Heart & Parcel invite you to join these free online cookery classes

Have you ever wanted to take a peek in your neighbour’s kitchen while they’re cooking? Perhaps pick up some tips or learn a dish you’ve never tried before?

Levenshulme based English language organisation, Heart & Parcel is giving you the chance to (virtually) visit the kitchens of women, from many different cultural backgrounds, and cook along with them as they teach some of their favourite dishes.

Our project celebrates and platforms the food, dishes and knowledge coming from Manchester kitchens

Open Kitchens - supported by Forever Manchester, is a series of free online cooking classes taught by women from migrant communities living in Manchester.

Like so many, H&P has adapted its services during lockdown, including setting up a YouTube channel full of English resources and recipe videos from its recently published cookbook. This latest project is designed give the wider Manchester community an opportunity to connect with their neighbours while giving the learners a chance to practise their communication skills.

2020 10 08 Heart Parcel Dumplings
Karolina teaches her dumpling recipe and participants show their results

For founders Clare and Karolina, it’s all about creating connection, empowerment and community through learning. With socialising now largely online, adapting their very hands-on approach posed a challenge. How do you shift a service which is all about sharing ingredients, utensils, and food to an online environment?

"It's been challenging," says Karolina, "New, different but also very exciting and a great learning experience. We're definitely going to continue our online activities in the future - even when face to face sessions are possible again."

2020 10 08 Heart Parcel Studio Set Up
Setting up for You Tube cooking classes

"Our initial online classes took a more traditional approach," explains Clare, "The ESOL tutor lead learners through a session, cooking a dish and embedding English language learning throughout.

"But we wanted a project where learners took charge of their own English language learning journeys, choosing the language they needed for their own lives whilst at the same time challenging their skills.

"The soft skills of digital literacy that many of us take for granted are a lifeline at the moment. Knowing how to search for a website, communicate via email and WhatsApp, manage a zoom call - all in another language - is going to be beneficial for their study, employment and interaction in the UK."

2020 10 08 Heart Parcel Clare
Clare teaches a recipe from the Heart & Parcel cookbook

Both Karolina and Clare have their own experience of language learning. Clare recalls, "I took some Chinese language classes when I was working in China. I would be sitting there, watching the lesson thinking, ‘I don’t want to learn about how to ask if someone was married, directions to the shopping malls and how to order a sandwich.’ I remember how annoyed and disengaged I felt. It has always stuck with me and influenced my decision to make sure that Heart & Parcel doesn’t dictate what learners should cover."

The Open Kitchens project will see the students take centre stage. These expert home cooks will each host one of six online cooking classes which anyone in Manchester can attend. 

Clare says, "Our Open Kitchens project celebrates and platforms the food, dishes and knowledge coming from Manchester kitchens in different communities.”

Karoline adds,“We want Mancunians to participate in our sessions, workshops and all online activities.”

2020 10 08 Heart Parcel Zoom Class 2
A zoom class during lockdown with Hanane top left

One student who has come far with the help of Clare and Karolina is Hanane, now a learner-coordinator (and motivating force) for Heart & Parcel. She tells us,

“When I started as a learner, I didn't imagine I would succeed to becoming a learner-coordinator. I learnt the English language in an informal context with women from different backgrounds and cultures sharing our recipes. I gained excellent communications skills, breaking the language barrier. I strongly believe that the journey of one thousand miles begins with one step for any lady who is determined to change her future."

What would Hanane say to learners who are thinking about attending a session? 

“Just take the opportunity and challenge yourself to gain knowledge, build confidence and learn the English language”

2020 10 08 Heart Parcel Rasha
Rasha will be leading one of the cooking classes in November

We spoke to some of the women who will be hosting the cooking classes. They've thought carefully about making the dishes accessible for everyone, 

"Usually, in Indian dishes, a lot of ingredients are used,” says Paramita Raha, “I wanted to ensure the ingredients are widely available as some ingredients may be hard to find in the convenience store."

Khadidja adds ”You don't know what people like and if they will like your dish or not. Because it's the first time for me to do something in front of people I feel not confident. Shame and nervous at the same time.”  

It takes guts to host a cooking class in your second language, and some learners are worried that their English skills might be an issue.

Liza says, "I am feeling very excited and little bit nervous because I think my speaking is not good the same as learners.”

Rasha adds, "It will be a completely new experience to me. I expect it to be difficult and a challenge for me deliver online in English. However, I am excited at the same time as it will be so nice to share what I know about my dish with others.” 

2020 10 08 Heart Parcel Rawia
Rawia will be cooking her sweet, cheese-filled pastry with stove-top coffee

But the H&P team has helped them to feel prepared, Paramita Raha tells us they’ve been enormously helpful,"From offering guidance, technical help with the lighting and camera, to all sorts of assistance with my English."

Khadidja adds, "It gave me confidence in myself, I have learned new friends and new dishes as well and Clare and Hanane gives me always a positive energy."

Asmahan says, "I had a fantastic time learning about other cultures and most importantly improving my English, especially in the food field. Other skills I have learned are presenting, decorating, and taking decent photos of food."

"At first I doubted that Iraqi food could be acceptable and welcomed by people in the UK," explains Rasha. "But my cooking has reached levels I could not imagine. In fact, one of my dishes has made it to the cookbook. I have been welcomed from the first day and I am certain that one day I can use the knowledge and cooking certificates to do more professional work in cooking.”

By getting involved in these classes, Rawia says, "We can spread awareness of new cultures and flavours of different countries around the world."

Khadidja adds that Mancunians joining the sessions "will learn about different dishes and their story and techniques because behind each dish is a story.”

Intrigued? Register your interest here. The live sessions are free to join but spaces are limited. Sessions will be recorded and available to view afterwards. 

You can also sign up to be a volunteer here. 

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The programme of classes commences in November and run from 7-9pm. The dishes taught will be:

Wednesday 4th November- Rawia’s sweet cheese filled pastry with stove top coffee

Thursday 19th November - Paramita’s crispy spiced potato pastries with masala tea

Wednesday 2nd December - Liza’s steamed chilli beef dumplings with spicy tomato sauce

Wednesday 16th December - Rasha’s stuffed chicken roll with aubergine salad

Wednesday 13th January - Khadidja’s lamb & dried fruit stew with fresh rocket salad

Thursday 27th January - Asmahan’s soft pistachio cheese rolls with sweet milk pudding

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