Men were taught how to prepare a vegetable soup and whip up an exotic fruit smoothie at the launch of a set of free cookery classes.

Hart District Council, in partnership with Hampshire County Council, kicked off the first session on Tuesday (February 18) to provide men over the age of 55 a taster of preparing simple, healthy meals, from start to finish.

Held in Rosefield Court in Hartley Wintney, the six-week course followed the success of last year’s scheme at The Saint Swithuns Centre in Yateley. Martine Fullbrook, from the district council, said: “We are hoping to help men over 55, especially those who have perhaps been bereaved and are having to look after themselves and have never cooked before, or people that may have to look after their wives if they are ill and suddenly have to cook for the household.

“It is to give them some easy ideas for recipes and also to encourage them to eat healthily, trying to tell them why they should to eat five fruit and vegetables a day, enough protein and a well balanced diet.”

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The course not only aims to give men recipe ideas and tips, but also shopping ideas and safe storage advice.

Men also have an opportunity to sample some of the foods they may not usually eat. This week many of the men tried avocado for the first time.

Roderick Parker, 82, from Fleet, decided to join the group to help him understand cooking and preparation timings for a variety of dishes he liked.

He said: “I can cook but I do have to have some instruction on timing and what to put in first.

“I prefer to stay away from microwave meals although I do buy a microwave quiche or something like that just for convenience, but I prefer home-cooked food.

“I think this kind of course is good and I imagine it should be something more widespread.”

Next week, the students will be focusing on protein and learning how to make omelettes.