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Á La Carte!

Avery Healthcare takes pride in how we support different cultures in our homes, an example being in how we prepare our foods and adapt our menus to meet the cultural needs of specific resident groups, whether they are Afro-Caribbean, Indian, Middle-Eastern or Southern European. We also acknowledge the dietary requirements of different religious groups, such as Hindus, Jews and Muslims.

Reflecting the rich cultural diversity of the communities that some of our homes serve, our staff members also come from a wide range of backgrounds, and those in the culinary teams bring their cooking experience and skills from different continents and cuisines. It’s a real melting pot!

If a resident comes from a specific ethnic, cultural, religious or regional background then they will be used to a diet that has been with them all their lives. Going in to care in the UK should not mean that they lose contact with an essential part of their heritage, in what they eat and drink, whether as part of their regular diet or as an element of religious observation. Person-centred care is not just about the medication, but a resident’s whole life experience. There is much truth in the saying, “We are what we eat”.

Recognising all of that, and promoting the standards of our resident experience, we cater for all of our residents’ requirements and preferences, with our professional chefs innovatively adjusting some of the ingredients as required for those who may be living with diabetes or cardiovascular issues, for example, to reduce saturated fats and salt levels.

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At Clare Court and Albion Court, our Head Chefs Shyam Singh and Ellie Wilson have the craft skills to produce a flavoursome style of typical Afro-Caribbean cuisine (traditionally fried and high in salt) that is highly seasoned with spices and herbs and suited to those with dietary needs in care. They do this by using chilli, cinnamon, fresh herbs, spices, lemons and limes to enhance flavours, and when cooking starchy carbohydrates, they bake and boil and reduce the oil when roasting; they also marinade beef turkey in a jerk sauce but reduce the salt. In an average week, they will cook such dishes as Ackee, Saltfish, Callaloo, spicy fish stew with coriander ginger, turmeric and coconut milk, jerk chicken with pineapple and mango salsa and fluffy spiced rice, or Jamaican style lamb curry with braised root vegetables. Firm favourites for dessert are the sticky coconut and ginger pudding with lemon sauce or tropical baked rice pudding. Yum!

At Birchwood Grange, we have a vegetarian-only kitchen to cater for our Indian and Asian communities. This is rare in the UK, with only a handful of care homes having one. For twenty-three years lead Asian kitchen chef Champa Mistry, assisted by three other valuable members of the team in Hansa Chandu, Jaymini Patel and Rekha Juthani, have been offering fantastic Gujarati cuisine. The Indian culinary department consists of a wide variety of regional and traditional cuisines native to the subcontinent, with food heavily influenced by religion, particularly in the Hindu culture. Gujarati food is from the Indian western coastline, often referred to as the “Jewel of Western India”, and although the shore ensures a huge variety of seafood, the influence of Jain culture makes the region predominantly vegetarian.

Traditionally a Gujarati thali will comprise of rotli, kadhi or dhal, rice and shaak or sabzi, generally served on a silver platter. Gujaratis use a combination of different spices and flavours to cook their meals and this is what makes their food truly exotic. The Birchwood Grange kitchen also cooks for our residents who are Jain, a cuisine that excludes vegetables grown underground such as onion & garlic. Some of the favourite recipes for the pure vegetarian food cooked in Birchwood Grange Cedar Suite includes Tuvar Daal, Vegetable Shaak (cauliflower), Chapati, Semolina (sweet dish), Eggless cakes and Sweet rice Kheer.

We also cater for other specific diets such as Middle Eastern and Southern European, again based upon the mix within a resident group. With Middle Eastern food, there is some variation from country to country but many similarities; commonly used ingredients include olives and olive oil, pittas (flatbreads), honey, sesame seeds, sumac (lemon flavoured spice), chickpeas, mint and parsley. For the Southern European cuisine, there are again olives and olive oil, but also pasta, tomatoes, rice (Greek risotto, Spanish paella), slow cooked lamb and goat, fish and seafood.

Residents get involved as well with our culinary teams in preparing the vegetables, as this is a reminiscence of their past in India or Africa and how families used to all join in with meal preparation; they also get involved in selecting menu choices at regular meetings with the culinary teams. It’s choice, inclusion and engagement for our residents, all served up on a plate!

Article by Davesh Kumar, Head of Hotel Services, and Simon Lawrence, Group Culinary Manager, for Welcome Home Issue 9.