25 January 2012

GUEST BLOG: Thrice the spice

By guest blogger TRACEY

Harjinder again delivered a delicious trio of moderately spiced Punjabi dishes. She begin by regaling us with culinary stories from her childhood and past visits to India - they were both descriptive and heartfelt, giving the session a lovely authentic start.

All got involved with the preparation of saag paneer, chopping the fresh spinach, coriander, garlic, ginger, peppers and tomatoes which filled the classroom with wonderful aromas. The group then began to weigh the selected spices from Harjinder’s spice boxes. Everyone paid close attention to the information about the spice mix to be used and how blended together the spices can give you, ‘the discerning chef’, the ability to know which spices to add to accomplish dishes to your personal taste. Each group was equipped with a special puri press to make their puris flat and an adequate size - once fried, the results were great as some rose so much they could have passed for huge fortune cookies! Rightly so, everyone was delighted with their pakorahs, as they looked great and tasted even better.

We were fortunate to have Emma (pictured with me, above) from BBC Radio Manchester’s Manhunt show drop in on the session and help make the yoghurt and mint dips. She was keen to find out what we were making and how the group had come together, and it was such a shame because although she wanted to stay and sample the delights, she had to continue her quest… Anyway, the dip tasted wonderful and was the perfect accompaniment to the aubergine and potato pakorah, so thanks Emma!

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

22 January 2012

Spice route

Cracking Cook Harjinder was back at Chorlton High School yesterday with her popular vegetarian Punjabi class, sharing the secrets of the wonderful spice combinations behind this delicious cuisine and teaching a masterclass in chappati making. Harjinder has been cooking Punjabi food for 40 years and has been on TV with the Hairy Bikers on their well-known Mum Knows Best series, so she wasn't stage struck at being recorded for the radio! You can find our more about Harjinder on her blog, Harjinder's Kitchen.

See the Cracking Good Food Facebook page for more photos from the event - and don't forget to click "like"!

19 January 2012

Stir-fries for success

Stir-fries were the order of the day for the members of the Skills For Success training programme at Chorlton Community Centre on 18 January. Participants were introduced to two easy and tasty veggie stir-fry dishes courtesy of Kim and Elizabeth: one a basic stir-fry comprising that classic spice triumvirate of ginger, chillies and garlic; the other with a Thai twist of coconut milk, cumin, coriander and Nam Pla, or Thai fish sauce.

Participants were shown how to make the most of seasonality when it comes to stir-fry veg: kale tops, for example, only need a minute or two to wilt in the pan before they are lovely and tender. Beansprouts and carrot sticks add crunch, while spring onions should be added at the end to prevent them going soggy. Throw in a handful of freshly-chopped coriander and a good fistful of crushed toasted cashews, and there it is, a tasty meal made in minutes.

You can see more photographs from this session on the Cracking Good Food Facebook page.

18 January 2012

GUEST BLOG: Fish for compliments

By guest blogger TRACEY 

On Saturday 14 January 2012, Cracking Cook Rob led Discovering Fish, the first public cooking session of the year at Chorlton High School.

Although filleting the mackerel was a little gory for some, everyone listened attentively then got stuck in, resulting in a delicious dish of mackerel stuffed with crushed almonds and watercress. The flavours worked so well together that I (not a keen mackerel fan) had to sample the dish again…

Participants formed a production line to create the delicately spiced coley goujons - it’s amazing how a little turmeric and cumin can transform a batter! A light and refreshing garlic dip was whipped together and a devilish spicy Szechuan sauce (made to CGF’s own recipe) was also served as an accompaniment.

Normally, Rob explained, he would used Dover sole to make the Veronique dish, but due to cost, the sole was substituted with fresh filleted pollock. The Veronique sauce was made with cream, white wine, mushrooms and grapes. The flavour was definitely enhanced by using a stock we made with the remaining fish parts and some of the usually discarded bits of vegetables, and lots of fresh herbs. This lightly flavoured dish was accompanied with the crispiest of roast potatoes; all together it made a wonderful dish, and seconds were had by all!

This cracking session was filled with so many amazing dishes and some very useful filleting and purchasing tips, and was enjoyed by everyone - so much so that the participants gave Rob a very well-deserved round of applause to show their appreciation!

And if you don't believe Tracey, here is some of the feedback we received about the class:

"I’ve had a good day. I feel I’ve learnt a great deal, including information on organic sources, and cleaning and boning of fish. Rob is a good communicator and draws one's interest." Ray Southern
"The fish filleting was really informative, and it was great that you could have a go – all really hands-on. All the food was lovely… will be trying it at home." Kate McWilliams
"Really enjoyed the session – straightforward, pleasant atmosphere. Filleting the fish was great and I learnt some useful tips about cooking times. The goujons were really nice – think I can get my children to eat coley... very cheap!" Mike Randal
"All of us had a go with fish handling and the filleting, stock reduction and goujons felt really simple thanks to Rob." Barbara Allen
"A very good day." Ian Gibb

There are lots more photos from this session on our Facebook page. Click here to be redirected.

12 January 2012

Plotting the future

On Saturday 7 January, the Riverbank Community Cafe and Market Garden Project had a gathering to celebrate its re-launch. The Cracking Good Food team was there to provide healthy cooking tips, and Cracking Cook Kim, who runs Islington Mill Cafe, demonstrated how to whip up a tasty stir-fry using ingredients that could be grown on the plot and harvested in the summer.

The hidden gem is situated behind the Co-op near Hardy Lane and is tenderly cared for by local residents of the Mersey Bank Estate with help from the Riverbank project team, funded by Manchester City Council's Carbon Innovation Fund.

Cracking Good Food will be cooking there on four more occasions. If you would like to get involved in the cooking, the growing, or both, then please contact riverbankcommunitycafe@gmail.com.