We all know how important nutrition is, and anyone who has experienced serious illness will know how that finding food that appeals and maintaining energy levels can be tricky. You’ve probably also heard it said that an army marches on its stomach.

As Head Chef at Princess Alice Hospice for ten years, Allan and his team have always provided two vital services; firstly, providing nutritious and appetising food for patients staying at the In-Patient Unit, whose dietary requirements may be complex. Secondly, providing a range of food, drink and other refreshments for purchase by staff and visitors to the Hospice, via the dining room and the coffee shop.

The team has always been versatile, offering seasonal menus, adapting meals, for example if a patient has difficulty swallowing, catering at fundraising events and accommodating unusual requests or special occasions – all the while delivering meals from breakfast through to supper, 365 days of the year. Like every other part of the Hospice, Allan’s catering team had to adapt fast and implement significant changes when the Coronavirus pandemic resulted in lockdown.

“Our first challenge was to ensure that we could continue to deliver meals for patients and staff working on the In Patient Unit. Fortunately our suppliers continued to deliver and we also received many generous donations of food from our local community, including Morrisons, Waitrose, Tesco and Lidl, as well as several individuals. In order to comply with social distancing, we adapted the way we worked in the kitchen and, with the help of our facilities team, rearranged the furniture in the dining room. We also had to make changes to the opening hours of our coffee shop, which is usually run so efficiently by our team of volunteers.

Although many Hospice staff were able to work from home (meaning a sudden big reduction in the quantity of lunchtime meals we prepared and cooked), our In Patient Unit team and some other essential staff continued to come in each day, dealing with the pressures and anxieties of providing care during a pandemic, so we tried to play our part in helping to make other aspects of their daily life that little bit easier, by providing free hot meals at lunchtime during April and May. Also, in the early days of lockdown, panic-buying resulted in empty shelves in many supermarkets, so we supported the staff by selling basic essentials such as eggs and milk when their working hours made it hard to find them elsewhere.

In recent weeks, I’ve also thought about how I can continue to run cookery classes, which we previously offered at the Hospice to carers and bereaved family members, who may have had limited or no experience of cooking prior to their loved one’s illness. We know that these lessons were really appreciated by previous attendees so it seemed a shame to stop them. The obvious answer was to deliver them via video, so I’ve now recorded my first online class – talking through three recipes that have always been popular in the Hospice dining room: lasagne, garlic bread, and carrot cake. It seemed to go well – so maybe I’ll do more…”

Allan has received lots of positive feedback from those who’ve joined his classes, including this:

“I’d  be happy to partake in another session as not only do I welcome the kitchen help from Allan, but it forces me to interact with others which, probably like most single people, is something I’ve not done very much of over the last 12 weeks.”

If you’d like to try Allan’s carrot cake for yourself, take a look at his recipe and watch his class below. We’ve also include the recipes for Allan’s lasagne and garlic bread. You may like to make a donation to our Compassionate Care Continues appeal.