In 2014, I was volunteering at the Irish Refugee Council, campaigning for an end to direct provision, and missing the taste of home.
At the same time, food author and restaurant founder Michelle Darmody had discovered the sad truth that many people in the direct provision system are not allowed to cook for themselves or their families. As someone who loves to cook, Michelle was shocked that this important part of daily life was being denied to some. She reached out to the IRC and through them, we made contact.
I knew Michelle and I were going to be friends when she came to our first meeting with a chocolate cake! We talked and laughed, and created a plan to get me into the kitchen. Michelle is well known and respected within the food industry and through her connections, we secured a premises in Rathmines. There was help with the cost of ingredients and bus fares, for which I am so thankful.
And now we – men and women from different countries – could gather together, to start cooking. And talking! A dear friend from Uganda introduced me to the best soup ever – vegetables in peanut butter. Another friend from South Africa talked about feeling broken by the system, as she could not cook for her children. She shared a room with her daughter that was so small she was unable to keep some of her belongings there. She talked for a long time, as if she had been waiting for an opportunity to do so.
This was one of the best days of my life. We chatted, laughed, cried, and made food that reminded us of home. Fish, meat, coconut dishes, vegetable plates, and lots of rice. It was group therapy with meals!
Knowing we had a place of our own to return to was a relief for all of us. It was a freedom of sorts because now we could continue to create beautiful food to share.
I found I had a wonderful feeling inside of me and I realised what it was. It was the taste of home coming back to me again.
Vegetable and Peanut Butter Soup
- 170 grams smooth peanut butter
- 250ml tomato puree (or passata) with 100ml water
- Pinch of salt
- Some chard, preferably rainbow
Wash the chard thoroughly, then chop it into small chunks.
Pour the tomato puree into a pot and stir with a wooden spoon. Add the salt and peanut butter and bring to the boil. Keep stirring the ingredients until the mixture is very smooth. If you need to, add more water.
Once smooth, add the chopped chard in small batches and stir into the soup mix. When everything is in, cover with a lid and simmer for two minutes.
Your soup is ready to serve and share!