29 March 2011

GUEST BLOG: Wild in the country


On Saturday, as part of shadowing for Cracking Good Food, I had the pleasure to assist Wild Food expert Jesper Lauder in his 'Wild Food Foraging' workshop which took place on Chorlton Ees. Jesper can spot an edible fungus or plant from a great distance, and his knowledge proved to be fascinating. I personally felt safe chewing on a Turkeytail and nibbling wild garlic. We returned to base to sample nettle soup and steamed spring leaves and we ate Japanese knotweed for dessert. I could tell by the group involvement that I was not the only one impressed. Quite an inspiring afternoon!

25 March 2011

GUEST BLOG: Perfect patties

By guest blogger SARAH FANTHORPE

Residents of Arrowfield Estate met for the last time (pending further funding hopefully) at Buckthorn House on Tuesday evening.

In this, the 11th session part-funded by Action For Sustainable Living, we created healthy mackerel fishcakes and two types of delicious veggie burgers. Richard, our chef (pictured), was able to explain the nutritional value of all the ingredients, and the goodness of omega 3s found in tinned fish. Mal, Evelyn, Teresa and Janice busily prepared the vegetables while Britney (aged seven) and Isabella (aged five) peeled and stired. We then ate together and there was a satisfying silence as we took in the various flavours of fresh parsley, courgettes and oodles of garlic. Fingers crossed for more cooking sessions soon, perhaps at the Lost Plot community allotment.

And below is the Cracking Good Food cooking equipment, being taken from our store to the session at Buckthorn House by Jeff of new pedal-powered delivery service E-cycle. For full details on E-cycle, call Jeff on 07738 039888 or email chorlton.ecycle@gmail.com.

22 March 2011

GUEST BLOG: Spanish class

By guest blogger SARAH FANTHORPE

Residents from Arrowfield Estate met to create and sample a rich Spanish dish of chicken and chorizo stew, aptly demonstrated by Juliet. She explained the subtle flavours of saffron and sweet paprika and showed us how to de-glaze our pan with a touch of dry sherry to incorporate all the ingredients. We also made a chickpea and spinach side dish with leeks grown on The Lost Plot, our local community allotment. Phoebe (13) was able to show us her chopping skills and many new people joined us as word spread of a fun evening of shared skills and delicious food.

21 March 2011

GUEST BLOG: Caught on film

By guest blogger ADELE JORDAN

At our session in one of Nacro's secure housing projects in Crumpsall, cooking leader Juliet and Judith (who was shadowing as a co-ordinator) got everyone chopping veg and the renowned holy trinity that makes the basis of a good stir-fry: chilli, ginger and garlic. With Nacro filming us, it made for an eventful day, but we soon got used to it and we had a really good laugh listening to some great anecdotes from the guys who were cooking with us. Everyone even got to take away a goody bag of food at the end.

9 March 2011

GUEST BLOG: Rice is nice

By guest blogger DEANNA THOMAS

I’m always looking for interesting opportunities to cook with and for people. I am a professionally trained chef but now I’ve got two small children, long and split restaurant shifts are no good for me. I need to find a way of spreading the word about how wonderful cooking from scratch can be, without compromising my family life. So it is with great pride and joy that I’ve been welcomed into the stable of talented chefs who work for Cracking Good Food.

To become one of their cooking leaders, or Cracking Cooks, everybody must attend one four-hour training session and volunteer to help out at a class. I was lucky enough to attend De-mystifying Risottos, held by experienced vegetarian chef Kim Irwin from Islington Mill Cafe.

Like many of the sessions, it was held in one of the bright, well-laid out cookery classrooms at Chorlton High School. After brief introductions and hand-washing, everyone’s offered a cup of tea and a sitdown. Kim explained how the class was going to work and what we were going to be making. This class was made up of people from all different backgrounds and cooking skills. One fabulous woman even worked as a private chef but loved coming along to classes to watch people learn and get excited about cooking.

