18 December 2010

Festive cheers

There's only a week to go until Christmas, so we'd like to wish all our Cracking Cooks readers and everyone who has taken part in a Cracking Good Food event this year...

Happy Holidays!

And if you're behind on the Christmas shopping, don't panic - you can still buy our vouchers! Available in various values and redeemable against any of the fab classes we have lined up for 2011, Cracking Good Food vouchers make Cracking great gifts for your foody friends and family! Don't forget that in the New Year, we'll be putting on loads of new and old sessions, including revisiting Mexican tapas, baking bread for beginners and advanced, trying out tofu, and kneading (and needing!) our own pizza dough, so there's something for everyone.

To order a Cracking Good Food voucher, just email Fiona via fiona@crackinggoodfood.org or call Adele on 0845 652 2572.

16 December 2010

New year, new classes

Here at Cracking Good Food HQ, we're really excited to be able to announce the next round of Cracking Good classes, running in the New Year.

All classes are three hours long, giving you ample time to prep, cook, chat, pick the brains of your cooking leader and sit down together to enjoy the feast you've made. Taking place in the well-equipped food science rooms at Chorlton High School, you just need to bring yourself - we supply all the ingredients, and everything is bought locally using seasonal, ethically sourced, organic and fairtrade where possible. The Saturday classes take place in the daytime between 11am and 2pm, and the Tuesday evening sessions start at 6pm and finish at 9pm; all classes cost just £20 (£15 concessions - unemployed, students or over 65s).

Saturday 15 January
Breadmaking for Beginners is back due to demand. You’ll never buy a loaf again thanks to Rob.

Saturday 22 January
Breadmaking Advanced has been introduced after many requests. Rob will be showing you how to make sourdough among other things.

Tuesday 25 January
Breadmaking for Beginners – if you missed the earlier class.

Saturday 29 January
Spicy vegetarian – green Thai curry and spicy burgers with a Catalan romesco sauce are on the menu again. Re-run with Kate.

Tuesday 1 February
Breadmaking Advanced – if you missed the earlier class.

Saturday 5 February
Curry Up – a new class with the queen of curries, Kath. We'll be making vegetable and fish versions of this ever-popular dish.

Tuesday 8 February
Marvellous Meat – another new class, legendary Beth of Guestrant Wild Food fame will be showing you how to make good use of more unusual, less expensive cuts of meat.

Saturday 12 February
Mexican tapas – this is one of Cracking Good Food's most popular classes, with Fernanda giving an authentic insight into Mexican vegetarian cooking.

Tuesday 15 February
Risottos Demystified – Kim will be showing you how to rustle up some tasty veggie risottos, often thought to be a complicated dish. This is another new class for the new year.

Book soon to avoid disappointment! And with such variation, why not treat your family or friends to vouchers to put towards their choice of sessions? Just email fiona@crackinggoodfood.org or call 0845 652 2572 for bookings and to buy vouchers.

15 December 2010

Soup kitchen

On Thursday 9 December, the second Christmas Farmers' Market was held on Chorlton Green, outside the Horse & Jockey. Cracking Good Food was there to warm up the chilly shoppers with a smashing seasonal soup. We dished up an unusual but ultra-tasty apple and parsnip broth, which went down a treat on the dark, damp evening.

This video clip sees Cracking Good Food's Kath and Adele interviewed by local resident Bernard Leach at the Christmas Farmers' Market about the seasonal soup and the next round of Cracking Good classes, running in the New Year. There's plenty to choose from, so why not get yourself, your friends or your family vouchers to put towards one of the three-hour sessions? Just email fiona@crackinggoodfood.org or call 0845 652 2572.

We also have photos from the Christmas Market on our Facebook page. All you need to do is click here to go straight to the relevant album. Remember to tag yourself if you're in any of the pictures and click "like" if you saw us manning our stall!

9 December 2010

Cracking Christmas

Make sure your friends and family have a Cracking Christmas - get them a voucher for one of our fab Cracking Good Food classes we have lined up for 2011!

Cracking Good Food vouchers are the perfect Christmas gift for the food lover in your life. Our vouchers are available in various values, are valid for one year from date of purchase and are redeemable as full or part payment against any of the Cracking Good Food cooking sessions. To get your mitts on a Cracking Good Food voucher, just email Fiona via fiona@crackinggoodfood.org or call Adele on 0845 652 2572.

Once the festivities are over, we'll be re-running some of our most popular classes, so if you missed out before, here's your chance!

Fernanda will be showing how to make a feast of Mexican tapas and Rob will teach you how to bake your own bread (beginners) and perfect your loaf-making skills (advanced). We'll be preparing and cooking sustainably sourced fish and ethically sourced meat again, taking another trip into the wonderful world of tofu and tempeh, and revisiting gluten-free baking and Cracking cakes.

We'll also have some new themes, including homemade pizzas and calzones, Thai and Indian curries, baking pies and tarts, soups, pasta, Chinese dishes and much, much, more...

