19 July 2011

GUEST BLOG: Out and about

By guest blogger SARAH FANTHORPE

Southway Housing has kindly funded another three cooking sessions and we held our first one on The Lost Plot Community Allotment, which is run by Action For Sustainable Living (AfSL).

Under a stormy sky, we prepared the pizza dough and left it to rise in the poly- tunnel. We then created a simple tomato sauce. Maz demonstrated her dough-throwing techniques and we handpicked our toppings from a selection of the vegetables growing on the plot. The pizzas were then baked in the special clay oven, which was expertly managed by Paul (a member of The Lost Plot.)

Here are some quotes from the people who took part from Nell Lane Estate.

“It’s amazing how these sessions have brought everyone together."
Mal, Nell Lane Resident of 30 years

“Loved the community feel and the fact that it was outdoors.”
Bridget, dance teacher at Chorlton High School

“Picking and cooking spring onions straight from the ground was my daughter's favourite part of the day.”
Samantha, a recent tenant of Southway Housing and mother to Isabella, aged four

You can see more photos from this event on our Facebook page.

18 July 2011

Getting your fair share

On Saturday 16 July FareShare NW and 100+ friends leapt off the Imperial War Museum North for fun and to support those in need! From 10am-5pm people used a zip slide to get from the 30m high tower at the Imperial War Museum across the 250m Ship Canal and Salford Quays, landing at The Lowry.

The Zip Slide Challenge was open to anyone wishing to help raise funds to help combat food poverty locally. Monies raised will directly help FareShare, a charitable scheme redistributing surplus in-date food to people in food poverty in the North West region. Many communities in the North West have high levels of unemployment and low-income households. Manchester, Liverpool and Blackpool have the highest number of children living in poverty in the UK. Organisations such as Cornerstones, providing hot meals to people on very low incomes in Moss Side; Mustard Tree, who operate a soup run for the homeless; and the George House Trust, who help refugees, are typical beneficiaries of FareShare; other examples include hostels, school breakfast and after-school clubs in deprived areas, day centres for the sick, elderly and infirm, and organisations helping the vulnerable and those in poverty.

Cracking Cooks Kath and Kim used surplus food from FareShare to cook up vegetable jalfrezzi and risottos for the Zip Slide Challenge participants. How delicious did they look!

Thanks to Martyn Dawson for the photo. There'll be some more up on our Facebook page soon.

15 July 2011

GUEST BLOG: Spice world

By guest blogger ELIZABETH WELLS

On a stiflingly July day (Saturday 2nd), we Cracking Good Fooders plus an array of willing participants undertook the challenge to learn (and hopefully reproduce!) the secrets of Punjabi home-cooking from Harjinder (pictured centre).

The day was veggie in theme and half the fun was getting to grips with the specialised equipment that enabled us to transform roasted aubergines into tasty bhartha or smoked aubergine puree. On flat iron chappati pans, called tavas, we turned the aubergines until they sizzled and the skins went soft- a technique that required asbestos fingers, as one participant remarked! Later the same pans were used to make the famous chappatis, a process we admired with awe, as Harjinder gently coaxed the air into them as they cooked and browned. The dough required another specialist instrument - the chackla - which looks like a rolling pin but moves a lot more fluidly, and made light work of the task.

The other tasty main dish was the methi pakora - a toothsome, lightly spiced fritter with fenugreek (or methi) which is shaped into balls and dropped into hot fat. Harjinder’s knowledge of spices was second to none, and we learned how easy it is to make simple spice blends using whole spices such as black peppercorns, coriander seeds, cardamoms and cinnamon. All you need is a coffee/spice grinder - much fresher and more flavoursome than shop-bought mixes.

Visit our Facebook page for pictures from both Punjabi cooking sessions, vegetarian and meat and fish.

13 July 2011

GUEST BLOG: Spice magic

By guest blogger LIZ STIRLING

While pondering what birthday present to get a girl who dresses impeccably, has an already stunning house and well, an awful lot of other good stuff, I stumbled upon the Cracking Good Food stall at Chorlton’s Big Green Festival. Surreptitiously sliding a flyer into my bag I managed to distract her from booking a session right there and then.

A few months later and it was time for our course. We four girls, filled with anticipation and fear of making complete fools out of ourselves, strolled to Chorlton High School to be wowed by Harjinder, her dazzling array of spices and generations worth of advice, not to mention the odd Hairy Bikers name drop! The warm greeting from the Cracking Good Food team put everyone at ease and working in groups of four filled us with relief - thank goodness nobody would be solely responsible for a complete disaster! With the thought of the need for back-up cereal bars for lunch put firmly behind us we began to chop the fresh ingredients for the tarka which would form the base for our dishes.

In all we made a Curried Salmon dish, a Rustic Chicken Curry and Kedgeree (a delicious rice accompaniment, but not the eggs and fish combination often associated with the name). All turned out to be fairly simple to make - Harjinder encouraged us that the secrets were in the preparation and being patient, taking care to add spices bit by bit, not the ‘chuck it in, it’ll be reet’ method traditionally favoured by one of our group. Instructions and advice followed carefully, we tested our dishes in order to make adjustments, while we were pretty impressed by our efforts we awaited Harjinder’s expert seal of approval. With ‘fantastic’ and ‘perfect’ echoing around the room we were sure our efforts could not have met the standards of the other teams. It seemed however that they did and if we can do it, then anyone surely can!

There were many highlights of the session, the delicious ingredients, the friendly banter and camaraderie and of course the delicious outcome. Top however has to be Harjinder herself and her insights into Punjabi cooking. Her mother’s Kala Massala recipe and her father’s tip of soaking methi leaves were just two of the nuggets that we came away with. The fact that she gave out her number so that we could call her for advice really illustrated her passion for cooking and food that we were so lucky to share with her.

Harjinder, the only advice I need now is, what shall I get Danielle for her birthday next year?

Keep checking our Facebook page for photos from the session.

11 July 2011

GUEST BLOG: More stirring!

By guest blogger HARJINDER

On Wednesday 29 June, Chorlton Good Neighbours enjoyed a flavoursome stir-fry served with noodles and drizzled with a tangy peanut sauce made with lime juice and soy sauce. To follow was a summer fruits dessert topped with yoghurt and home-made granola.

There were a host of in-season vegetables, with a celeriac that tip-toed in too! The garlic and ginger gave the stir-fry a flavoursome kick with mild chillies turning a little hot once cooked. The tofu added protein, making it a good all-rounder.

Everyone enjoyed the food as we cleared away the nearly empty plates (the noodles were quite filling). It was a healthy lunch - with wholesome food that you could rustle up quite quickly.

The dessert again was something you could chuck any 'in season' summer fruits into, and with no stodge and the homemade granola adding a healthy crunch, it was totally delicious!

Read Harjinder's blog Harjinder's Kitchen here.