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.