"I cook my socks off all for the love of it" says Caroline Sweetman

I set up Wolvercote Supper Club in October, as a pop-up restaurant that I hold at my home in the village once a month. I open my front door to 10 enterprising people who love food and like the idea of trying out something new. They’ve booked and paid me to create and serve a lavish five-course dinner of glorious food from around the world.

They sit around one table, having kicked off the evening with a complementary cocktail – usually something sparkling, to get them in the mood. I’ve found that guests signing up to this kind of activity are a delight: outgoing, friendly, and keen on doing something just a little off-the-wall. Some come in couples, some with a friend, others alone.

Part of the fun is sharing my love of food from far-off places. New Year was Southern African here; I flew 10 hungry guests south to Cape Town and Lesotho for a sunshine menu featuring chive tarts with turmeric pastry and pomegranate relish, apple and fennel soup with fresh herbs, and a main of tomato and lamb bredie (a fantastic casserole from the Cape, which needs to be much better known). To my huge delight, that event got featured in Grazia magazine (not that I care about fame, of course). One vegetarian guest enjoyed a tomato and chestnut bredie instead – totally non-authentic, but I had fun making it.

Most guests start off by asking me why on earth I’m doing this – I cook all day, then run around all evening serving at table, before sitting down with the guests for cheese and dessert.

It’s not a business – I love my day job at Oxfam headquarters and I’m not planning on a second career. I don’t aim to make a profit, only to cover costs.

The answer is simply my love of cooking and welcoming people to eat my food, and meeting new people, creating a space for them to have fun.

So far, the evenings have featured a lot of laughter and exclamations as people discuss the food, share the wine they bring along, and quite often realise they have mutual friends, work at the same places, go to the same gym... (Oxford is a very small city). They’ve been charmingly generous in their feedback about the concept and about the food they’ve eaten.

Age-wise, this activity seems to appeal to a really wide range – all through the decades. Three 20-year-old male students from Somerville found me on Twitter and turned up to eat Eastern European food in November (chicken with Georgian plum sauce with bulgur wheat was a highlight). Challenges? Well, portion control – with five courses you need not to overwhelm, so I’m trying to be more sparing, while telling people they just have to ask to get lavish second helpings. In this as in other ways, supper clubs are quite different from restaurants.

Asking people to come on their own or in twos or threes, and stressing it’s a social activity. Cooking ahead as much as you can – I’ve learned to plan a menu which doesn’t require four things to be done all at the same minute, just as guests sit down. Stuff like this will be obvious to proper restaurant chefs, but I’ve never had to think of them in this way before.

I’ve needed to make a few decisions about the future direction of the club. Do I want it to turn into something bigger or more frequent, or to think of it as a business? For now, the answer is no to all three. Keeping to one event a month keeps it exclusive, which people like. It means I can cook my socks off, enjoy hosting people, and then it’s over and I can eat delicious leftovers for a week. “Mum says she’s not cooking for ages now,” said one of my sons. But of course, stopping myself is easier said than done.

To find out more see the website wolverscotesupperclub.com or email wolvercotesupper club@live.co.uk