From cheese-stuffed pastries to handmade fermented flatbreads, the food at the Migrant Resource Centre Tasmania’s Friday Deli Day is so good that sometimes, the queues spill out the door.
The Migrant Resource Centre Tasmania (MRC Tas), a not-for-profit supporting migrants since 1979, is based in Glenorchy, just outside Hobart, and locals know that every Friday, the centre’s café is home to something special.
“We have a great kitchen at the KGV Centre, where the Migrant Resource Centre is located. There are big windows that are public-facing and we’ve had lots of interest from the people walking past,” says Megan Quill, MRC Tas’ food manager, about the program’s origin.
Last year, the centre conducted workshops where local migrants shared their recipes. Then, in May this year, they launched a social enterprise and work placement program doing both catering for events and Friday lunches open to the general public.
“We realised it’s a great way for people to get access to these authentic recipes, but what really kept it going is a great lot of pride in the participants. It’s also an excellent way for them to practice their English skills,” says Quill about the lunches.
The participants are mostly from refugee backgrounds and are currently all women – though men are welcomed. They come from countries such as Eritrea, Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria.
One of these women is Abebea Berahki, who arrived from Sudan with her family in 2017. She first studied English at TAFE, before doing a work placement with MRC Tas Catering. “I am enjoying learning to cook different foods from other countries – I am even cooking new things at home. I am cooking lots of chicken dishes, falafel, kubba, sandwiches ... many things,” she says.
On Fridays, lunch is served from 11 am to 3 pm at the KGV Centre cafe. Seasonal pickles are always available, but the rest of the menu changes weekly.
You can expect dishes as varied as injera (sourdough flatbread) with braised goat, dolma (stuffed vegetables) and khachapuri (Georgian cheese-filled pastry), as well as sweets such as katayef (sweet dumpling with walnut filling) and znood elsat (pear and custard pastry).
“It’s been really surprising and lovely to discover how for certain recipes, like ful medames, a broad bean dish, each of the participants from different countries have a different way of serving it,” says Quill.
Instead of espresso, the team makes Eritrean coffee. The beans are roasted in a pan, and then freshly ground and brewed, with the option to add ginger.
Locals have quickly embraced the new addition to the Tasmanian food scene. “Last week, we had a line going out the door. Everyone working in the kitchen was very happy to see that,” says Quill.
MRC Tas Catering also adapts the participants’ recipes for events. “There’s an Afghani bread called bulani. It’s flatbread stuffed with a spicy potato and leek mixture, then fried, and served with a coriander yogurt sauce. Traditionally, it’s quite big, but we turned that into a mini version so that you can hold it in your hand at a function,” explains Quill.
Some of the participants have done further work placements in local businesses, and others ran a bulani stall at The Taste of Tasmania festival.
Berahki has done two work placements in Hobart, and works casually for MRC Tas Catering, but her ultimate goal is to launch her own business: “When my English is better, I would like to open a small business cooking Eritrean food,” she says.
To find out more about the catering services, visit MRC Tas Catering website
Friday Deli Day
In the cafe, at level G, 1A Anfield Street, Glenorchy, Tasmania
Friday 11 am – 3 pm