If I could sing or write poems, I would wax lyrical about Alicia Weston’s Parkholme Supper Club. Instead all I know is journalese, so here is my no-nonsense, straightforward ‘ode’ to Alicia.
I have written about Alicia, the supper club and its amazing food many times, but I feel she deserves special recognition. And not just because she let us watch the footie last night while she pounded away preparing god knows how many crabs and meticulously carved the chicken!
Last night Alicia cooked her 45th supper in 20 months, raising about £500 per evening for Medecins Sans Frontieres. She has now raised nearly £20,000.
‘Aren’t you tired of doing this?’ I ask. ‘Yes,’ she admits, ‘but trying out new dishes keeps me going.’ As does, I’m sure, people’s appreciation of what she does – from the immediate beneficiaries here in London who pay MSF to eat her food to the people caught in disaster and conflict zones who MSF helps around the world.
It’s no ordinary supper club – not only is it UK’s first and probably only charity supper club, its standard of cooking, for an amateur cook, is astounding. Last night was Singapore Favourites, and Malaysians go there as, they say, Alicia cooks the best Malaysian food in London (Malaysian and Singapore food are the same). They moan there’s not one decent Malaysian restaurant in London so they wait for Alicia’s Malay or Singapore night. I agree – nothing I’ve eaten in London has been as good as the Malaysian food I had in Melbourne.
You certainly don’t find Hainanese chicken rice very often in Malaysian/Singaporean restaurants in London. Believe me, I have tried for many years now. It’s been a favourite of mine since I first had it in a Malaysian restaurant in Melbourne in the late eighties. I can’t believe I am finally reunited with it in Hackney! It’s a very simple dish – it’s broiled chicken with flavoured rice served with cucumber, chilli sauce and chicken broth on the side. It is true comfort food with a capital C. My other all-time favourite – Singapore Crab in black pepper sauce – was also on the menu, served with Man Too dumplings to mop up the deliciously peppery hot sauce. Last time I had it, I ate so much of it that I was too full to eat the rest of the course. Lesson learnt, I went easy last night, and even had room for the Malaysian/Singaporean desserts – a selection of Nyonya Kueh made with fresh coconut milk, glutinous rice flour, palm sugar and yellow beans, flavoured with pandan leaves – which were lovely as they were not too sweet and very subtly flavoured. You will certainly not find these in any shops in London, not cooked to this degree of expertise and accuracy.
I left with my stretchy jeans expanded to its full capacity to catch my train back to the other side of London – leaving Alicia with huge stacks of washing up… I hope you didn’t stay up too late! Also thanks to Nana Prempeh, the beautiful Ghanaian, who served and cleared up with a frenzy of concentration and efficiency. /p>
Guests wait in anticipation