The Big Lunch coming to a street near you this Sunday 7th!

With the promise of warmer weather from the end of week there's really no excuse not to get outdoors and involved with The Big Lunch this coming Sunday 7th May. Organised by the inspiring Eden Project The Big Lunch is a perfect opportunity to bring neighbours, friends and families together for lunch. When so many of us live in anonymous city streets only catching a brief glimpse of our neighbours the Big Lunch provides the opportunity to get to know those that live around us. Every year on the first weekend of June communities up and down the country come together over food and drink for a day of fun, last year over 4 million people took part in this remarkable event.

I was approached by the Big Lunch to share some of the dishes I might prepare to share with my neighbours and friends. As most people know, I love nothing more than gathering friends together for an afternoon of food and wine often cooking for more than 15 people at a time. For me taking time to share good honest food with people you love fills my heart with joy. The long lunches or dinners around my kitchen table with my closest friends remain some of the most special moments in my adult life. As good home cooking often takes second place in our ever increasing busy lives when we find ourselves juggling all manner of demands upon our precious time, the Big Lunch seeks to reignite local communities coming together as they did in yesteryear.

I'll be hosting my own Big Lunch here on Sunday with some of our wonderful new Cambridgeshire friends. One of the key things I've noticed since moving to a village from Central London is how neighbours do take the time to talk to me offering advice and help, no one seems to be a hurry here. The same goes for the local shops, it once took me all of 30 minutes to buy a joint of beef in the butchers, and not because there was a queue. It was because they take pride in their work and enjoy sharing their knowledge with their customers. This was especially heart warming for me after years of going in the same shops, seeing the same people but never having a conversation with them. The community spirit particularly in large urban areas is not what it used to be. Fulham in the 1970s, where I was born and bred, was a close knit community where people looked out for each other, children played out in the streets until dusk, we even knew each other by name. Perhaps my view is a little romantic but wouldn't it be good to find that feeling once again? The Big Lunch can help you do just that.

I spend hours preparing for a dinner or lunch party pouring over my rather large collection of cookery books. I may well change my mind before Sunday but so far the menu will consist of broad bean bruschettas to start as well as Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall's Roasted Carrot hummus. To follow pulled pork with slaw, macaroni cheese and a pile of sausages from my favourite butcher in the village Barker Brothers. We may also throw some lamb chops on the BBQ seasoned simply with salt and pepper with a sprinkle of cumin. For the more virtuous I'll provide a large green salad, simply roasted Asparagus and sweetcorn. For pudding there'll be a strawberry cake for the children, flapjacks and a huge Meringue made by a friend. I also made a Pink Peppercorn semi freddo last weekend which will undoubtedly grace the table on Sunday. More on that later...

If I haven't persuaded you to join in the fun you can download a Big Lunch pack here which is full of useful hints and downloads on how to organise a memorable day. This doesn't need to be a military organised event even sticking a table in your front garden filled with sandwiches, a few pork pies decorated with pretty vases filled with wild flowers gathered from the hedgerows will do just fine. The key element of the day is conversation between the generations, listening and learning from each other discovering that actually you do have a lot in common with that neighbour you glimpse every morning walking up the street to the same bus stop as you. The day is about building ever lasting friendships, bringing local communities together and above all ensuring that loneliness is banished for the day. So go ahead, go and knock on your neighbours doors to make a plan for Sunday. Last minute gatherings always work the best, you'll be surprised!

You can watch The Big Lunch story here.