Guest blog by SARAH-CLARE CONLON
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 firstname.lastname@example.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.