Many relationships are forged and strengthen over meals or social events. Emotions evoked and lasting impressions are made when people come together at the table to share a meal. As a daughter of an hotelier our family moved often from country to country, always leaving behind friends and a community that had taken us in. It was never easy and yet I watched my parents form new friendships and build a social environment in each new city with ease.
It wasn’t until I was in my teenage years that I realized that my mother often took it in her hands to create a loving and comforting condition for all of us by hosting dinner parties and social events. She realized that without friends and the support of dear ones, the family would suffer a lonely and isolated time in the unfamiliar place. It helped that my mother was a fantastic host and a brilliant cook and often her dinners and parties were celebrated affairs.
The quintessence of these social events is that today they live in Dubai and remarkably many of the friends they socialize with, and are also now living in Dubai, date back to times before I was even born.
This was a significant lesson I learnt and socializing also came easy to me. However, I realized that for me my happiness lies in having a select few friends that I know will be there for me. Although I travel a lot, I have been living in Weimar for 15 years now and having my base means that I am able to bond and strengthen my ties on a different level. Still, that lesson of what it means to establish a friendship in a sociable and intimate environment has always stuck with me.
From the window of a quaint loft apartment nestled in a quiet corner in Erfurt’s pedestrian area, wafts the inviting smell of onions and mixed herbs. My friend, Kerstin sits at the large table tying the name tags to the small Weck jars filled with Za’atar. I have taken my usual place at the stove, caramelizing onions for the turmeric roasted cauliflower that will be part of the evenings dinner. We giggle as we try to simultaneously take photos for our InstaStories. In this moment I think about the way things, over time, have changed, or have they evolved?
Social media meets social dining!
Both Kerstin and I are hosting our first supperclub, something that we have wanted to do for ages. We both believe in the power of convivial gatherings and how food connects people from all cultures. Interestingly, we both met a few years earlier as she hired me to work on food related project for the company she worked for. Food connects and creates friendships at all levels!
We had promoted our supperclub through social media and word of mouth and the guest list is a mix of friends, acquaintances and people who have connected with us over this blog, Facebook or Instagram.
We are nervous as the doorbell rings and our first guest walks in. The bubbly aperitif of Prosecco and a power shot with flavors of ginger and pineapple is zesty and refreshing and as we pass around the nibbles of spiced nuts, our guests warm up to the situation. The group was most loquacious when, in the kitchen, among other preparations, pumpkin was pureed for a hummus and orange zest was toasted for the beetroot. The voluble conversation continued at the dinner table, now decorated with flowers, candles and fairy lights. Laughter echoed through the loft as platters of aromatic turmeric cauliflower, lemongrass noodles or za’atar cannellini beans were passed around.
Talking to strangers while you eat is something that would rarely happen in a restaurant. That, for me, is the significance of hosting a supperclub. Bringing strangers together in a homey and cosy atmosphere; to meet new people, to network, to communicate and exchange ideas. Paradoxically, away from the virtual reality of the internet and social media.
Restaurants tend to get stuffy and formal. The concept of a supperclub, however, offers guests real delicious food that they help to prepare, in a relaxed and fun ambience. That is the lesson I learnt from my mum and the idea I am happy to be developing and realizing with my friend Kerstin.
Coincidentally, social dining has its roots in ancient Greece, where wine and olives were used to bring plebeians together. Food was the catalyst for galvanising disengaged communities. Today, it seems that while the internet has disengaged communities on the one hand, we can use it to bring people together in the real world easily. There truly seems to be a yearning for real life interactions and we hope that with our supperclubs we are able to make these real life interactions a shareable experience for our guests.
Our Kochen & Freunde Supperclubs are scheduled to become a regular experience this year where we have a few dates set for upcoming events. Kerstin and I have only just started and we are hoping to bring many people together not only in a social but also in a business environment. We will experience set-backs and disappointments, I am sure. Our goal, as we move forward, is to add real-life value to the communities and people in our region. If you are living in and around our region please feel free to contact us for dates and details.
How does this recipe fit into the idea of a supperclub? Perfectly! Cooking and preparing the menu for a supperclub can be fairly flexible. We take into account the dietary restrictions and try to accommodate them while creating the menu. The dishes are far from boring – as a matter of fact our first supperclub was entirely vegetarian and offered an abundance of variety in flavor, produce and textures. We also think of a few creative serving ideas – no you won’t get soup in a dog bowl or anything along those lines, but we did serve our Asian lemongrass and coconut noodles in Asian take-out food boxes, allowing guests to “take-away” any leftovers. These beautiful verrines characterize our idea for creative flavor fusions and serving ideas. The verrines make the perfect appetizer, cater to many dietary issues and look good. Texture plays a vital role and there is a bomb of texture and taste: as an Indian my palate likes to experience all the tastes in one go – salty, sweet, sour, bitter and umami. This recipe includes them all!
- 3 avocados
- 200 g yellow lentils, cooked to packet instructions, cooled
- 1 zucchini, grated, water drained
- 2 red onions, finely chopped
- 1 cucumber, cubed
- 2 mangoes, cubed
- 1 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 red chili, finely chopped
- 3 limes, zest and juice
- small bunch of coriander
- Handful sprouts, I used red radish sprouts
- coarse sea salt and freshly cracked pepper
- Handful pecans, chopped
- First make the lentil salad: place the cooked yellow lentils in a bowl. Add the zucchini, 1 finely chopped onion, the garlic, the zest and juice of 1 lime and half of the chopped coriander. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of olive oil and toss well. Salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
- Make the cucumber salad: place the cubed cucumber in a bowl, add the chopped chili and red onion, the remaining coriander, zest and juice of 1 lime and 1 tablespoon oil. Salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
- Take 2 of the avocados and with a fork coarsely crush. Spinkle some sea salt and the last zest and juice of the lime. Cube the last avocado.
- Assemble the verrines, by filling 4 glasses: first with some of the avocado puree, then layer with the lentil salad, the cucumber salad, the cubed mangoes, and top with pecans and sprouts.
Elegant, easy to put together and practical, these verrines are perfect for any social gathering. Be it a dinner party and home, a picnic or a supperclub – I love how versatile they are. I also find that, although the ingredients are not complicated, but when all the components come together in one glass the entirety of the dish offers complex flavors and textures. Enjoy!
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You might like these easy social dining dishes from What’s For Lunch, Honey?:
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