Kim got us to make two risottos. The first was butternut squash and lemon with two grains. Risotto has to be made with a particular type of rice, medium or short grain and high in starch to help it absorb liquid and become sticky. Kim’s recipe used 150g Arborio rice but also 50g of barley (to serve four). Barley is a wonderful underused grain that adds an interesting, almost chewy texture to the finished dish, plus a wide variety of vitamins and minerals.

We sat round a large central table helping to peel and chop the vegetables and garlic. It’s a perfect way for people keen to improve their cooking knowledge to chat to professionals in a relaxed atmosphere. Kim was also eager to show everyone how easy it is to make your own vegetable stock from scratch rather than using a stock cube. We got this on first as it needed at least an hour to simmer. She also gave us a tip on how to make it even better at home when we’ve got more time - by roasting the vegetables first.

We then split into three groups and took turns adding the ingredients to the pan and stirring them over the heat. Risottos usually take about 25 minutes to cook and need to be stirred constantly, adding stock one ladleful at a time, so the rice absorbs the liquid slowly and becomes creamy. Being tied to the stove for all that time may put some people off, but the stirring motion is quite therapeutic and if you’ve got a glass of wine and some good company, what’s the problem?

After adding some lemon, Parmesan cheese, Greek yoghurt, chopped parsley and seasoning, we served it out and sat down to eat, giving everyone the chance to ask questions and share tips.

Next, Kim wanted to show us how to make a risotto using wild mushrooms. She set us to work by covering a few handfuls of aromatic, mixed dried mushrooms with boiling water to soften them for half an hour or so. Meanwhile, after chopping up and frying more onions, garlic and fennel, we poured in the rice, some white wine and repeated the stock-adding and stirring process. At this point, we’d all got to know each other and the atmosphere was really buzzy and chatty.

Some of us sliced up chestnut mushrooms and sautéed them in a frying pan with a little olive oil and garlic before adding the rehydrated mushrooms we’d soaked earlier. This risotto was quite different to the first one. Once we’d finished the dish by adding some double cream and Parmesan, it became really rich and comforting. A perfect meal even the staunchest carnivore wouldn’t find lacking.

We all sat down together to eat again before helping to wash up and clear away – many hands make light work, and it was done in no time. Adele the co-ordinator was there to make sure everything got packed away and she then handed out some feedback forms so Cracking Good Food can continue to improve, reach more people and get even better.

Most classes last for three hrs, cost £20 per person (concessions available) and the class size is never more than 12. This is a pretty good deal for a fun evening out where you gain a skill (and some cool tips) plus a meal at the end of it. There are a wide variety of classes on offer all year round and the most popular classes often get repeated at a later date.

I’m completely inspired, full of ideas and can’t wait to get cracking and teach my own classes. My first class is on 19 March and is going to be about making and decorating cupcakes. Cracking Cooks all have to emphasise healthy eating, so I shall be baking sweet cupcakes using vegetables and nuts, such as the classic carrot cake and the more unusual beetroot and chocolate. Hope to see you there. To see what courses are coming up, visit the revamped www.crackinggoodfood.org.

You can read more from Deanna on her blog www.foodographic.co.uk

6 March 2011

Pedal power

Check out our friends E-cycle, who are now delivering the Cracking Good Food equipment and ingredients to the sessions we run using pedal power! Yay! Here's Jeff picking up the CGF stuff from the garage where we store it.

You can visit E-cycle on Facebook, call Jeff on 07738 039888 or email chorlton.ecycle@gmail.com to find out more.

Services on offer from E-cycle:
  • Recycling collection
  • Charity shop collection (free) and delivery (paid)
  • DIY supplies delivery
  • Small-scale flat moves
  • Allotment supplies delivered directly to your plot — leaf mould, compost & plants
  • Delivery of Ebay, Gumtree & Freegle goods
  • Business Delivery Service:
    scheduled – delivery performed on a regular basis, or
    on-call – one-time runs performed on an on-call basis

3 March 2011

Cracking news

Hey there, Cracking Good Food fans... just wanted to update you quickly on some upcoming events you might be interested in! In between training up loads of fab new Cracking Cooks, we're also working hard to bring you some great new cooking sessions this spring.