All our classes will be in the brilliant Chorlton High School Domestic Science rooms, using locally sourced organic and free range produce and costing only £15 (or £10 concessions) for three hours preparation and cooking and a sit-down meal. Cracking good food isn’t expensive, as we prove!

To book classes and get more info...

* email Fiona via fiona@crackinggoodfood.org
* call Adele on 0845 652 2572
* visit our website www.crackinggoodfood.org (please bear with us while we give it a makeover for the New Year!)
* pop into the Hickson & Black’s deli on Barlow Moor Road in Chorlton

7 December 2010

Soup kitchen special

This Thursday sees the second Christmas Market on Chorlton Green, organised by the folk at the Horse & Jockey and featuring local farmers and independent producers (more details here).

Cracking Good Food's Adele and Kath will be braving the cold snap at the Farmers Market from 4pm until 9pm to set up a special Cooks On The Hop soup kitchen, dishing up piping hot broth to warm the cockles. This week, they're offering seasonal parsnip and apple soup, and as well as being able to give this unusual but delicious flavour a try, you'll be able to pick up a recipe sheet to recreate it at home.

Also available on the stall will be Cracking Good Food vouchers - the perfect Christmas gift for the food lover in your life! Our vouchers are available at various values and are redeemable as full or part payment against any of the cooking sessions in 2011 (vouchers are valid for one year from date of purchase).

If you can't make it down on Thursday, you can still buy vouchers by...

* emailing fiona@crackinggoodfood.org
* calling 0845 652 2572
* logging onto www.crackinggoodfood.org
* popping into Hickson & Black’s on Barlow Moor Road in Chorlton

24 November 2010

Cooking the books!

On Sunday 21 November, Cracking Good Food and Glebelands City Growers ran a session in Chorlton Library, called From Plot To Pot, as part of Chorlton Book Festival. We put an informative display together to show why it's best to buy local and the library staff dug out stacks of books on growing your own and cooking with seasonal produce. We even rustled up some tasty dishes for library visitors to try!

*There are more photos from this event on our Facebook page.

20 November 2010

From Plot to Pot

Join Cracking Good Food and our friends Glebelands City Growers tomorrow in Chorlton Library for a hands-on session as part of Chorlton Book Festival. Learn how to cook home-grown produce supplied by local allotments, then borrow some books to help you get started! Free family event, Chorlton Library, Manchester Road, M21 9PN, Sunday 21 November, 1-3 pm; more on the Book Festival in this online brochure, courtesy The Manchester Lit List.

16 November 2010

Fish for compliments

Our recent fish class with the Chorlton Good Neighbours community group went swimmingly. First off, cooking leader Steve from Hickson & Black's (above) showed everyone how to prepare and cook the classic mussel dish moules marinières, with a sauce of shallots, garlic and dry white wine (below - yum!).

Next, he and two volunteer helpers, got coley goujons (posh fishfingers!) and a yoghurt dip on the go (below). Everyone really enjoyed the final results and agreed it was all pretty simple to do at home, and not at all expensive.

*There are now more photos from this session on our Facebook page.

8 November 2010

GUEST BLOG: A proper roasting


I'd barely put my bag down and washed my hands, and I was straight in to untrussing a whole chicken and stuffing its cavity with shallots, garlic and fresh sage leaves and thyme. Next, I rubbed rock salt into the skin, drizzled over some olive oil and gave the whole thing a good turn of freshly ground black pepper. A second bird was also prepared, along with a shoulder of lamb - whole cloves of garlic were jammed in next to the muscle along with sprigs of fresh aromatic rosemary. These were put into hot ovens; one lamb was already in, having been given a bit of a head start by Cracking Cook Rob before we got there.

Once the meat had started roasting, we could throttle back slightly, and had chance to pick Rob's brains about cooking times and techniques (start with a high oven, then reduce the temperature after 20 minutes, then reduce a third time; yes to basting; either way to covering with tinfoil; buy with or without giblets but cook these separately) and also about the provenance of the meat. The lamb came from W.H. Frost the butchers in Chorlton Precinct, and, while it wasn't organic, it was local, hailing from the fields around Macclesfield. The two chickens were bought from Wild At Heart on Railway Terrace and reared organically on the Rhug Estate in North Wales. Both weighing about 1.2kg and costing in the region of £13, they were more expensive than the standard supermarket offering, but they were so tasty, didn't shrink during cooking and fed all nine adults and one very well-behaved two-year-old in the class plus Cooking Leader Rob, Cooking Assistant Vic and volunteer helper Caroline, with leftovers for next week's Lovely Leftovers class.

