Thanks so much to CropShare volunteer Axel for this week’s blog post about his adventures at FoodCycle!

Here’s Axel picking apples like a pro with a litter picker last week!

After last week’s great apple harvest, CropShare volunteers started distributing some of the apples amongst local charities such as Cambridge Cyrenians, Emmaus and Winter Comfort. Yesterday it was my turn to deliver some apples to the Cambridge branch of FoodCycle, something I was looking forward to immensely, after being a punter at last years event and sampling the amazing CropShare-onion-powered dishes cooked up by CropShare’s Helen and the FoodCycle team. Read more about last year’s event here.

Last year’s onion-based CropShare/FoodCycle collaboration
Picture (c) St Paul’s Centre

As the bike trailer we planned on using to transport the apples turned out to be missing the tiny yet essential skewer, I arrived at Helen’s at 8.30am with a big rucksack, and we filled it and our paniers with as many apples as we could fit.

We got to St Paul’s Centre a little early, but soon the first volunteers (mostly newcomers like myself) started to arrive. While Helen had to rush off to a Transition Cambridge workshop, I intended to stay and help out with the cooking. Once we got into the centre, Laura, the cook leader for the day, and the team inspected the food that had been donated.

Some of the donated food, including a big box full of homegrown vegetables

The initial plan was to make a Shepherdess Pie for mains and apple crumble from our CropShare apples for pudding, but once a group of local allotmenteers delivered dozens of freshly harvested parsnips, carrots and beetroots we decided to add a vegetable soup for starters.

Chopping cabbage

Once the menu was set we split up into separate groups, each responsible for a dish (or more). Helena and myself ended up in the soup group and Hannah and Carlo in the pie group. The next hour or so was spent chopping and chatting (and, in Carlo’s case, chanting), until we ended up with pots and pans full of potatoes and parsnips for the soup and mash, plus a few trays of roasted vegetables for the pie.

The vegetable soup simmering away

Roast vegetables for the Shepherdess Pie 

In the meantime, volunteers from the Cambridge Volunteer Centre (as part of the Make a Difference Day) were busy turning our lovely CropShare apples and some donated rhubarb into an amazing apple crumble, as well as creating a delicious chocolate fridge cake.

The amazing apple crumble

In addition to finishing up the main dishes we also found time to cook the cabbage, cut some croutons and turn more of our apples and some of the donated fruit into a fruit salad (and I managed to sneak even more apples into both the soup and the pie – shhh, don’t tell anyone!)

And then , with a comfortable 5 minutes to spare, it was time to serve up:

Vegetable soup for starters

As we’d been donated so many vegetables this week we were worried that we’d have too much, but thanks to Laura’s gigantic portions and people’s eagerness to have seconds (and thirds) pretty much everything got eaten up.

Serving the Shepherdess Pie

All that was left to do was to join in on the big feast and get chatting to the wonderfully diverse crowd of punters, followed by helping the second shift of FoodCyclers to return the kitchen to a presentable state.