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.)