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Blind cooking: “Don’t be shy and plan your approach”

Local blind couple Nicky and Frank tell us how they plan and prepare meals – and what gadgets help them do it.

Sheffield Royal Society for the Blind (SRSB) and Rotherham Sight & Sound (RSS) provide opportunity, support, friendship and services to people with sight and/or hearing loss in Sheffield City Region.

In pre-Covid times they ran cookery groups each week in their centre at Sheffield, alongside many other services. The sessions were very popular and proved to be as good for clients’ wellbeing as they were informative, in terms of equipment and adjusting to cooking with sight loss. Through lockdowns and restrictions, SRSB has been sending activity packs out to clients in the post on request, including large-print recipes.

I chatted to couple Nicky and Frank, SRSB clients who are both blind and share a passion for cooking. Nicky also worked in SRSB’s Equipment Centre for many years, so she knows all about the gadgets which can help people who are visually impaired to live – and cook – independently.

They share what they like to cook, what tips and tricks help them create delicious meals, and which cookbook they’d recommend.

Cooking an omlette with a silicone ring

A silicone ring helps keep omelettes together.

I am totally blind and Nicky has a little residual vision and we both enjoy cooking. It’s a shared experience and for that reason it’s more satisfying.

In recent years we have leaned more towards vegetable-based dishes. This is mainly as it’s supposed to be healthier and Nicky is very keen on fitness. She goes to a local gym where she was fortunate to meet Craig, a fitness instructor, who was her sighted guide runner when they ran the London marathon in 2017.

We find recipes through many avenues, including audio cookbooks and websites like BBC Food. Nicky is now particularly brilliant at preparing and serving Mitch Tonks’ fish pie, although we will happily resort to Tesco's duck legs in orange sauce for a quicker mid-week meal.

As a treat, little and often, we use our much-loved talking scales and follow Delia Smith’s oaty ginger biscuits recipe.

Talking scales

Talking kitchen scales speak the weight of your cooking ingredients.

To help with preparing a two-egg mushroom omelette, we use the valuable aid of a silicone ring to keep the omelette together, and an extra large spatula to flip and serve it.

For a favourite weekend meal, we resort to an M&S rotisserie chicken with the aid of the invaluable talking timer on our Apple Watch. This is accompanied by fresh veg from the Crystal Peaks veg stall and, this time of year, some of Nicola’s homegrown potatoes. Potato picking is made easy for blind people when they are pot grown.

Pot-grown potatoes being picked

Potatoes are easier for blind people to pick when they are pot grown.

Having any disability can put barriers in the way. It’s never easy but many things are achievable.

So if we have any advice for fellow cooks, it would be: don’t be shy and plan your approach. Find workarounds to help you. For example, using labels with a talking PENfriend and braille labels to help us know what is what. It’s really good for reading spices.

It always makes us smile that household bleach often comes with braille saying ‘do not drink’ – which is sound advice! It would be nice if more products came with braille, although we have noticed some things like red wine occasionally do too.

Pen Friend

With the RNIB PenFriend you can record messages onto individual audio labels and apply them to products like tin cans. When you hold the PenFriend on the label, it plays back the message.

Technology has progressed in so many ways to enhance all of our lives, including disabled people. We hope we have inspired others to enter the kitchen. It’s good fun and healthier.

Finally, we can’t end without steering people towards the many chefs and cookbooks available. We particularly like Nigella’s cookbook, Nigella Express, as the recipes are varied and straightforward and the end result will give you a touch of luxury.

Learn more

Contact SRSB/RSS on 0114 272 2757 or email info@srsb.org.uk to find out more.

The SRSB equipment centres have samples of many assistive products for people with sight loss and/or hearing loss and their equipment advisors are available over the phone to offer advice, order and deliver products as required.

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