Next we prepared all the lovely fresh veg Rob had sourced from Unicorn Grocery on Manchester Road, including celeriac, pears, shallots and garlic to add to the meat roasting trays; squash to soften in the oven wrapped in foil; plus two varieties of spud, which we scrubbed half of and peeled the rest, then parboiled and roasted; dirty carrots which we washed, peeled and cut into matchstick-thin Julienne then sweated over a low heat in a pan with the lid on; and finally two types of cabbage, which were chopped finely and cooked on the hob with the tiniest amount of water and olive oil and some sliced garlic for extra flavour. We also made some spicy creamy butter beans by adding red chillies, cumin, creme fraiche and the flesh from the squashes, and really beautiful three rice mix (organic basmati, wild and red rices) by frying the dry rice in a little olive oil for extra nuttiness and colour, then adding hot water once it had cooled slightly and allowing this to be absorbed before throwing in the special secret ingredient of chopped dried apricots. Normally I'm not a fan of dried fruit, but this gave the whole thing a lovely sweetness and depth.

Last but not least, the gravy was made - taking the meats out to rest under a blanket of foil, the roasting tins were put on the hobs and water added to deglaze the caramelised juices, then a thickening paste was made using cornflower, and bouillon powder and yeast extract were added to the chicken stock and honey and tahini (sesame seed paste) added to the lamb stock. Yum! The table was set and everyone brought over the various components of the meal they were in charge of. We went round filling our plates, then sat down and silence descended as we all tucked in! This was definitely a good sign as the "mmmms" started and everyone agreed how tasty it all was and how useful the tips we'd picked up would be over the upcoming festive season.

This coming Saturday, Steve of Manchester Food & Drink Festival Awards nominated Chorlton deli Hickson & Black’s will be showing you how to get your money’s worth from a roast and make use of all those Lovely Leftovers, with homemade chicken stock, soup, stir-fry, bubble and squeak, and more (Saturday 13 November, 11am-1pm; Chorlton High School; £15; £10 concessions). Places are booking up fast, so be quick! To book...

* email fiona@crackinggoodfood.org
* call 0845 652 2572
* visit www.crackinggoodfood.org
* pop into Hickson & Black’s in Chorlton

*There are now more photos from this session on our Facebook page.

4 November 2010

GUEST BLOG: Roast veg

By guest blogger SARAH FANTHORPE

Cracking Good Food surpassed itself in delivering an alternative to the standard veggie Sunday lunch of nut roast. We all gathered at Chorlton High School in its state-of-the-art food technology room. Our chef for the day Anna (pictured below left) explained the menu, Veggie Roast with Seasonal Vegetables, which included a Vegetarian Wellington made with delicious chestnut mushrooms from Chorlton's Unicorn Grocery. Adele was on hand to tell us all about cooking with locally sourced organic ingredients while Tammy, a volunteer with Cracking Good Food, demonstrated how to prepare the greens ensuring a grit-free delight with every mouthful.

I guess this is where I introduce myself. My name is Sarah and I'm a volunteer with The Lost Plot Chorlton community allotment project. We grow many of the ingredients used in the class and are always looking for volunteer diggers in return for a take-home bag of fresh veg. Hough End Allotments also have their own bee hives, and Eleanor was able to share her experiences of bee-keeping with the group as we prepared the honey roast parsnips.

Back to the Wellington, and after rolling out our puff pastry, we prepared the filling with fresh herbs and an abundance of soy sauce. Anna then demonstrated the simple plaiting technique which secured the tasty goodness and we popped the packages in the oven while we got on with the accompaniments, including a rich red wine gravy.

All that was left was to gather round the table and dine in style. Everyone then helped clear and clean, and we were finished one minute before our departure time! I hope to meet all the participants again at the next Cracking Good Food do, as our feedback suggested a good time was had by all!

You can see more photos from the veggie roasts class on our Facebook page. This Saturday, Rob will be roasting chicken and North African-style lamb, using organic meat from Chorlton's Wild At Heart. To book a place, be quick and email fiona@crackinggoodfood.org or call 0845 652 2572.

GUEST BLOG: Pizza the action!

By guest blogger RICHARD

Unlike my Great Bakes class, this session (on 19 October) was not in Chorlton High School’s very professional food technology room, but in the Buckthorn House community centre on Nell Lane Estate. Lovely and comfortable with couches to sit in and tables to prepare at, it was a perfect homely yet functional space to work in. And what’s more, I’d been asked to cook pizzas. I love doing pizzas! So after a quick trip to Unicorn Grocery, where I secured all my lovely ingredients - organic, of course, and extremely cheap - we were all set to go. Coordinator Adele still can’t believe I managed to cook about 12 pizzas for under a tenner!

Adele from Cracking Good Food, Sarah from The Lost Plot allotment and Tina from Southway Housing knew the group well, and they were keen to get started! The mix of people attending was brilliant: some adults, some kids and three excellent Chorlton and Loretto High School girls (I do apologise for not remembering your names). I have to add that Britney was an angel. She was only seven but helped with everything and loved all the food that we cooked, including roast marrow, Jerusalem artichokes and peppers from The Lost Plot (Sarah had brought some produce just picked from the veg patch).

