When my eldest son was six, he asked if he could help raise money for Red Nose Day, the charity co-founded by his dad. We sat him down with the fundraising pack and tried to find an activity that would suit him. ‘I’ve got it’, he said. ‘I’ll get sponsored to eat only sweets for an entire day’. ‘I don’t think you’ve quite understood, Jake…’ I interjected. ‘No honestly, Mum, it’s fine. I don’t mind doing it – it’s for charity.’ He persuaded various godparents to sponsor him for the sacrifice, and on the Saturday before Red Nose Day he ate a vast selection of sweets for breakfast, elevenses, lunch and tea, until, just before supper, he vomited most of them up again. The sweets cost £14, he raised £31 for Red Nose Day, and the bill for cleaning the sofa came to £40.
Tom Kerridge has a much better idea. He’s come up with a three-course menu to support BBC Children in Need. It’s scalable, so it can be used to cater a party where everyone pays a donation to attend, or as a gorgeous TV dinner while you watch the BBC One telethon on 16 November. Either way, it’s win/win/win… you get a great meal costing around £4 a head to raise money for BBC Children in Need’s important projects, and it’s so simple to cook, you can rope in children as sous chefs.
Charged with trialling the recipes, I asked Jake, now a fully grown adult despite his many nutritional mishaps, to help me create the feast. It went well.
Me: Son, will you help me cook some food for a TV party?
Me: Actually it wasn’t a question, it was the interrogative imperative.
Jake: Still no.
Me: I will pay you half my fee for this column to help me?
Jake: Now you’re talking… who gets the other half?
Me: Me – but I’m donating my half to BBC Children in Need.
Jake: Excellent plan. I’m in.
Me: And then I thought you could donate your half to BBC Children in Need too?
Jake: Was that another interrogative imperative?
Me: You know me so well…
The three-course feast features real chips with dipping sauces, chilli beef tacos, red cabbage & pickled chilli slaw, Mexican fiesta rice and salted toffee ice cream profiteroles. Most of the ingredients we already had – only the beef, beans and cabbage had to be bought especially. I put the brisket in the oven before breakfast, so by the time we were aproned up and ready to cook at 6pm, it was already tender enough to be pulled.
Jake cut up the potatoes, I roasted them, he mixed the dipping sauces, I chopped the coleslaw, he baked the wraps into crispy taco shells, I made the profiterole batter, he moulded it into balls, I made the salted caramel, he filled the little buns with ice cream, I tidied up, he watched me, I shouted at him to help, he refused. The process took two hours, and apart from the inevitable washing-up incident, we only rowed twice: once when he said we couldn’t possibly cook profiteroles as an episode of the Bake Off showed that they’re difficult to do, and once when he refused to admit he was wrong about how complicated they were.
By the time we were ready to eat, neither of us were hungry, which left more food for the five friends who had come over. The twice-cooked chips were unsurprisingly popular, and the harissa dip the most admired of the three. Nobody believed we’d made the profiteroles as they’d also seen that episode of the Bake Off. We spent around £30 and raised £60 for BBC Children in Need, which will help children’s lives all over the UK.
Our effort was part of the great British tradition of using food to raise money for important causes. Macmillan Nurses made £27 million last year through coffee mornings, and hundreds of UK schools have self-published recipe books featuring their pupils’ favourite meals. In Norfolk, a butcher named Ali Dent holds a charity contest every year where participants pay to eat a 4lb hamburger in a bun the size of a bar stool. I once compered a ‘lick the melted chocolate off your partner’ race for Comic Relief. Maybe it’s time to bring back All Sweets Day – I know one person who would be happy to do it.
We’ve also got more ideas for raising money on our BBC Children in Need hub page