Sister acts

Categories: News and previews

Jenny Chandler reflects on the Severn Sisters feast: an evening of great food, for a great cause

Words: Jenny Chandler
Images: Adrian Pope

On 4th October, the Market Hall was transformed into a magical candlelit banqueting hall: three long tables beautifully laid, rugs slung over benches in case of a chilly draft and a crowd of 150 eager diners sipping at their glasses of fizz.

Our cooks for the evening were a group of extremely talented women ,I hesitate to say chefs (even though they are all seriously accomplished and many of them have their own restaurants) as this occasion felt as if each and every one of them had taken us into the bosom of their own home kitchen. The Severn Sisters included: Zoe Adjonyoh of the Brixton-based Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen; food writer and author Rosie Birkett; cookbook writer Maria Elia; Bake Off finalist and demo chef Chetna Makan; Alissa Timoshkina of KinoVino supper clubs; Elly Curshen of Bristol’s Pear Café; food writer and demo chef Paula McIntyre; food writer Olia Hercules;  and Henrietta Innman, pastry chef and food writer. 

Romy Gill, chef-patron of Indian restaurant Romy’s Kitchen, gathered this diverse band together a year ago to cook their first pop-up feast in Bristol (hence the Severn) in aid of Action Against Hunger. This year, they brought their generosity and glorious food to London.

Severn Sisters Feast

Enjoy local produce
We were welcomed by Borough Market trustee Julia Tybura, who summed up Borough’s hosting of the event perfectly: “We are delighted to have an amazing group of talented chefs under our roof, cooking a multicultural feast in aid of Action Against Hunger. It’s a fabulous opportunity to celebrate these chefs and enjoy local produce with old friends and new ones!”

Juliet Parker from Action Against Hunger spoke about the #HealthyMumsHealthyKids appeal, which works to help mums and mums-to-be give their children a healthy start—reminding us that working with women is vital in the fight against hunger. Sixteen million children are severely malnourished worldwide, yet malnutrition is something that can be reversed and even prevented. “We don't believe any child should die of hunger in the 21st century.”

We were introduced to the ‘sisters’ by Guardian Cook editor, Mina Holland, and then, with some wonderfully matched wines from The Vino Beano, the feast began. It was fabulous—so plentiful, so eclectic, each sharing plate reflecting the background of the woman behind it. We spent our time, between savouring mouthfuls, trying to guess the cook, matching their cultural heritage to the flavours and textures in front of us. No one had laid claim to a particular dish—there were simply no egos involved. These inspiring women had just grafted together in a tiny kitchen and cooked with love.

Severn Sisters feast dish

Food and stories
As Romy said: “It has always been about sharing… sharing the kitchen with like-minded, passionate women; sharing food and stories at long tables with strangers; sharing what we’re able to give with those who aren’t so fortunate.”

The evening worked on so many levels. It was obviously a delight to eat our way around the globe with dishes such as Ossetian pie, tamarind stuffed chillies, melt-in-the mouth beef cheek and a plum, mavrodaphne and chocolate trifle (and that is not even the half of it, there were 10 dishes in all). It was a privilege to be able to champion some of our great female chefs who cook professionally in what has historically been such a male dominated world.

What fun to share a table with so many great people, some strangers and now friends, too. Most exciting of all comes the news that this joyous evening raised £10,405 for Action Against Hunger, the aid from the night having been matched by the government. So, go sisters—we salute you and all your helpers, supporters, sponsors and friends.

What a feast, what a result!