So we proceeded with chopping the veg and getting everything prepared. We had peppers, mushrooms, onions, courgettes, tomatoes and cheese. We cooked a tomato sauce from scratch and then got onto making the dough. I showed how to make the dough for the pizza base then everyone had a go at making some. And it worked perfectly! Everyone had some dough to knead, of varying sizes (although I noticed the three girls somehow managed to have the biggest). Eventually the bases were rolled out, the tomato sauce spread on, the veg topping added and finally the cheese sprinkled. Each guest had their own home-made pizza, and all we had to do was cook them, no mean feat with only one oven and about 12 pizzas. Still, we did it and we were all happy. Job done. I think everyone agreed that fresh, home-made pizza was the best, was pretty easy to cook and, using fresh vegetables and herbs, was simply delicious.

You can see more photos from Richard's pizza class on our Facebook page.

3 November 2010

U Decide

The U Decide funding meeting is tomorrow (Thursday 4 November), from 6.15pm to 8.30pm at Chorlton Leisure Centre. Be there if you want to help decide which local community projects get funded to benefit the Chorlton area - up for well-needed cash are Chorlton's Big Green Festival, which was where Cracking Good Food officially launched earlier this year, and Chorlton Arts Festival, where CGF held a Cooks On The Hop over the summer. After an introduction from each project, everyone present gets to cast their vote (click on the poster above for more details).

1 November 2010

Feeling festive!

Christmas is coming, so why not let Cracking Good Food help you brush up on your culinary skills in time for the festive season? We have a number of fab classes aiming to do just that...

Saturday 6 November: Roaring Roasts – this is your chance to let Rob help you brush up on those roasting skills before the 25th! On the menu is organic roast chicken with all the trimmings (including the best gravy in the universe) plus a slightly less traditional alternative: North African-style roast lamb with butterbeans and butternut squash. Once the meal is prepared, everyone sits down for a feast at the end! (11am-1pm; Chorlton High School; £15; £10 concessions.)

Saturday 13 November: Lovely Leftovers – Steve of Manchester Food & Drink Festival Awards nominated Chorlton deli Hickson & Black’s will be showing you how to get your money’s worth from a roast, with homemade chicken stock, soup, stir-fry, and bubble and squeak. An ideal session for helping you live through the age of austerity! (11am-1pm; Chorlton High School; £15; £10 concessions.)

Tuesday 16 November: Cracking Christmas – due to popular demand, we’ve added a second date of Anna’s session. The edible treats we’ll be making include rum truffles, chilli jam and cookies in a jar, which you get to take home at the end of the class: instant pressies! (6pm-9pm; Chorlton High School; £18; £13 concessions – the slightly higher price includes the cost of the fancy jar!)

And if you’re stuck for gift ideas this Christmas, we have vouchers available redeemable against 2011’s cookery classes – the perfect present for food lovers and budding chefs! Vouchers are available in any denomination, and can be used as full or part-payment on any cooking sessions; valid for one year from date of purchase.

To book classes or buy vouchers...
* email fiona@crackinggoodfood.org
* call 0845 652 2572
* visit www.crackinggoodfood.org
* pop into Hickson & Black’s in Chorlton

(Photograph from the amazing Seventyseventyone blog, designers of fab fashion accessories available to buy at the Royal Exchange Craft Shop.)

30 October 2010

GUEST BLOG: Happy Hallowe'en!

By guest blogger CLARE WALKER

It was the final Cracking Good Food session for Action For Sustainable Living (AfSL)'s The Lost Plot on Tuesday 26 October. Not many people were about on the Nell Lane estate with it being a dull, overcast evening, but we soon saw Mal making her way over to Buckthorn House and then Tobias. Others followed and soon the session was in full swing. We even had a drop-in from the Community Police, and Tina from Southway Housing was also there to lend a hand.

Jay from Hickson & Black's was the chef for the evening and showed us how to make a spicy pumpkin soup, given depth and a kick from his ‘magic’ ingredients: flame-roasted, deseeded chillies and a good dash of lemon. The beef and pumpkin stew also went down a treat, accompanied by tasty but simple mashed potato. The pumpkin we used was a prize specimen supplied direct from The Lost Plot allotment just off Nell Lane, near Southern Cemetery.

Everyone really enjoyed the evening and all agreed these were cheap and easy recipes which could easily be replicated back at home. You can see more photos on the Cracking Good Food Facebook page: click here.

Hopefully AfSL will be able to run another cooking session with Cracking Good Food in the New Year, so watch this space. In the meantime, anyone interested in allotment gardening is welcome to pop down to The Lost Plot at Southern Allotments, off Wintermans Road on the Nell Lane Estate, any Sunday from 1pm. For further information, contact Clare Walker on 07595 873221.
You can read more about The Lost Plot on the Chorlton Allotment Project blog and the AfSL site.

Plus! News just in: To celebrate five years in the community, The Lost Plot is holding free bonfire night activities on Sunday 7 November. You can help out at the allotments between 2pm and 5pm, with the main event – including food, fireworks and a raffle – between 5pm and 7pm.

