BUDDING chefs are being challenged to create dinner with a difference, feeding not only their families but children in Africa.

West Oxfordshire charity the Rafiki Thabo Foundation – which helps educate and feed pupils at schools in Kenya, Uganda and Lesotho – is inviting cooks of all ages to cook up a traditional Ugandan meal at home and to share the results, along with a donation to the good cause. But hurry, because there are only a few days left...

The Rafiki Thabo Cook Off is billed as a great opportunity for parents to teach children more about African culture and cuisine while also helping people in need.

And the challenge has been given the seal of approval by Oxfordshire cookery presenter Prue Leith – who knows a thing or two about judging culinary contests.

The charity’s Janne Pilbeam says: “Like most charities, Rafiki Thabo has been gravely impacted by Covid-19, due to the inability to run planned fundraising events. This has resulted in lost income opportunities creating a potential shortfall of £80,000 and unexpected, additional costs in excess of £10,000 in order to provide emergency food supplies to families of scholars needing their support in Lesotho and Kenya.

“The cook off competition has quickly gained momentum from concept to the launch last week and has the support of the lovely Prue Leith.”

Ugandan-born author Lela Burbridge, who lives in Oxfordshire, provided her family recipe for a traditional Ugandan chapati and bean stew, accompanied by a demonstration video

To get involved, participants need to register, download a recipe, buy the ingredients and get cooking. To enter the competition, they need to share photos or videos of their cooking experience on social media or by email and are invited to make a voluntary donation to Rafiki Thabo.

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Janne adds: “Rafiki Thabo is encouraging participants to think about how they will make this a truly authentic experience by cooking together as a family and eating the meal authentic Ugandan style – with hands and no cutlery, and preferably on the floor. Children will embrace this for sure.”

Four winners will join Prue for ‘an hour with Prue’ zoom workshop, during which they will have the opportunity to ask her questions, receive cooking tips, and learn about the inspiration behind favourite dishes in her new cook book Vegetarian Kitchen.

Other prizes have been donated by the new Heat African restaurant in Oxford and Mr Simms Ole Sweet Shoppe in Chipping Norton. There are also signed copies of Prue and Lela’s latest books.

Winners will be drawn from the most creative, inspiring, authentic and fun entries. The closing date for entries is Sunday, July 26.

Janne said: “The charity helps children who otherwise would not have the financial means to pay school fees and instead would remain at home to help put food on the table, and, if a girl, be married off at a tender age for a dowry. Empowered with an education these young lives are completely transformed.

“With the ability to secure well paid jobs, they can help themselves and their families out of poverty.”

In 2019, Rafiki Thabo Foundation supported 186 scholars.

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Donations will go to the charity’s Eat Well to Learn programme, which will see the 70 poorest students at a school in Uganda receiving one hot meal each day.

Janne said: “For most of these children, this is the only meal they will receive. These children would otherwise walk up to two hours each way to school, through hard terrain, in the blazing sun and then be expected to concentrate and learn in lessons, while all on an empty stomach.”

Prue said: “Rafiki Thabo is an amazing charity. It doesn’t just worry about the children’s education but also about what they eat, and it provides thousands of school meals to children who would otherwise go hungry.”

Full information on how to register and enter the competition along with demonstration video and message from Prue Leith, at events.rafiki-foundation.org.uk/Cookoff