COMMUNITY groups across east Durham have produced a free recipe book as part of a healthy eating initiative after research showed a “worrying” number of people in the area eating too many takeaways and ready meals.

The East Durham Community Cookbook was unveiled at a cookery demonstration by Masterchef finalist Dave Coulson at Blackhall Community Centre, in Blackhall, near Peterlee, today (May 20).

The initiative, fronted by East Durham Trust and funded by East Durham Health Network, saw more than 50 volunteers from six villages taking part – providing 24 recipes.

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East Durham Trust chief executive Malcolm Fallow said: “Research tells is that there is most certainly room to improve the diet of the local communities with an over-reliance on takeaway food and a general lack of awareness when it comes to cooking and food preparation.

“Over half the people in east Durham who were surveyed had visited a takeway twice in the previous week, which is quite worrying in a way because we think of that as being a treat.

“On the other end of the scale some people were telling us they were eating takeaways up to five times a week – which is even more frightening.”

He added: “It’s a growing trend and one of the reasons is there is an inter-generational gap with regard to cooking skills – that is what we need address.

“This project has tried to that by sharing good practice and injecting some expert advice.

“There is no question that this initiative has led to improvements in local eating habits- I am also sure that those involved had a lot of fun in the process.”

Mr Coulson, who has opened Peace and Loaf restaurant, in Newcastle, said: “We should eat healthier.

“When I cook I try to make it as healthy as possible. The only thing I was taught to cook at school was a tuna sandwich - that’s not really good enough.

“I am from Wingate am passionate about this area. It’s a shame that people don’t cook themselves.

“It is the easiest thing in the world to do. This book will be a good thing for the area – it’s free and full of cheap ideas.”

The cookbook includes recipes for panaculty, fettucini carbonara, posh scouse. beef curry, lasagne, Jim’s vegetable soup, vegetable pie, quorn chilli, ham and pease pudding and much more.

The book was launched alongside a research project that shows the growing need for communities to play a key role in the food and diet improvement agenda.

For further information about book contact the East Durham Trust on 0191 569 3511.