25 October 2010

Rob's roasts and Steve's stocks!

Our Veggie Roasts class on Saturday 30 October is now fully booked, but you still have chance to join Rob's Roasts session on Saturday 6 November from 11am. As well as dishing up a traditional roast chicken with all the trimmings, just in time for Christmas, Cracking Cook Rob will be offering up a slightly less traditional alternative: roast North African-style lamb with spiced butternut squash and butterbeans - perfect for warming you up on an autumnal afternoon.

All the meat will be organic and sourced from Chorlton's own Wild At Heart, with vegetables and pulses from Unicorn Grocery.

The following week (Saturday 13 November), why not learn how to make use of those Lovely leftovers with Steve from Hickson & Black’s deli? Roasts are great in the age of austerity and Cracking Cook Steve will be showing you how to get your money's worth with homemade chicken stock, soup, stir-fry, bubble and squeak...

Each three-hour session costs just £15 (£10 concessions) at Chorlton High School on Nell Lane.

To book...

• visit our website http://crackinggoodfood.org/when-and-where
• pop in to Hickson & Black’s Deli at 559a Barlow Moor Road in Chorlton
• call 0845 652 2572
• email fiona@crackinggoodfood.org

Don't miss out on a Cracking Christmas

The Cracking Christmas class on Saturday 20 November is now fully booked, but we've added an extra date so you don't miss out! The new three-hour session costs just £18 (£13 concessions - unemployed, students or over 65s) and takes place at Chorlton High School on Nell Lane on Tuesday 16 November at 6pm. Places are limited to 12 so book early to avoid disappointment!

Anna, pictured here running one of our community group sessions, will be helping you make edible treats either to give as gifts or to hang on your tree, add to the table or just keep on hand for first-footers. You'll be making rum truffles, chilli jam and cookies in a jar (the slightly higher price of this class includes the cost of the fancy jar!).

To book...

• visit our website http://crackinggoodfood.org/when-and-where
• pop in to Hickson & Black’s Deli at 559a Barlow Moor Road in Chorlton
• call 0845 652 2572
• email fiona@crackinggoodfood.org

22 October 2010

GUEST BLOG: Mexican rave!

By guest blogger VIC MASTERS

Last Saturday (16 October), the Mexican Tapas class was back by popular demand - and we even had to turn people away*. We did, however, let Emma Goswell from BBC Radio Manchester’s Manhunt (see me being interviewed by her below!) pop in to report on Cooking Leader Fernanda bringing Mexico down Chorlton way for the third time!

Cooking mouth-watering Mexican food with Fernanda transported me straight back to the sights and smells of the street markets in Mexico, where you can find stall upon stall selling cheap, healthy and delicious food for around £1 a head. Fernanda not only created authentic Mexican tapas, she too did it for just £1 a head. She taught us how it is possible to eat healthily on a budget.

We made - and ate! - creamy guacamole (above), spicy salsa, crispy tortilla chips, piquant refried beans and tasty tacos. All the dishes were simple to cook and the meal followed the government guidelines for healthy eating, which promote the importance of eating a well-balanced diet of fruit, vegetables, protein and carbohydrates. Check out the Food Standards Agency's Eat Well, Be Well website for more info on healthy eating.

And if the recent government cuts have kerbed your spending and you can't afford the trip to Mexico, why not come and join us at one of our cooking sessions, where we will show you how good food needn't cost the earth. Coming up, we have Traditional (and not-so-traditional!) Roasts (Saturday 6 November) and Lovely Leftovers (Saturday 13 November) - perfect for eating in this new age of austerity! Visit the Cracking Good Food website for details on all the latest classes; they cost just £15 for three hours (£10 concessions).

*Once again, this session was fully booked! Apologies if you weren't able to join us - we have a strict limit on numbers for safety reasons, and also so everyone who participates has a chance to get properly involved in the prepping and cooking. Please email fiona@crackinggoodfood.org if you are interested in Mexican Tapas and we will re-run this session in the near future!

15 October 2010

GUEST BLOG: Use your loaf!

By guest blogger AVRIL POVAH

It’s easy to take bread for granted, being such an important part of our diet. We went from farm to fork in the bread-making lesson at Chorlton High School on Saturday 9 October, with Rob, our Cooking Leader for the day, explaining that bread is one of the oldest prepared foods, perhaps developed by accidental cooking or deliberate experimentation with water and grain flour. The uses and properties of wheat flours were eloquently described by Rob, along with the composition of wheat, which we consumed raw many millions of years ago. Eventually, using tools to pound the grain and adding water to the crushed kernels to form a wholesome gruel, early humans developed what we know today as our daily bread.

The myth and process of bread-making was slowly unravelled, and we watched yeast (our leavening agent in bread) slowly ferment; the fermentable sugars present in dough turn into carbon dioxide, causing it to expand or rise as gas pockets or bubbles. The scientific aspects were quite intriguing to us all, and for a minute I felt I was back in the chemistry classroom. The actual name for bread is old English, derived from many Germanic languages (Brot in German and Brod in Swedish), and may be connected with the root words of "brew" or even of "break" or "broken pieces".

