27 June 2010

Cooking session #4: Something Spicy with Kate

Cracking Cook Kate Mulhall (sat in the middle under the mirror) works for Jam Street Cafe on the edge of Whalley Range and is also a trained pastry chef (we can vouch for her cake-making skills!). She will be leading two sessions called Something Spicy on Tuesday 29 June at Chorlton High (6-9pm) and Saturday 3 July at St Ninian's (11am-2pm). On the menu will be, among other hot numbers, Spicy Veggie Burgers with a Catalan Romesco Sauce (a perfect barbecue option) and a Green Thai Curry.

All details on the June and July sessions, which cost just £15 for three hours (£10 concessions), are on the Cracking Good Food website here.

20 June 2010

Cooking session #3: Tasty salads With Pulses'n'grains with Avril

Avril Povah works for Nutrimens and The Sunshine Cafe in Sale, and is on Cracking Good Food's team of Cracking Cooks. She recently coordinated a session on puddings for Chorlton Good Neighbours, assisted Kim with the Easy Puddings class last week and joined coordinator Adele on a trip to see the set-up at Jamie's Ministry Of Food in Bradford. She will be running a public session called Tasty Salads With Pulses'n'grains on Tuesday 22 June at Chorlton High (6-9pm).

Avril says: "I'll be showing how to use different grains to make tasty salads, perfect for the summer, for vegetarians or for those wanting to adopt a more healthy lifestyle. We will be making Tabbouleh - a refreshing Middle Eastern bulghur wheat salad full of fresh mint and fresh parsley - and a tasty quinoa salad, which makes a great gluten-free option.

"For the pulses part, we will be making easy snacks to accompany summer barbecues or pop into school lunchboxes. Homemade hummus, sweet potato and lentil dip, and refried beans are packed with protein and nutrients and can be used as sandwich fillers, on baked potatoes or as dips. To accompany these, we will prepare some vegetable crudites using fresh carrots, cucumber, celery and peppers for all those vital vitamins, and some homemade pitta breads."

It all sounds amazing - healthy, flavoursome and perfect for accompanying all those World Cup barbecues! Once all the dishes are ready, you all get the chance to dig in, but don't forget to bring a container in case you want to take any leftovers home to impress your friends and family.

All details on the June and July sessions, which cost just £15 for three hours (£10 concessions), are on the Cracking Good Food website here.

16 June 2010

GUEST BLOG: Learning how to make lots of sweet treats

By guest blogger SARAH-CLARE CONLON

I promised to take a Cracking Good Food session, so I put my money where my mouth is and put my mouth round a nice slice of homemade cake.

The Easy Puddings masterclass was held last night at Chorlton High School, in a very well-equipped domestic science lab. Following Adele's quick runthrough of some general housekeeping points (emergency exits, location of loos, tidying up afterwards), Cooking Leader Kim and Cooking Assistant Avril were straight into passing out scales and sponge cake ingredients to the three groups of three and four eager students.

Particularly democratic in our group, one of us worked out 200g unsalted butter then transferred it to a saucepan to soften, one of us measured out 200g brown caster sugar to be creamed into the butter using an electric handwhisk (sooo much easier than doing it with a wooden spoon, I can tell you!), and one of us weighed out 200g self-raising flour, to be sifted into the creamed butter along with three eggs, cracked in, one by one, by each of us! We were having fun! After adding a splash of milk, we poured half the mixture into one silicon baking case and the other half into a second. While the sponges baked for 20 minutes in an oven pre-heated to 175C (gas mark 4), we moved onto our second dessert.

Next on the menu was a no-bake cheesecake which turned out to be very easy, very impressive and very berry! Having taken out the stresses of the day on some digestive biscuits with a rolling pin, we pressed the resulting crumbs (complete with a generous pinch of ginger) into separate ramekins to create individual dessert pots. These were refrigerated while we made the filling: blueberries broken down for 10 minutes on the hob with some sugar, folded into a mixture of cream cheese, Greek yoghurt, icing sugar and lemon zest and juice. It made for a tangy taste, with all the flavours coming through one after the other. The rich purple and white marble effect goo was spooned over each of the bases and a couple of sprigs of fresh mint added for presentation, before the pots were popped back in the chiller until later.

Back to the Victoria Sandwiches, and as the sponges were left to cool on the side, we got on with the filling: sliced fresh new season British strawberries and double cream, whisked to a stiff thickness. These were layered on the first sponge, with the second pressed down on top. A top layer of icing sugar was drifted over, and three fresh'n'fancy Victoria sponge cakes were ready! Once cups of tea were distributed, we all tucked in. Mmmm.

Avril will be running the next workshop for Cracking Good Food: Tasty Salads. The details about this courses and all the others are on the Cracking Good Food website.

Sarah-Clare Conlon is a writer, editor and press officer who lives in Chorlton and does PR for Cracking Good Food. You can read her award-winning blog about arts and culture here.

