30 June 2011

GUEST BLOG: Stirring things up

By guest blogger JULIET LAWSON

Yesterday (Wednesday 29 June), we ran another busy session with community group regulars Chorlton Good Neighbours, cooking stir-fry followed by summer fruit compote topped with yoghurt and granola.

Time is always tight at these sessions, as we only have a two-hour slot to rustle up a two-course meal for everyone, so we got down to some serious team veggie-chopping before the session started. It was a riot of colours with sweet potato, broccoli, red and yellow peppers, courgette, mushrooms, celeriac and carrots. There was plenty of flavour going in with the chilli, garlic, ginger, sesame and soy. We had about 25 people to feed, so it was a mad wok cook-off! It turned out a bit spicier than we expected – those cheeky chillies tasted ever so mild when they were raw! – but it went down well and then it was a nice gentle warm summer fruit compote for dessert, full of all sorts of summer berries. Thanks to the team for their hard work!

17 June 2011

GUEST BLOG: On a roll

By guest blogger JULIET LAWSON

Well, I’ve just finished having one of my very own bread rolls for breakfast that I made at last night’s Breadmaking for Beginners session. Delicious!

What a great session! Rob is an inspiring teacher and he taught us all the really important things that you need to know about breadmaking, that you just don’t really get from a recipe. We learnt all about yeast and wheat and gluten and temperatures and consistencies. He made it all really straightforward while at the same time making sure that we understood that there is no substitute for good old experience, and that this is just the start of our breadmaking journey.

First of all, we each made a big bowl of a basic brown bread dough. Rob had brought a variety of brown flours to use in the mix and we also had different types of yeast to try. We all made our own - it’s the only way to learn, so that you know exactly what consistency you’re aiming for. Rob scooted round the room helping everyone out so that we were all confident that we’d got the right consistency. Then we did kneading and dividing up into whatever we wanted to make. I made a loaf, a plait and a half dozen rolls. While that was rising, we then worked in pairs, rustling up a garlic naan bread mix, using gorgeous fresh garlic and soya yoghurt.

Then into the ovens with our main breads, and once it had risen, into the pan with the naan breads! The smell of baking bread and garlic naan was heavenly.

At the end of the session, we brought our naan breads to the main table and had a well-earned munch, along with a selection of hummous that Rob had brought along with him. And then after the clean-up, we all went on our way with enough bread for a week! And what’s more important, the confidence to make some more when it’s all gone!

I think tonight I’m going to make a massaman curry to go with those naan breads... mmmm.

Some comments from other people taking part...

'Tried to think of something to improve, but I think this is the perfect
beginners course .' Chris Hirst

'It was great finding out how easy breadmaking is and Rob was very enthusiastic and entertaining!.' Hannah Niblett

'I really enjoyed the session! Can’t believe we got to make so much bread, and also of different types. Rob was a great tutor.' Sophie Cunningham

15 June 2011

GUEST BLOG: Marvellous mezze

By guest blogger JUDITH KATHRENS

On Saturday 12 June, Deanna took 12 people through a whirlwind of wonderful Middle Eastern food which included lamb koftas, stuffed vine leaves (dolmades), spinach and feta parcels, and a lot more besides. I really didn't think that so much food could be produced in one morning but thanks to her it all went without a hitch.

There was a lot to pack into three hours and every one of the participants was gainfully employed chopping, soaking, drying, frying, rolling and folding. Some of the work was quite fiddly but everyone made really neat little rolls of vine leaves stuffed with rice, pine nuts and sultanas which were then steamed with lemon juice.

The spinach had to be dry to go into the filo pastry for the feta and spinach parcels, and Max proved to be a spinach-squeezer extraordinaire - I think he has found his calling!

For the koftas, chilli and coriander were added to minced lamb which was then rolled into balls and fried, while Deanna demonstrated how to make tomato houmous and a delicious aubergine dip.

The day was a great assault on the senses, full of amazing smells and tastes. A big thank you to everyone who took part - and ate! - with such enthusiasm, and thanks too to Alicia who was volunteering for the first time.

Some of the coments from participants...

'I really enjoyed the session – really friendly and interesting, and clear that the aim was for us to enjoy the session. Loved the eating together at the end – a really excellent lesson.' Chloe Brew

'Really interesting and flexible format.' Emilly Beir

'I found the session very interesting and useful and would defo do it again and recommend it to someone.' Charlie Hall

'Learning new techniques, getting wise words from the chef! Nothing could be improved – genuinely nothing. Thank you very much for a fantastic, cheap but invaluable course.' Dannielle Peet

'The general cooking tips (cutting an onion etc!) were great and I really enjoyed making dolmades and spinach and feta filos.' Jenna Sharman