There are many variations of bread: it can be made with yeast, bicarbonate of soda (as used in traditional Irish soda bread), different flours and by incorporating other ingredients and nutrients, and we made a variety of loaves and baps. We also made some naan bread - a very popular choice! These were stuffed with garlic paste and cheese and devoured straight from the pan for our lunch with some marinated olives, avocado and roasted red pepper hummus. Made with love by hand, not by machine, this bread was truly delicious!

More photos from the bread-making class are on our Facebook page.

GUEST BLOG: Tasty tofu & tempeh

By guest blogger KITTY GALORE

We began the session on Saturday 2 October with an informative history lesson from laid-back Lawrence (aka Lorenzo, pictured below). Then it was straight into the nitty-gritty of cooking the stuff: tofu was sliced, squeezed and dry-fried; tempeh was sizzled in oil with splashes of soy sauce; more tofu was scrambled with mushrooms and garlic, and finally silky tofu was whisked with melted chocolate (what was left after the cooks had taste-tested it!) and poured onto a biscuit base.

All the food (except for the dessert, which each of us got to take home) was served up brunch style with fried peppers and tomatoes. While we ate, we picked Lawrence's brains for more tofu and tempeh inspiration. A tasty tofu and tempeh time was had by all!

More photos from the class are on the Cracking Good Food Facebook page.

Read Lorenzo's blog, Grocer's Kitchen, here.

GUEST BLOG: Great bakes

By guest blogger RICHARD

I can be quite obsessive when it comes to organising things. Prior to hosting an event such as this CGF cookery course, I have to have it planned (almost) meticulously before I can feel at ease, and if I fall short I tend to worry quite overtly. I am pleased to say that for this occasion everything was tickety-boo. Nothing could go wrong: ingredients had been sourced, the recipe finalised and the schedule completed – I was happy. Natalie was to be my co-ordinator for the class and we had talked much beforehand. For my introduction to vegan moussaka and lentil bake, all I could think was, “Bring it on!”

On the day, Natalie had to pick up the equipment and me then take us to Chorlton High School. We arrived early and made our way to the Food Science Room. Never, in my day, did I experience such a well-equipped and pleasant classroom. There was plenty of space, tables, cookers and equipment for all eight attendees. There was no excuse for a shoddy display. We were soon joined by Caroline, who was a volunteer helper. Once we were all set up, we waited for our guests; and gradually they arrived.

And so it began. I can’t speak for Natalie and Caroline, but I entered in “showman” mode: gregarious and welcoming and a little extrovert. I recognised several faces and we all felt at ease very quickly. I introduced myself briefly before cracking on with the demonstration. I would like to think I was informative and helpful as I slowly guided everyone through the process of veg prep, making white sauces, and building and cooking both a moussaka and a lentil bake. Everyone pitched in and helped produce some lovely food. The group split into two and made their own white sauce, which was accomplished beautifully. The whole event was very informal, the interaction was great and everyone had a good time. Once the bakes were ready, we sat down to taste them and chat about the results.

Finally we were done. Everyone slowly dispersed and we finished cleaning up. All three of us agreed it went well, and seemingly so did our guests.

More photos from the Great Bakes class are on our Facebook page.

8 October 2010

Christmas is coming...

...and to get you in the festive spirit (and show you some great recipes for the upcoming holidays), Cracking Good Food are running four special nights of caking and baking.

Pastry chef and expert cake-maker Kate (examples of her work are pictured below) will be showing you how to make and bake perfect Christmas pies and cakes Tuesday evenings from 9 November to 7 December.

These special cake-baking classes take place at Chorlton High School between 6pm and 9pm, and cost £25 each (no concessions). To book, simply download and complete a booking form from our website, then post or email it with your payment or drop it off at Hickson & Black's Deli at 559a Barlow Moor Road, Chorlton.

Tuesday 9 November: Kate will show you how to make the perfect Christmas cake mix (for you to bake at home), mincemeat and some Christmas chutney. Please bring your own 8” round/square tin plus brandy or whiskey (your preference!).

Tuesday 23 November: We'll be baking and decorating delicious decorations for hanging on your Christmas tree plus a gorgeous gingerbread house!

Tuesday 30 November: After learning the basics of perfect pastry, Kate will help you bake some mince pies. We'll also be making marzipan and designing cakes, and rustling up some brandy sauce and brandy butter.

Tuesday 7 December: We'll be making marzipan and sugarpaste cakes, then decorating them ready for Christmas!

And if you're stuck for gift ideas, we can help with that too! Why not buy someone a Cracking Good Food Cooking Voucher for Christmas? More details at crackinggoodfood.org.

27 September 2010

What's next on the menu?

Cracking Good Food are pleased to announce the next round of cookery classes, with some good hearty recipes and meal ideas perfect for autumn and winter. So what's next on the menu?

