FOOD FOR THOUGHT BLOG | The First Time I Had a Cooking Class with Heart & Parcel in the UK, by Suki

May 16, 2023

FOOD FOR THOUGHT BLOG | The First Time I Had a Cooking Class with Heart & Parcel in the UK, by Suki

First cooking class in my life

Have you ever attended a cooking class? Do you still remember when you had your first cooking class? When I was a Primary school student in Hong Kong, I still remember my first time cooking was taken in the youth service centre, where I learnt how to make Cupcakes and Glutinous Rice Balls Stuffed with Red Bean Paste. But after high school, cooking was pushed on the back burner. The reason is life is too busy! Studying, working and raising a family …, and this situation continued until my family and I moved to the UK.

First cooking class in the UK

In January 2023, I went to an ESOL Cooking & English class held in Roby United Reformed Church in Longsight. For me, the place of learning cooking was special as I have not thought of the cooking class held in the church. Before the class, I was expecting to learn basic recipes like cakes, cookies or sandwiches as the aim of the English class was to learn English. But I was wrong. When I entered the church, I saw different kinds of ingredients had been placed on the large table. Each lesson had a different teacher from a different country to teach us their own home-cook meals. And each time, the teachers taught us at least two different exotic dishes which I had never eaten before. For example, chickpeas, onion and lamb meat stew, potato balls with meat and yoghurt salad. Most of them I guessed were Mediterranean recipes which used a lot of herbs such as garlic, mint,  pepper, bay leaves, cinnamon, cardamom, turmeric and red chilli powder. Also, I found a pomegranate sauce which I had never heard of before. One of my classmates told me they would like to use the pomegranate sauce on beef or chicken. It is a very common sauce in their countries. 

Though it was a cooking class, we did not need really cook ourselves as there wasn’t enough room in the kitchen to include all classmates (we usually had 5 to 6 groups and each group had 4 to 5 classmates). Instead, we helped with simple tasks like rolling, filling, cutting and chopping. When the helpers were cooking, we were learning English vocabulary related to cooking or food such as names of kitchen utensils (e.g. pot, bowl, ladle, wire whisk, spatula), names of ingredients (e.g. tomato paste, ghee, golden raisins) and recipe method (e.g. stir, mix, mash, soak). The words I learnt are very useful as I am responsible for buying and cooking food for my family in the UK.

Same food, different cooking methods

Rice is a very important part of the Chinese diet. Rice is equivalent to potato and pasta in the western diet. Handfuls of bite-sized meat and vegetables accompany the rice. We mostly use rice cookers to cook rice.  In cooking classes, my teacher showed us another method. After washing the rice, she soaked the rice for 40 minutes. Then, she added some ghee and herbs to the rice and cook the rice in a pot for around 15 minutes. After that, she added cashews and raisins on top of the rice. Using this method, the rice became fluffy and separate. I love this kind of fluffy rice so much when compared with the soggy rice I cooked using rice cookers.

Share the food, share our stories

Besides learning useful vocabulary, we used English to ask each other some questions relative to food. For example, what is our favourite and least favourite food? Are you vegetarian? We even discovered that many of us had a sweet tooth for chocolate and other desserts. I also found a lot of my classmates are good at cooking. They cooked everything from scratch. Also, I couldn’t help but laugh when my groupmates revealed that their husbands were a nightmare in the kitchen, always messing things up. 

I am a foodie. So eating was the most important part of cooking class for me. The most unforgettable food I learnt how to cook was couscous, which I had never tasted before. One of the reasons is couscous is very expensive in Hong Kong. Another reason is I had always thought it was bland and boring. But Heart & Parcel’s version was anything but. It was so good that I started making it once a week for my family. Who knew that couscous could be the caviar for me?

In conclusion, my first cooking class with Heart & Parcel was an eye-opening experience. I may not be the next Gordon Ramsay, but at least now I have a few dishes to impress my family.

Heart & Parcel