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Chef Tony Singh and Soul Food Sisters join this year's Big Lunch charity event

The Big Lunch is an annual charity event, which aims to bring people together to build more resilient, better connected communities.

Published: June 3, 2021
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The Big Lunch is the brainchild of the Eden Project, made possible by The National Lottery and Iceland Foods. It attracts millions of people across the UK each year.

Last year for the first time in its 12-year history, the event was moved online to adhere to Covid-19 lockdown measures.

Over 4 million people took part in The Big ‘Virtual’ Lunch, with events running online, on the phone and on the doorstep.

This year it will take place from 5– 6 June, and will see people share food and have fun as they get to know each other.

As the world slowly starts to return to normality, The Big Lunch is encouraging anyone and everyone to get together virtually or, safely in real life to unite in a nationwide act of community friendship.

This year chef Tony Singh is helping to help spread awareness about the event and encourage the Scottish community to host their own Big Lunch.

Tony Singh said: “I am delighted to be supporting The Big Lunch this year.

"Coming together and sharing a meal is the most communal and binding thing in almost every place in the world.

"Food can also be a great vehicle for sharing culture with people from different backgrounds.

"After such a turbulent year I feel it’s really important for us all to come together safely and support each other.

"I’m thrilled to share one of my favourite recipes for you to make and share with your friends, family or community for The Big Lunch - I hope you love it as much as I do.”

Sophie Bridger, country manager (Scotland) for the Eden Project added: “It's been an incredibly challenging year, and for many of us, the connections we made in our communities have helped us get through it.

"As we emerge from the toughest of times, we want to support people and communities and as we start to reconnect with the world around us.
 
"The Big Lunch is a brilliant way to ease yourself back into socialising.

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"By seeing your neighbours for some cake and a natter, you can keep friendship and community spirit going.

"There’s plenty of different ways to take part - outdoors, online, over the fence or on the doorstep from 5 June right through into July.

"It’s so important to find ways we can get used to socialising, connecting and making new friends again and The Big Lunch can help people do that where they live by bringing people together to celebrate connections and our
amazing communities.

"This year The Big Lunch is spreading out across a whole month of community, kicking off a summer of friendship and fun.

"From hosting a Big Lunch to thanking volunteers in Volunteers Week, to packing some snacks and hitting the park in National Picnic Week, we are encouraging the nation to join in when it works for them.”

Picture: Phil Wilkinson

Kathryn Welch was previously operations director at Macrobert Arts Centre in Stirling, who held a Big Lunch in 2018 and 2019.

She first heard about The Big Lunch when she attended an Eden Project Communities Community Camp. 

Kathryn expained that the Big Lunch weekend is a favourite of hers, saying: “The Big Lunch is one of my favourite weekends of the year.

"It’s a chance to meet new people and to get to know neighbours you’ve only seen in passing.

"I always find myself having really interesting, different conversations.

"I’ve also ended up playing hopscotch with a five year old, eaten Caribbean rice and peas, and been taught to play a tune on a piano from an 80 year old neighbour.

"It can sometimes feel a bit nerve-wracking to organise a Big Lunch, but I’ve always loved it and would absolutely recommend signing up.

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"It’s a great way to feel more at home on your street or in your neighbourhood, and there’s always cake!”

Research conducted in April 2021 suggests high levels of re-entry anxiety and concerns about our ability to socialise as we come out of the latest lockdown period.

However, despite 64 per cent of UK respondents worrying about socialising with large groups or in crowded places, one of the positives is that 70 per cent of the Scottish population are comfortable meeting smaller groups locally for picnics or community BBQs.

Despite a high percentage of the population worried about socialising post lockdown, over 25 million of us in the UK feel relieved at the idea we’ll be able to socialise without restrictions in the coming months and 30 per cent actively excited at the prospect.

TV presenter and comedian Jo Brand, has been a Big Lunch Ambassador for five years.

She can relate to the survey findings, and said: “Whilst I’m chomping at the bit to see family and friends again; I certainly won’t be front of the queue dishing out hugs when my local rave club reopens.

"Everyone has their own social roadmap to what they will feel comfortable doing.

"We all need to go at our own pace and that’s just fine. The real positive to come from this research though is that 12 million people are now closer to their neighbours than before the pandemic.

"So if anyone is feeling anxious about diving back in to the socialising pool, then The Big Lunch is the perfect way to dip a toe back in the metaphorical shallow end.

"Just fling open the door and wave an egg vol-u-vaunt over the back fence during a natter with the neighbours.

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"We need to remember how to talk to real-life human beings again, so why not start with the human beings next door?”

Join in on The Big Lunch from 5 – 6 June here.

Tony Singh's Punjabi Choley recipe

Punjabi Choley are famous all over India.

This delicious dish forms an integral part of Langar in Sikh Gurdwaras all over the world .

Langar is to provide everyone in need of food, irrespective of their caste, class, religion and gender.

Everyone is always welcome as the Guru’s guest besides the virtue of sharing, the concept of Langar also teaches equality and loving-kindness.

Ingredients

  • 250g Tin of Chickpea’s drained and water kept
  • 2 small Sized Chopped Onions
  • 4 Chopped Tomatoes
  • 150mls water saved from the drained Tin top up with tap water if the amount is short.
  • 1 Teaspoon of Cumin seeds
  • ½ Teaspoon of Turmeric powder
  • 1 Teaspoon of Coriander powder
  • 1 Teaspoon of Red Chilli powder
  • 1 Tablespoon of Amb choor ( Dry Mango powder )
  • 1 Tablespoon of Ginger-Garlic paste. ( 50 % pureed garlic 50 % pureed Ginger )
  • 2 Green chillies
  • ½ a lime
  • Handful of Chopped Coriander

Method

In a pan, heat the oil. Split the green chillies from middle and add in the oil along with the cumin
seeds.

Once the seeds start spluttering, add chopped onions and sauté onions till they turn brown in
colour.

Add ginger-garlic paste, chopped tomatoes, turmeric powder, red chilli powder and coriander powder , add 200 ml and 150ml of saved chickpea water of tap water bring to a simmer

Cook till oil splits to the top of the pan.

Now add the tined chickpeas, on a low flame for 10 minutes.

Add Amchoor masala and again cook on a low flame for a 2 of minutes.

Before serving squeeze lime and garnish with chopped coriander.

Known for cake making, experimental jam recipes, Champagne and gin drinking (and the inability to cook Gnocchi), Rosalind writes for The Scotsman on all things food and drink related.

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