Saturday 23 October: Perfect pumpkins
Pumpkin and salmon curry, pumpkin risotto and pumpkin seed nibbles are here for Hallowe'en thanks to Jay from Hickson & Black’s.

Saturday 30 October: Veggie roasts
Kim from Islington Mill Cafe will be showing you how to rustle up a tasty veggie roast.

Saturday 6 November: Traditional roasts
Cracking Cook Rob's dishing up a traditional roast with all the trimmings.

Saturday 13 November: Lovely leftovers
Roasts are great in the age of austerity and Steve from Hickon & Black’s will be showing you how to get your money's worth with homemade chicken stock, soup, stir-fry, bubble and squeak...

Saturday 20 November: Cracking Christmas
Christmas is coming and Anna's edible treats make great gifts with rum truffles, chilli jam and cookies in a jar.

Each three-hour session costs just £15 (£10 concessions) and takes place every Saturday 11am-2pm at Chorlton High School on Nell Lane. Places are limited to 12 so book early to avoid disappointment!

To book...

• visit our website http://crackinggoodfood.org/when-and-where
• pop in to Hickson & Black’s Deli at 559a Barlow Moor Road in Chorlton
• call 0161 881 7070
• email adele@crackinggoodfood.org or fiona@crackinggoodfood.org

24 September 2010

GUEST BLOG: Getting back to our roots

By guest blogger AVRIL POVAH

Working in the Food Tech kitchen at Chorlton High School is a dream, and the most recent Cracking Good Food cooking class (on Saturday 18 September) - seasonal roots and squashes - was a real fairy tale; pumpkins included!

First up on our menu was Borscht Soup. We discovered that there are a number of ways to spell Borscht - Borsch, Borstch, Borsh, Barszcz or Borshch - and it depends which part of the world you come from. A very interesting question came up at the beginning of our lesson: what does Borscht mean? We all assumed it meant beetroot as this is the base ingredient for this hearty soup but in fact it derives its name from hogweed. This plant can be eaten raw but cooked hogweed leaves and stalks make this wonderful greeny brown coloured soup. Nina, our Cooking Leader for the class, shared with us her German mother's recipe, made from raw beetroot and other seasonal roots and greens. She said that it's traditionally eaten with a blob of sour cream, but we made a dairy-free version by adding a dash of lemon juice to soya cream (you could use oaty cream too) and served it with a good thick slice of dark rye bread.

Our dessert was Pumpkin Cheesecake, which we made using Tofu, a beancurd protein of Chinese origin made from soya milk which is pressed after coagulating. There are many different varieties of Tofu, which can be used in both savoury or sweet dishes, and it is low in calories as it contains little fat, and high in iron and calcium. Pumpkin is a squash-like fruit in season at the moment, and with Bonfire Night coming up soon this recipe is an ideal way to use it and great to try out for friends and family. Pumpkin originates from the Greek word 'pepon', meaning large melon, and was adapted by the French to 'pompon', then changed by the British to 'pumpion' and later by American colonists to the word we use today. Pumpkin is very fibrous, so we began by roasting slices in the oven to soften it for our cheesecake mix. Once combined with the tofu and added to the biscuit base, the cheesecake was baked. It tasted absolutely delicious, with all the warm spices of cinnamon and ground ginger coming through, together with the sweetness of the maple syrup and molasses we used.

Lots of our five a day were incorporated into our meal so I didn't feel too indulgent in devouring it all! Nina had sourced most of our ingredients locally, too, which was good to know and the beetroot came from Ormskirk, the potatoes from Yorkshire and the cabbage from Dunham Massey.

16 September 2010

Fresh air, fresh food

So remember a couple of blog posts ago, we were egging you on to sign up for market garden goodness? Well, if you did, well done you! And if you didn't, what a day you missed!

It was an amazing and truly inspirational day, and, alongside Adam, Charlotte, Ed and Sally (wearing the aprons), who run coop growers Glebelands, we picked all the ingredients there and then fresh from the market garden. Above are the gorgeous yellow courgette flowers we made fritters from.

We then cooked (and ate): spicy courgette bhajis (see below); fried courgette flowers in tempura batter; basil and cashew pesto; tabbouleh, and squash and kale soup. Yum!

GUEST BLOG: Causing a stir!

By guest blogger AVRIL POVAH

On Tuesday evening, we set up our stall once again at Buckthorn House on Nell Lane in Chorlton to give the residents in the area a hands-on taster of how easy, cheap and delicious home cooking can be. Cooking Leader Kim demonstrated how to make a simple butternut squash risotto: a great rescue meal (especially at this time of year, when squashes are just coming into season) and very nutritious, being a good source of iron.

Making her own vegetable stock, Kim produced a natural juice from fennel, carrots, leeks and bay leaves to feed the risotto with. The secret to risotto is in the stirring, massaging the stock into all the ingredients to slowly release the starch from the Italian Arborio risotto rice (easily bought from supermarkets and places like Unicorn Grocery). After a final squeeze of lemon, a dollop of plain yoghurt and some fresh oregano leaves, this well-balanced, one-pot meal was devoured by everyone who stopped by to see what was going on.

