27 March 2012

GUEST BLOG: Looking for a raise

By guest blogger SIOBHAN KELLY

Last Tuesday evening brought together 11 people at Chorlton High School for a bread-making session run by Rob.

The group had the choice of three different types of yeast which all react differently in the initial stages - have a guess which one was the most exciting to watch? Fun was had kneading the dough, a calm or energetic process, depending on the approach. While the bread dough was left to rise, preparation of the naan began. A simple garlic paste was also made - how many cloves used depended on taste. No such thing as too much garlic in my eyes and a beautiful aroma soon filled the air.

As the loaves and rolls cooked in the oven, there was time to sit back around the table, rest for a while and listen to some interesting facts about grain, flour and bread-making from Rob, then it was time to fry the naan breads. A fine display of loaves, rolls and naans were shared and tasted at the end of the session, with a healthy dollop of red pepper hummous to add to the flavour experience.

There are more photos from this session on our Facebook page. Click here.

Rob will be running a bread special on 28 April - visit the main Cracking Good Food website for all the details and how to book.

21 March 2012

Harjinder's secret kitchen

On Sunday 18 March, Cracking Cook Harjinder Kaur, of Hairy Bikers fame, ran the first of what promises to become her famous Punjabi Lunch Clubs in a secret location, with a four-course vegetarian banquet. Here's what some of the Cracking Good Food team members made of it...

"The food, service, ambience and location all combined to create an amazing experience. Thanks so much for all your hard work, Harjinder - it was fabulous!"
- Kim Irwin, Cracking Cook

"What a wonderful way to spend Mothering Sunday. Truly pampered with delicious food and anecdotes of Harjinder's father’s life during Petition. I couldn’t recommend it more. Well done, Harjinder!" - Adele Jordan, Cracking Good Food Director

There are more photos from this event on the Cracking Good Food Facebook page. Click here to be redirected. And there's more on Harjinder's own website, Harjinder's Kitchen here.

Harjinder will be running another lunch club on 15 April - see the CGF website for more and email harjinderskitchen@hotmail.co.uk to book a place.

GUEST BLOG: Food for free

By guest blogger ANGELA CONNELLY

With some trepidation, I embarked upon a late winter forage with herbalist Jesper Launder. While I remembered to bring a basket, I remained dubious over the chances of filling it with much. Within minutes of walking into Fletcher Moss Park, however, Jesper's foraging antenna was activated. Among what I thought were just common garden weeds were some interesting edible salad items. Jesper also shared his in-depth knowledge on the healing properties to be found in and on the ground. The highlight had to be birch sap, or nature's natural isotonic, which we were shown how to extract from the tree. Not only is it cheaper than Gatorade, this clear-tasting liquid can be made into wine (more on this later).

In addition to all of this, we happened upon a patch of wild mushrooms, and as we neared the main park entrance at the end of our forage, Jesper decided to cook up a wild mushroom omelette, also using some of the beautiful wild garlic we found. All of this on a mini-camper ring! To top it all off, in best Blue Peter fashion, out came some pre-made birch wine. Hic... So even though it was sub-5 degrees on a crisp wintry February day, we were warmed and fed, and there were even some leftovers in the basket. If this is the winter yield, I can't wait to see what wild food the summer brings!

See our Facebook page for more photos from the 26 February forage: click here to be redirected. The next trip with Jesper is the Early Spring Forage this weekend: Sunday 25 March, 11am-2pm, Fletcher Moss Park. Visit the CGF website for booking details: click here.

20 March 2012

Fast food with a difference

We've now finished our community sessions at The Angel Centre in Salford. In the fifth session, we made lean burgers, Cajun-style wedges and salsa, then, in the sixth and final session, we cooked squash and feta pizzas with a homemade tomato sauce, plus roasted veg and mozzarella pizza, and sundried tomato and rosemary flatbreads. Much healthier and cheaper than a takeaway, and easy to rustle up too!

There are more photos from these two sessions on the Cracking Good Food Facebook page here along with albums of photos from the previous four sessions.

You can read about the previous sessions at The Angel Centre here: week 4, week 3 and week 1.

19 March 2012

GUEST BLOG: Veggie delight

By guest blogger TRACEY

Cracking Cook Jackie Kearney never fails to deliver a session full of intrigue and delicious food, and last Tusday (13 March) we were treated to a cup of freshly brewed chai, which was warmly welcomed. Participants at this Vegetarian Asian Cuisine class, held in Chorlton High, made a yellow butter dhal, brinjal bhajee (aubergine curry) and seasonal stuffed parathas.