13 June 2010

Cooking session #2: Easy Puddings with Kim

Cracking Cook Kim, seen here helping a young participant at our picnic in the park for World Environment Day on Saturday 5 June, runs the cafe at Islington Mill in Salford. She will be leading a session, Easy Puddings, on Tuesday 15 June at Chorlton High (6-9pm), showing you how to make some fabulous sweet treats, including a a mean Berry Cheesecake and a good old traditional Victoria Sponge.

All details on the June and July sessions, which cost just £15 for three hours (£10 concessions), are on the Cracking Good Food website here.

10 June 2010

Cooking session #1: Cooking With Fish The Sustainable Way with Rob

Rob Tomlinson is probably one of the busiest Cracking Cooks, helping run Cracking Good Food events such as the launch at Chorlton's Big Green Festival at the end of March, the Celebrate Festival in Whalley Range at the start of May, and the recent Chorlton Arts Festival Street Feast (see our Facebook page for loads of photos!). He has also led sessions such as last week's puddings workshop for Chorlton Good Neighbours and the first of our public cookery classes, Cooking With Fish The Sustainable Way, on Tuesday at Chorlton High School, which you can read more about on our blog here.

You can join Rob for his second class on Cooking With Fish The Sustainable Way this Saturday (12 June) at St Ninian's (11am-2pm). He will take you through a variety of different methods for cooking fish from frying goujons to grilling stuffed mackerel, and will help you get to grips with techniques such as descaling, gutting and filleting. You'll even learn how to make fish stock, the basis for many tasty recipes. Rob is also very knowledgeable about ingredients and provenance, making him the perfect candidate for explaining all about the importance of shopping for responsibly sourced sustainable fish.

All details on the June and July sessions, which cost just £15 for three hours (£10 concessions), are on the Cracking Good Food website here.

GUEST BLOG: Reeling in some top tips on cooking fish

By guest blogger ADELE JORDAN

A culinary treat was had by all on our first session for the paying public on Tuesday evening – one of the group even described it as Babette’s Feast! Rob was in charge of Cooking With Fish The Sustainable Way and we got stuck in immediately.

First off, we had a go at filleting some lemon sole, then we each prepared whole mackerel with all its innards. The roe was potential taramasalata, and someone even took it away with them to make the fishy dip at a later date. We used all the leftover bones to make a fish stock in the pressure cooker, adding a few vegetable peelings from the mushrooms and shallots that Jay from Hickson & Black’s Deli (pictured below getting to grips with some coley) added to a Veronique sauce he made using the quick stock, some cream and an egg yolk.

We got our fish from Out Of The Blue fishmongers in Chorlton, where Dave advised us to buy coley on the grounds that they are always mature (the ones that he sources anyway) and therefore more sustainable. We duly cut it into finger slices, made breadcrumbs by bashing old toasted bread with a rolling pin, and put out a dish with flour for coating and another with beaten egg for dipping. Flour, egg, breadcrumbs, frying pan...

Having shallow-fried the coley goujons, grilled the mackerel with toasted almonds, and baked the lemon sole Veronique in the oven, we were set to eat. Accompaniments were a garlic and yoghurt dip, and boiled samphire - a wonderful sea vegetable that Dave threw in for us. What a feast. The only problem was that we soon had to pack up and go home... we could’ve all stayed there for hours!

Adele Jordan coordinates the classes and events run by Cracking Good Food. You can get in touch with her by emailing adele@crackinggoodfood.org

9 June 2010

GUEST BLOG: Volunteering with the picnic in the park

By guest blogger MARY LUNDQUIST

On Saturday 5 June, Cracking Good Food set up in Manley Park, Whalley Range, for a wonderful community picnic in honour of World Environment Day. Various other local groups were involved, including Manchester Friends Of The Earth, Eat Your Streets, Adopt A Tree, Celebrate Your Alley Gates and Meat Free Monday.

Kim from the the Cafe at Islington Mill was the lead chef and, together with Adele, coordinated the cooking of four main dishes. On the menu was Egyptian Falafels (pictured below), Turkish Couscous, Butterbean and Sun-dried Tomato Pate (also pictured below), and Warm Potato Salad.

Kim picked up most of the ingredients at independently owned shops, which were very local (just across the street!), and Kat from Friends of the Earth and I pitched in with setting up the stall. The cooking was a real group effort and the work of many helping hands, and it was wonderful to see so many people getting involved, making for loads of cooking and conversation. We even sent everyone off with recipes, so they can make it all again at home!

All those who participated had a great time making then eating the food, and everything was delicious. People also came with their own lunch, and some provided music, and soon we had a grand picnic spread out over the grass. Even the sun came out!

There are loads more photographs from the day on our Facebook page.

Mary Lundquist is a Cracking Good Food volunteer. As well as the picnic in the park, Mary has helped with the Chorlton Arts Festival Street Feast and will be on hand to assist during our second session for the general public this Saturday. If you would like to volunteer to help with Cracking Good Food events, email adele@crackinggoodfood.org

8 June 2010

GUEST BLOG: Ministry Of Food


The sun was shining as Adele and I set off over the Pennines to Bradford on Monday 24 May. We were going to see the latest Jamie's Ministry Of Food centre, opened by Jamie Oliver following his famous TV programme of the same name. The first opened up in another Yorkshire town, Rotherham, which was highlighted in the show as being one the “fattest” places in England, and we were keen to learn how people were being inspired to get back into the kitchen to cook good wholesome meals instead of eating takeaways and ready meals.