13 September 2010

Food for free

On Sunday 5 September 2010, local herbalist and wild food expert Jesper Launder led a group of Cracking Good Foodies on a forage along Chorlton Brook and in the meadows and woods of Chorlton Ees. After learning to identify a whole host of different edible fruit and veg, the group got cooking in the great outdoors, making a freebie feast of garlic mushrooms, cider funghi fritters, and elderberries with ice cream. For more photos, see the special Ees album on our Facebook site.

Thanks to the workshop's popularity and resounding success, Cracking Good Food is giving you a second opportunity to join Jesper on Chorlton Ees for another wild food forage on Wednesday 22 September 5pm-8pm.

The event is the usual £15 (or £10 concessions), and booking is essential - see our website for full details. The food forage sets off from Ivygreen carpark on Brookburn Road (opposite the Bowling Green pub) at 5pm.

6 September 2010

Sign up now for market garden goodness

Join us for a special foraging and cooking session with the Glebelands City Growers this Sunday (12 September) between 2pm and 5pm.

Glebelands City Growers are Adam, Charlotte, Ed and Sally. They say: "We grow vegetables at our three-acre site on the banks of the River Mersey in Sale where market gardens were once common. Our location on the outskirts of Manchester means we can get fresh food to the city within hours of picking. Crops include salads and herbs, leafy greens, beans, squash and cucumbers, all of which are grown organically. Glebelands is a unique example of small scale, sustainable farming in an urban environment; we aim to challenge perceptions about how food is produced and inspire people towards positive change."

We'll be picking fresh seasonal produce from the flourishing market garden then turning it into a delicious meal which we'll eat alfresco. Payment is on the day (a small contribution only), but please note that booking is essential so we know numbers: email fiona@crackinggoodfood.org. See the Cracking Good Food website for directions and transport details.

GUEST BLOG: Sensible snacking

By guest blogger AVRIL POVAH

The menu on Wednesday 1 September for the Chorlton Good Neighbours group meeting at St Ninian's Church consisted of quick and easy snacks - but nutritious as well as tasty. We began the session making Mexican refried beans to use as a healthy topping on a variety of different crackers and breads (great for a quick lunch!), together with chickpea houmous. Both were excellent sources of protein and fibre, and really delicious.

Next we prepared one of Elvis Presley's favourites: peanut butter sandwiches. These were orginally cooked in butter or lard and topped with grilled bacon, but we opted for a lower fat version using sunflower oil (see photo below). They went down a storm, the piece de resistance of the day, and a true legend of all sandwiches! As we munched on them, Cracking Cook Lorenzo regaled the group with tales of some of Elvis's other famous dietary quirks, telling us how he was renowned for cravings such as Fool's Gold Loaf: a loaf of Italian bread filled with a pound of bacon, peanut butter and grape jelly. His mother, Gladys, said he had "sandwich after sandwich of this favourite".

We washed the food down with some delicious lemonade homemade using real lemons: tangy and very refreshing. Lorenzo was by now in full flow with all his stories about organic food growing and everyone went home with some great ideas and plenty of tips on how to follow a healthy diet.

3 September 2010

The great outdoors

After having to cancel our Cooks On The Hop at Plover Terrace on Tuesday 17 August, we were really worried when it was incredibly windy with torrential rain the day before our rescheduled second Hop on Tuesday 24 August. We even resorted to borrowing an ultra-strong gazebo from the local police station for more shelter - just as well, as ours was blown over in a particularly strong gust!

Still, at least the rain held off and Cracking Cook Avril managed to dish up loads more of our by now famous homemade pasta sauces, hopefully providing inspiration for people to give it a go for themselves. Healthier and loads cheaper than from a jar - what's not to like?

Tina Murphy, Customer Involvement Officer for Southway Housing Trust, which manages many of the properties on Arrowfield Road Estate, popped along to see what we were up to. She dropped us an email afterwards to let us know how enjoyable and useful she found it.

"I attended the cooking session recently organised by Cracking Good Food on Arrowfield Road Estate, and I was amazed by how easy it is to create such wonderful tasty food with such little effort or expense. The event was very well organised and the methods of cooking were very well explained by Avril. She knows her stuff! I can highly recommend that you get yourself to one of these events. I'm looking forward to the next event where pizza is on the menu."

The pizza-making session took place on Tuesday (31 August), a week later. You can see more photos from the day on our Facebook page. It was (finally!) glorious weather when residents of the Estate came down to the community allotment run by Action For Sustainable Living. Everyone got stuck in making pizza bases from scratch, kneading and rolling out the dough, then adding tasty homemade tomato sauce and wholesome veg picked straight off the plants on the plot. The pizzas were then baked in the special cob oven that was built in 2008 and served with a freshly harvested salad. Result: smiles all round!