This August, Helm piloted a 4 week block of cooking sessions with a local volunteer, Arshad. At Helm, young people regularly take part in cooking sessions in our commercial kitchen where they learn how to prepare and cook healthy meals, whilst working towards communication, numeracy and teamwork skills. With this new block of sessions, Arshad gave young people and Helm Instructors an insight into South Asian cuisine based on her own heritage and extensive experience as a chef.

In each of the four sessions young people were given the opportunity to cook recipes from various South Asian cuisines. These included aloo tikki, aloo gobi, chapatis, chickpea pilau rice and lentil curry. The sessions were run as a café style, where the young people were involved in the cooking, observing and recording the recipes, setting up and preparing tables for dinner service, and serving the final cooked meal. On average eight young people took part in each session, working closely with Arshad and Helm Instructors.

Arshad fully explained the methodology behind each recipe and enabled young people to ask questions and engage in learning about the ingredients used, their health benefits and the huge variety of spices used in cuisines from around the world. Arshad has a strong passion for cooking, and this passion helped to show young people how cooking can bring people together and can be really inclusive.

Some of the young people involved in the sessions told us:

“I loved cooking the chapatis on the griddle, it was great fun flipping them over.”

“My favourite bit was eating it at the end, it was fantastic!  Today I learned what cumin and cardamom is.”

“I have learned how to make chapatis today, they are delicious.”

One of Helm’s Instructors who was involved in the project and supported the young people while cooking was Louise Buchan.  At the end of the four week block, Louise commented: “the project has been a fantastic opportunity for young people to learn first-hand how to cook different recipes from different cultures. It was invaluable for Arshad to volunteer her time to lead the sessions because she was able to discuss her experiences of cooking professionally and share aspects of her culture – sharing these personal experiences helped give the young people a greater understanding and appreciation for the recipes and the ingredients used. Additionally, she was great with the young people. On a personal note, I learnt so much myself about the different spices and cooking methods as well which was fantastic!”

Ashrad says about the project: “Helm has been a great experience for me and I have loved every second of it. The young people have been very welcoming and open to learning new cuisines. All I want is to continue working with young people and sharing my passion for cooking.”

Due to the success of the pilot sessions, Arshad has agreed to continue volunteering and will attend Helm every fortnight to cook with the young people. Instructors and young people will then practice the recipes when Arshad is not on site to make sure they have learnt the methodology and skills required to produce a delicious meal!

Ally Calder, Helm’s Chief Executive, comments “We’re really looking forward to continuing to welcome Arshad back in the future. By attending Helm to share her own personal experience of cooking different recipes from different cultures, she really has helped support our young people and given them a new skill set.  Helm is keen for our young people to broaden their horizons by experiencing food from different cultures, so we are asking for volunteers with a knowledge of food from other parts of the world to get in touch!”

If you’d like to volunteer for Helm, you can find out more by visiting Volunteer – Helm Training | Career Support & Supportive Learning in Dundee or by emailing