Cookery class inspires healthy eating Creating healthy and delicious meals to nurture your body as it recovers from blood cancer is a tall order for anyone, but for inexperienced cooks it can feel like a challenge too far. That’s why Monika Siemicka, a dietician in the teenage and young adult unit at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, approached Leukaemia UK with an innovative idea to help young people in remission find their inner chef. Leukaemia UK was delighted to fund the cookery courses, which took place at the Jamie Oliver Cookery School in west London, that allow young people recovering from cancer to get together to learn new skills, meet new people and, hopefully, create a delicious meal. Monika said: “We have a discussion at the beginning about nutrition and healthy eating, which gets the conversation going. We cover lots of different topics and there’s plenty of time for everyone to ask lots of questions. “This course provides practical skills and encourages them to be put into practice – it is a very hands-on experience. The cookery evening gives these young adults who are recovering from cancer a chance to experiment with different foods and to see examples of how fruit and vegetables can be used in tasty ways they may not have thought of. “What is also very valuable is the peer support the young adults receive. Some of them are too scared to go into the kitchen and don’t cook at all at home, so this gets them started in a way that makes them feel as if they are all in it together. It is great that Leukaemia UK is able to support this initiative which has such a practical impact.” Each class has a different culinary theme, such as Mexican or Vietnamese street food, with an emphasis on healthy eating. The group learns from a professional chef and then work in pairs to recreate the dish. The highlight is eating the meal together at the end of the evening. Rhiannon, 19, was pleased to have the chance to learn how to make Vietnamese street food. She said: “I really enjoyed making the food and being part of the course. You get to meet new friends and it gets you out of the house and stops you thinking about your illness.” For Ziggy, 22, it was a chance to break out from his dish of choice – pasta! He said: “I usually go for something easy, because I don’t feel like cooking much when I get home from work. This course has shown me a different style of cooking and made me realise that you can make delicious food that doesn’t have to be based on traditional things, like meat and potatoes. The evening’s given me a chance to get a decent meal which I’ve cooked myself as well as meeting new people and having a laugh.” As well as equipping participants with new culinary skills – such as chopping vegetables like a pro and learning how to tell when meat is properly cooked – the course also offers a chance to meet other young people who have been affected by cancer. Stewart, 18, said: “Everyone here has had some sort of cancer, so it feels like there’s nothing to worry about as we’ve all been there. I’ve really enjoyed the course. I don’t normally cook so it’s good to try something new.” Donate here to help Leukaemia UK continue to provide support for young people affected by blood cancer.