Local school launches its lockdown cookbook

A group of mothers and children from Rosendale school today (23 June) launch a cookbook created in lockdown and inspired by the school’s allotment in a splendid but little-known local treasure.

woman and children pose with book
Some of the Rosendale Cookbook team at the allotments’ centenary garden

There cannot be many places near Brixton where you may enjoy views of the Shard and the Dome at the same time as glimpsing a hedgehog.

But you can in the Rosendale Allotments – a stunning 18 acres (Brockwell Park, for comparison, is 125 acres) with 480 plots and an eight-year waiting list to get one.

Five years ago, Rosendale school lost funding for its gardening teacher and, as Nichola Pickstone explains, parents who had been volunteer helpers began to run the allotment a short walk from the school.

women and children in garden
A strawberry – but the slugs got there first this time

Three years ago they began to work on plans to grow and do more with it – from art classes and visits for children with special needs and their teaching assistant, to growing fruit trees and squashes.

“We’ve completely transformed the plot and today the children grow everything from strawberries, pumpkins and potatoes, to peas, beans and berries – and much more,” says Helen Lewis.

But then came lockdown.

“As we couldn’t visit the allotment in the way we had previously due to social distancing restrictions, we decided to create a community cookbook featuring some of the children’s favourite recipes.”

The parents kept the allotment going with individuals watering it on a rota.

distant view of tall buildings from leafy setting
The Shard is one of several London landmarks that can be seen from the allotments

For many, including Alice James, this became an important part of their lives. Enjoying the peace, solitude and space became “part of our lockdown routine,” she says.

“At Rosendale we are so lucky to have such a vibrant, diverse and multicultural community,” says Helen.

“We wanted a way to capture the sense of togetherness, and culinary skills to reflect this.

“What better way than to create a community cookbook, for the community, written by that very community.”

The group received more than 80 recipes from teachers, grandparents, children themselves and even the local vicar.

“Creating the cookbook became a wonderful way to remain close to the community and to keep the allotment ethos alive during lockdown,” says Helen.

girl pointing to tree
Sofia points out the school allotment’s willows

Launched today in the gardens of Belair House, the book includes recipes for blackberry and apple crumble, jollof rice, Guyanese pine tarts, Japanese carrot cake, Grannie’s roasted ratatouille and strawberry jam cakes.

Not only have the children shared their recipes, but many have also contributed illustrations and photographs that feature throughout the cookbook.

The book has a short guide to easily grown ingredients for recipes from each season to encourage even people with limited space to grow/garden at home.

One tip is to transfer seedlings like tomatoes and beans to big pots – “with care and attention they will thrive”.

Following the launch, the books will be available to purchase through Rosendale school and at several local shops, including Wigwam toy shop, The Flower Lady at Herne Hill station, and Dulwich Books.

All proceeds will go to the school’s parent teacher association.

woman and children pose with book