. As with many recipe books it is filled with beautifully photographed dishes, yet the purpose for its publication is to advance the memory of a young man, Beder Mirjan, who tragically took his own life in April 2017. His brother, Razzak Mirjan, established Beder, a charity raising awareness of mental health challenges and suicide prevention. One of the charity’s initiatives is From Beder’s Kitchen which gathers together recipes from foodies around the world. This book is timeous not only because of the high prevalence of suicide in the UK amongst young men but also due to the enormous increase in the crisis in mental health amongst young people since the lockdown. Beder has partnered with YoungMinds and Samaritans, both of which charities are sadly busier than ever during the pandemic.
Beder’s family began the charity recognising that while they could not rewrite the history of a bright young man due to start university, they could spread the message ‘that it is ok not to be ok’ and that expressing these feelings is not a sign of weakness. They stress that suicide is preventable and not inevitable. In this vein, the Forward is written by one of the charity’s ambassadors, Joudie Kalla, who while writing her introduction was at one of her lowest moments. Yet she held onto the hope that better days would follow. This sets the tone for the book in which, at the foot of the recipes, the chef or cook has written a few lines about their own mental health challenges or the way in which cooking helps them to reduce stress.
While many people may find cooking stressful – and I don’t just mean at Christmas time – many of us find it relaxing. After a long day or week, I find it very therapeutic to cook and nurture both myself and my loved ones, friends and family who will gather to eat what I have prepared. I find that this sets the world back on track. Putting on some music or the radio alongside the stove and I can happily cook for hours on end. We talk a lot about the health benefits of home-cooked food, but perhaps we need to talk more about the mental health benefits it affords. From Beder’s Kitchen does this very well with delicious recipes included.
The recipe section opens with the wonderful Sally Clarke who begins the chapter on Breakfast with an apricot and bitter kernel jam. Further along, there is a chicken schnitzel recipe by Yotam Ottolenghi and a strawberry gazpacho from José Pizarro. Atul Kochhar contributes a lamb shapta. Not all the recipes are contributed by recognised names in the food world, but many have had mental health challenges of their own. Their messages are upbeat and full of hope, encouraging readers to reach out to others. They share their tips which include mindfulness, meditation, yoga, breathing exercises, physical exercise, talking to people you trust about your feelings, personal affirmation, and lots of cooking.
From Beder’s Kitchen is full of cracking recipes – anyone who has eaten the popular sticky toffee pudding at Hawksmoor will be delighted to find the recipe from Carla Henriques who comments on suicide amongst chefs. Many people find baking especially therapeutic – I think it might be the distraction afforded by following a recipe closely as well as the way that cakes and baked goodies make life just a little more bearable sometimes – and there is a lovely chapter on sweet treats with a number of recipes I will be trying over the holidays.
My go-to soul food is roast chicken – it is how I welcome family back home and the meal I choose when needing a hug from my dinner. From Beder’s Kitchen has a lovely roast chicken recipe in a chapter named ‘Soul Food’ and I lost no time in preparing it. Arabic spiced roast chicken is a recipe provided by Zahra Abdalla (author of Cooking with Zahra) who writes that after she gave birth to her third child, she was diagnosed with cancer which required an operation, radiotherapy and a period of self-isolation. Faced with a new baby and post-traumatic stress on top of a house move she became depressed. She knew that food was her therapy and slowly began to heal by going into her kitchen and cooking. This one-pot chicken dish was suffused with warm spices – cinnamon, cardamom and ginger – and roasted along with red onions, carrots, potatoes and garlic. As I brought a fine looking dish to my table I thought about the purpose of the book which is to draw attention to the need to take care of our own mental health in order to be able to be sensitive to and responsive to the mental health of those around us.
From the chapter ‘Happy gut, happy life’ I chose California walnut and pomegranate summer salad. This might seem odd for a cold winter’s day but in fact, this turned out to be very seasonal for the UK as beetroot, oranges, walnuts and pomegranate are all abundant now. This salad provided by Nichola Ludlam-Raine (a dietician) was such a success that I have put it down as the salad course on my lunch menu for Boxing Day. It is super easy to prepare as the salad ingredients simply need plating and are dressed with a gorgeous whisk of balsamic vinegar, honey and olive oil. The combination of goat’s cheese, walnut, pomegranate, watercress, beetroot and watercress is as good for the soul as it is for the gut. It is positively bursting with nutrients, colour and fabulous flavours.
A chapter entitled ‘Fast food (but not as you know it)’ was full of tempting recipes. I chose one from Liberty Fennell (the book’s food stylist) who supplied the recipe for baked pomegranate feta with spiced red pepper sauce and tabbouleh. Although this vegetarian dish might sound complex the prep time is short. The tabbouleh is made with quinoa which is mixed with herbs, chopped tomatoes and onion. The red pepper sauce involves roasting red peppers (or using a jar) and baby plum tomatoes, chilli, garlic and red onion with ras el hanout. Once roasted it is blended to make the piquant sauce. The feta is simply baked with zaatar and topped with honey. The end result is colourful, herby, spicy-sweet, and salty. In other words a delicious mouthful. The dish looks impressive too.
From Beder’s Kitchen is a very moving cookbook. It reminds readers of the need to balance the needs of the body and the mind, to take care of our physical and mental health, to keep them in harmony. It encourages us to be kind to ourselves and others, to keep listening in to our own needs and those around us, and to keep reaching out from within ourselves to let our loved ones know when we need extra support. In addition, the book has a wide selection of enticing recipes and will make a great gift or addition to your own kitchen.
There are many ways to get involved with Beder whether by hosting your own event or helping to fundraise. Readers can get in touch with the charity at https://www.beder.org.uk/ or email Beder at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can buy the book through their website too.
A vibrant and nutritious salad with goat's cheese, nuts and fresh fruit and veg
- 4 handfuls watercress
- 2 handfuls California walnuts I used ordinary walnuts
- 2 cooked beetroot chopped
- 100 grams goat's cheese torn into pieces
- 100 grams pomegranate seeds
- 1 orange peeled and chopped
- For the dressing
- 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 tbsp balsamic vinegar use a good quality one which will add sweetness
- 2 tsp honey
- salt and freshly ground pepper
Set out the salad ingredients on a large platter or divide between two plates if you prefer.
Mix the dressing ingredients and drizzle over the salad
Read about more of my favourite new cookery books on London-Unattached. I’ve just been reading The Food Almanac by Miranda York, which comes highly recommended if like me you enjoy reading about food as much as discovering new recipes to try. And, Flavour by Yotam Ottolenghi and Ixta Belfrage has given me a great new set of recipes to try too. Finally, Simply Sabrina Ghayour is one of my favourite releases of 2020 and had me reviewing 10 recipes because I just couldn’t pick one!