English language learners from Heart & Parcel, an organisation helping to bring women from around the world together through a love of food, are virtually inviting guests into their homes as they showcase how to make some of their favourite dishes.
The cooking classes are free to attend on YouTube and take place across various dates from November until January.
For many of the learners this will mark the first time they will be presenting something to an audience outside of the group.
Rasha Mafrachi, originally from Iraq, first joined Heart & Parcel back in 2016 after being introduced to the group by a friend.
“Heart & Parcel has brought a lot to me,” Rasha told the Manchester Evening News.
“They have made me more confident and helped me to believe in myself in cooking. At first, I doubted that my Iraqi food culture could be acceptable and welcomed by people in the UK.
“However, I have received so much love and have been welcomed since the first day, giving me plenty of support – especially with English being a second language.
“This has led to an incredible working environment and I am certain that one day I will be able to use the knowledge and cooking certificates I have gained to do more professional cooking.”
Since joining the group, Rasha has also had a recipe featured in Heart & Parcel’s cookery book, which was published last year.
Rasha’s cookalong in December will see her making her speciality of a stuffed chicken roll served alongside an aubergine salad.
She says the chicken roll is a modern Iraqi dish and takes inspiration from a similar Indian recipe.
“It is really difficult to choose a dish and teach people about it because you have to think about whether they will like the ingredients or the health aspects of it,” Rasha explains.
“The Iraqi chicken roll is inspired by the Bengali Kati roll but instead of wrapping the filling with bread, it will be wrapped in a delicious thin shell consisting of pure chicken mince and an Indian aromatic spice blend called Garam Masala.”
Paramita Raha, who is originally from Bangladesh and has been living in the UK for a year-and-a-half, will be making crispy spiced potato pastries served alongside a traditional masala tea.
“I will be cooking Shingara, which is ranked amongst the most common Bengali and Indian street foods,” Paramita says.
“I wanted to introduce food that is available everywhere and is eaten by all, whether you’re poor or rich. There are a lot of street foods that can be prepared easily with little time and effort – I wanted to share that with everyone.”
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Paramita, who says this will be the first time she is taking part in an online cookery class, added that joining the group has allowed her to learn about new cultures and experiences.
“We are all aware of our own culture, cookery and history,” she said.
“But after joining Heart & Parcel, I learnt about new cultures, new foods and some famous international dishes. I have also met some amazing people and have formed a good bonding with them – it has been the biggest benefit I have experienced.”
In December, Liza Rasool will be preparing steamed dumplings with a spicy tomato sauce.
Currently a student at Bury College’s Adult Learning Centre, Liza lives in Manchester with her family and says that she loves cooking as it makes her happy.
“I will cook Manto which is a very delicious and famous dish from Afghanistan,” Liza said.
“I hope people will like my dish because food is an important part of people’s lives and culture.
“I believe people should get involved so that they can learn about other people’s cultures too.”
Other dishes to be showcased in the Open Kitchens project, which is supported by Forever Manchester, include sweet cheese-filled pastries, a lamb and dried fruit stew and pistachio cheese rolls served with a sweet milk pudding.
Heart & Parcel was set up in 2015 by friends Clare Courtney and Karolina Koścień.
The organisation runs regular English classes, as well as catering and food events, in a bid to help women from ethnic minority communities around Greater Manchester to develop their English language and communication skills.
Hanae El Hadioui found the group after moving to Manchester from Italy, where she had lived for 17 years.
“I got involved through my community centre when they were hosting an English cooking class,” Hanae said.
“When I first joined the class, I was fascinated by their method of teaching and the main ideas of the project.
“It has had a very positive and inspirational impact on me, it has helped me to break the language barrier and gain excellent communication skills by coming together with other learners to cook dishes from around the world, sharing recipes, stories, life experiences and perspectives.”
Hanae is now the learner support coordinator for Heart & Parcel and says the fact she has a job with an organisation that has helped her so much is testament to the importance of the group.
“It feels amazing to know that I could impact someone in the same way that this project impacted me,” she said.
“Throughout my journey as a learning coordinator I became close to the learners by improving productivity and knowing when and where my role can contribute.
“I also built great relationships between the learners and managers as well as motivating them to achieve their goals.
“Success isn’t just about what you accomplish in life; it’s about what you inspire others to do.”
You can book a place on any of Heart & Parcel’s Open Kitchens cookalongs here.
For more information on Heart & Parcel, visit their website.