On Saturday 19 March (11am–2pm; Chorlton High School) we'll be baking unusual cupcakes with new CGF chef Deanna, who works at Chorlton's North Star Deli.

On Saturday 26 March (1pm–4pm; Chorlton Ees - meet opp Bowling Green pub), we're off on another of our Wild Food Forages with herbalist and wild food expert Jesper Launder.

On Saturday 2 April (11am–2pm; Chorlton High School), Rob is back with his Sustainable Fish dishes, showing you how to fillet a fish as well as cook it!

On Saturday 16 April, we'll be celebrating Cracking Good Food's first birthday at Chorlton's Big Green Festival, where it all began! Come along for a fun cooking experience and some birthday cake! See the festival website for details of the day: http://greenchorlton.org.uk/

On Saturday 7 May (11am–2pm; Chorlton High School), Kim from Islington Mill Cafe will be cooking up some tasty tarts and quiches using seasonal spring veg. Expect asparagus...

On Saturday 14 May (11am–2pm; Chorlton High School), Rob is baking bread again - see our Facebook page for photos from the last two sessions here.

To book places on any of the sessions...

* visit our website at http://crackinggoodfood.org/
* email fiona@crackinggoodfood.org
* telephone 0845 652 2572
* pop in to Hickson & Black’s deli on Barlow Moor Road in Chorlton

2 March 2011

GUEST BLOG: New cooks on the books

By Cracking Good Food director Adele Jordan

On Tuesday 22 February, we trained up some new Cracking Cooks to join the team and add even more to our cooking repertoire and the classes and sessions we can offer. After spending two hours going through the ethos of Cracking Good Food and trying to cover all the things we’ve both done and have planned (so much!), we then got to grips with the actual cooking.

Experienced cooking leader Beth Creedon, of Dig and Guestrant fame, took the reins by splitting the cooks into two groups. They were asked to talk through making a vegetable cobbler, step by step, to each other. It’s hard getting used to talking through things that are instinctive for a cook like chopping an onion or celeriac, but they all took it in turns, in front of each other. To watch how captivated they were when listening to those who spoke, you’d swear they’d never chopped an onion in their life!

So we’ve now got a great new team, in addition to our other great Cracking Cooks. We’ve got Harjinder, who’s been cooking up Punjabi food for 40 years, Deanna from North Star Deli, Ian from The Parsnipship Collective, Cathy from France, Graeme who was a student living on takeaways and now lives in his kitche, Wendy from On the Eighth Day, Nicola from Fareshare and Emerge, chef Laura and keen cook Alison… with another nine also waiting to be trained up.

So cooking is very much on the agenda… stay tuned for all the exciting things coming up via our new website, to be launched shortly!

1 March 2011

GUEST BLOG: Totally tropical

By guest blogger CAROLYN DICKSON

When we made Jamaican patties at Buckthorn House on Nell Lane on 22 February, the night was such great fun. Sarah, one of our Cracking Good Cooks, put on a great demonstration to a busy and excited class of 28 people including 12 children. We also had John Leech, our local MP, in the class as well as two local councillors Norman Lewis and Bernie Ryan, who came down to offer support.

Sarah who also works for The Lost Plot, brought all the vegetables that were in season from their allotment, showed everyone how to hold the knife to chop vegetables safely and how to prepare pastry. Everyone had a try at chopping the vegetables to make the very tasty mixture of spicy vegetables with a hint of chilli for the middle. Sarah also showed everyone how to make a side salad, with a quick and easy salad dressing. All and all, it was a really successful night, and there are more photos from it over on our Facebook page.