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.

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