Have you ever had the pleasure of enjoying a meal out you know has been cooked straight from the heart?
Well I feel extremely privileged to say that I have.
My mum is a fantastic cook and I know that every dish she gifts me with is one that she has cooked with no other thought than to make me happy, and yes this is the premise that every chef should have but when you go to a restaurant you can’t expect them to have that same personal connection with you.
Should you be invited to a supper club… well the rules of the game begin to change.
The menu is pre-set. The tables are pre-booked. The setting is generally more homely, much more intimate.
Throw in two of the loveliest hosts you’ll ever meet and you are in for a heart-warming night.
Last Monday I visited the Heart and Parcel supper club for the first time. Despite endless nagging and lectures from my sister to book in and trial out one of their events, I’ve just never had the chance. It was a place I had been genuinely dying to check out, yet I was not really sure what to expect.
I think I’ll start with giving you just a little bit of background on this project…
Heart and Parcel was founded by two friends who simply share an interest in dumplings and social work. They set up this project as they realised there was a need for greater support within their community to help migrant women support and respect each other, all the while teaching valuable English skills which will in turn, help them realise their full potential.
“Making dumplings involves many hands, communication and teamwork. We use this process as a method to engage with women using English as the medium.”
Simple idea right? Simple, effective and you can tell both Karolina and Clare work their socks off for this.
As well as running courses and getting these women together, the ladies also sell dumplings at markets, offer private workshops and of course… host supper clubs to raise funds to put back into this amazing project.
Which brings me back to our evening.
So off we went to meet friends and family at the Inspire centre in Levenshulme. We were greeted at the door by Karolina and Clare, both dressed beautifully in traditional Asian attire, a really cute touch (and they both looked fab). We were shown to our table and offered drinks until the room had been filled ready for us to start.
Images taken from www.heartparcel.wordpress.com
Last week was the largest supper club event they had ever run in a single sitting, 50 covers I believe, yet it didn’t feel rushed, overly busy or noisy. In fact, I’m pretty sure we must’ve been the noisiest!!
Once all the tables were filled the starters arrived… quite a decent portion too. Bal bora, Sodji pakora with eastern slaw, apple chutney and mint sauce. DELICIOUS. Devoured mine at super speed, completely forgetting that we had many more dishes to come so I probably should have paced myself. I don’t think there was a single element left on anyone’s plate actually, it was a real hit.
And so too were the other dishes, one by one they filtered out of the kitchen, just the right portion sizes, neatly presented no element from the menu forgotten (I ate a few too many seriously spicy chilli’s that set my mouth on fire but that was totally my fault – I didn’t learn after the first one I ate!). We were treated to a traditional Bengali fish curry, Okra & tomato, stir fried cabbage and mushroom served with roti bread and rice. The sweet semolina pancake at the end was something I thought I wouldn’t enjoy much, I’m quite fussy about my desserts, but I ended up inhaling it within seconds, leaving only the glazed cherry.
In between our courses Karolina and Clare asked for our attention for a few minutes where they brought out the three chefs, Monira, Bibi and Sweety and they each held the floor to introduce themselves and pass on their thanks in their newly learnt English.
It was magic.
These women had been attending the ESOL classes and had been learning to speak a language that wasn’t native to them and here they were standing up in front of a crowd of people trying their best to show us their skills. I know I would have struggled to do such a thing.
I was so impressed by their bravery. One of the ladies got a bit emotional, all because she was so happy that we had made the effort to come out and support them by enjoying food that represented… well it represented them. It was their national cuisine, food that they know and love.
Everyone has a food that reminds them of ‘home’ and this was theirs. That’s a special kind of meal right there and all fifty of us were privileged enough to share it with them.
All three returned to the supper club floor later on, to check everything was ok and to practice a bit more of their English speaking skills one on one. It was a lovely touch and really made the whole evening quite memorable.
Each month the Heart and Parcel club try to go one step further, they share something different, but they never forget the reason they are doing it and you can tell that they do everything to show that these ladies who work hard in the kitchen for us, are definitely the stars of the show.
I can’t think of a bad thing to say about this experience.
Ok thats a little lie – the cumin tea wasn’t really my thing! But I’m always up for experimenting, thats another thing I love about this concept, I got to try things I never would have normally picked out. If the tea at the end was the only thing that didn’t catch my fancy, I’d say that’s pretty good going. (My not taking to the tea could also have been a consequence of me eating way too much food).
I’m going to end by saying Heart and Parcel supper club only release a certain allocation of seats each month and I believe they sell out each time.
Bearing that in mind I do believe the next batch will be due out pretty soon and you know what? Now that I’ve had a taste of this experience…
I’ll bloody fight you for those tickets.
P.s. if you get some time please visit their website and read more about it, you’ll be impressed trust me!
-> https://heartparcel.wordpress.com – this is not a request from them, this is a request from me 🙂
*** Thank you to hafs and G for treating Mo and I to dinner as part of his birthday treat, and thank you once again to Heart and Parcel and all of the ladies who make these supper clubs a great success. I hope you realise how amazing you are and how inspiring your project is. Keep up the good work and see you next month! ***