Jamie's Ministry Of Food centres are council funded and their kitchen costs, whatever they may be, are outweighed against the long-term savings in treating obesity in their respective areas. The centres are centrally positioned right in the heart of the towns so local people just passing by can pop in to learn the basics of cooking and how to make good simple meals on a tight budget, or just get friendly advice on recipes, shopping, nutrition, equipment, and local and seasonal ingredients.

Soraya Overend, the project manager at Bradford, made us feel very welcome, showing us the ultra modern and sleek kitchen, perfectly designed with cookery classes in mind. She explained that they offer 10-week cooking programmes covering a range of meals from simple egg dishes to homemade soups, pasta and pizza, and roast dinners. People from all walks of life can learn how to cook quick, simple, healthy and cost-effective meals in just one hour, and the “pass it on” strategy encourages them to tell their friends and family all about it. One lesson is just £4 and you get to eat the food afterwards, either at the centre or to take home.

We arrived early to ask Soraya (pictured on the left, with me on the right and Adele reflected in the window!) how it all started and how it’s going, then joined the Week 5 group for a Thai green curry lesson. Some of the participants had popped in during their work lunch break - what a great idea: learning a new skill and getting fed too! Soraya explained all the ingredients we were using for the Thai green curry - we even had fresh seasonal asparagus to cook with - and demonstrated how to make a Thai green curry paste. There was lots of herb smelling, and we were all hooked on the fresh lemon grass and coriander. We picked from a choice of chicken, prawns or Quorn (which Adele plumped for immediately), then we were let loose on the induction hobs to prepare our stir fries. When we tucked into our creations afterwards, all the fresh flavours came flooding through - it was absolutely delicious!

The next Jamie's Ministry Of Food centre opens in the centre of Leeds this month, and I hope it's as successful as the others. Please come to Manchester, Jamie!

Avril works for Nutrimens and The Sunshine Cafe in Sale. She is also on Cracking Good Food's team of Cracking Cooks and will be running a public session called Tasty Salads With Pulses'n'grains on Tuesday 22 June at Chorlton High (6-9pm). All details on the June and July sessions, which cost just £15 for three hours (£10 concessions), are on the Cracking Good Food website here.

6 June 2010

GUEST BLOG: Chorlton Good Neighbours puddings cooking session, Wednesday 2 June

By guest blogger AVRIL POVAH

Adele was on her jollies en France – ooh la la - so I stepped in to coordinate a cooking demo for Chorlton Good Neighbours at St Ninian's Church on Wilbraham Road. The session was on themed puddings, which Rob, our Cooking Leader, executed wonderfully, helped along by our super cooking assistants, Kate from Jam Street Cafe and Donna from Chorlton High School.

At first, I was worried that it seemed rather an ambitious menu for a two-hour session, but despite all the chopping, fruit stewing, mixing and baking, we pulled it off! Our menu consisted of Apple and Pineapple Sponge, Rhubarb and Apricot Crumble and Semolina Pudding with Prunes, accompanied by lashings of homemade custard. Each had plenty of fruit content, but as they were also laden with fat and sugar, we explained straight away that puddings aren't nutritionally balanced and we cannot live on sweet dishes alone (I wish), but that they're to be eaten as a treat and not over portioned.

The sponge was delicately spiced up with cinnamon, while the hint of ginger in the crumble really made all the difference in tasting at the end of the session - truly delicious. Rob was a brilliant raconteur, relaying passionate stories of ingredients and origins of food, together with his vast knowledge of working in the food industry.

You can join Rob for his sessions on Cooking With Fish The Sustainable Way on Tuesday 8 June at Chorlton High (6-9pm) and Saturday 12 June at St Ninian's (11am-2pm). Meanwhile if the thought of puddings has tickled your fancy, Kim will be running a session for the general public on Tuesday 15 June at Chorlton High (6-9pm). All details on the June and July sessions, which cost just £15 for three hours (£10 concessions), are on the Cracking Good Food website here.

Avril is on Cracking Good Food's team of Cracking Cooks and will be running a public session called Tasty Salads With Pulses'n'grains on Tuesday 22 June at Chorlton High (6-9pm). She also works for Nutrimens and The Sunshine Cafe in Sale.

3 June 2010

Picnic in the park

Join us on Saturday (5 June) to bring World Environment Day to Whalley Range at a community picnic in Manley Park. Cracking coordinator Adele and Cracking Cook Kim will be helping picnickers rustle up some tasty nosh (for a small fee) from 11am, with the picnic running from noon until 4pm. On the menu are felafels, couscous with nuts and fruit, raita, potato salad with maple syrup, sesame seeds and torn parsley... all kinds of yummy veggie fayre.

Loads of other local groups will be there as well as Cracking Good Food, including Friends Of The Earth, Meat Free Monday, Eat Your Streets, Celebrate Your Alley Gates and Adopt-A-Tree, and there will even be some planting taking place from 2.30pm.