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.

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