Three types of lentils were used to make the dhal, then spices, garlic and chillies were added to give a smooth, evenly balanced taste and texture. It was so filling but unbelievably cheap: just a couple of quid fed 16 people! The brinjal bhajee is a personal favourite as it’s so simple to make. OK, you do use an usually large amount of oil because aubergines are a meaty veg and need the oil to tenderise, but this is simply drained off when serving so you are left with a truly delicious, aromatic beauty of a dish. Finally the parathas were stuffed with grated cauliflower, chillies and spices. They looked so artistic using Jackie’s ‘camera shutter’ design (see our Facebook page for photographic evidence of this!) and tasted amazing.

16 March 2012

GUEST BLOG: Curry up

By guest blogger SIOBHAN KELLY

On Saturday 10 March, Harjinder took the first in a new run of sessions for the general public: Desi Punjabi Khanna. On the menu was chicken and lemon pickle curry, white mooli raita, lamb kebabs, tandoori fish and atta dough for making chapattis and rotis.

Harjinder started the session, which took place in the well-equipped domestic science rooms at Chorlton High School, with an interesting talk about spices – these were handed round and viewed, smelt and discussed. Then the cooks divided into three groups and got stuck into cutting and slicing the fresh herbs and vegetables. I was excited to be introduced to a new vegetable - mooli – one to look out for when I’m next out shopping, now I have a recipe for it. An array of smells started to fill the room and the busy sound of chopping filled the air.

Harjinder’s stories of food preparation within her family history made the chapatti-making come alive – it added a real and personal touch. It was a delight to watch the flattened dough cook on the Tava, puffing up like a balloon as it cooks from the inside, before it's finished off on an open flame to char, patted down flat and glazed with butter ready for serving - delicious.

The dishes came together with perfect timing, and a beautiful mix of colours, flavours, spices and textures adorned each plate. The table was set, and there was time to relax, chat and enjoy the food, before washing up and clearing away. What a sociable, relaxed and alternative way to spend a late Saturday morning.

More photos from this session can be viewed on our Facebook page: click here.

15 March 2012

GUEST BLOG: University challenge

By guest blogger SIOBHAN KELLY

I went with Harjinder to the 2012 Healthy Lifestyles Expo at the University of Salford on Thursday 8 March, where there were lots of stalls and demonstrations to promote the importance of keeping healthy to some of the university's 20,000 students.

Cracking Good Food ran a cookery demo, with Cracking Cook Harjinder demonstrating how to make lentil tarka dhal and also atta dough, used for chapatti/roti. It was wonderful to watch the chapatti balloon up over a naked flame in its final stages of cooking. Both students and staff watched the many fresh ingredients and colourful spices become an aromatic, inexpensive, quick and healthy meal, which we then served up. There were second helpings all round, and interest and positive feedback, and everyone took away a recipe sheet to encourage and enable them to cook this meal at home.

After packing up the equipment and about to leave the building, we stopped to dish out more spoons of delicious food to the cameraman and another member of staff, both happy to have a taste. It was a pleasure to have taken part in such a positive event and meet the lovely Salford students and staff.

You can see more photos from the event on the CGF Facebook page.

5 March 2012

GUEST BLOG: Full of Eastern promise

By guest blogger TRACEY

The participants on Tuesday night's Indonesian & Malaysian cookery session - led by Masterchef runner-up Jackie Kearney - delivered a real feast of authentic Far Eastern dishes in Chorlton, and the dishes were proper show-stoppers! The group made Gado Gado, a warm and extremely nutritious Indonesian salad with tempeh (a firm soy-based patty), accompanied by a flavoursome warm peanut sauce and flavoured with ginger, lemon grass, chilli, tamarind and coconut milk.

The Indonesian egg-fried rice dish Nasi Goreng took centre stage for me, as not only was it simple to prep, its appetising presentation of height and colour made me eager to sample it. I was seriously impressed by this ‘dish with depth’ and the amazing flavour must have been down to the chilli-based Sambal sauce!

Jackie also demonstrated how to make a Malaysian curry full of fresh vegetables (pictured below), and introduced many of us to another member of the squash family: gourd. Jackie captivated the group with tales about her travels to the Far East and the group noted some useful tips: how using a coconut block instead of pricey tins gives the added benefit of being able to scoop out the pure coconut fat, that candlenuts (used to make satay) can be substituted by the more accessible macadamia nuts and, if you can take the heat, play Russian roulette with a chilli!

More photographs from this session are available to view on the Cracking Good Food Facebook page. Click here to be redirected.

2 March 2012

GUEST BLOG: Tasty traditional

By guest blogger SARAH FANTHORPE

Buckthorn House was buzzing this Tuesday as old friends and new met again to cook up a stew. We were joined by Claire, our community support officer, and we couldn't resist modelling her headgear! Alison showed us how to make two dishes brimming with goodness: a seasonal vegetable pie with a suet crust and a delicious dumpling stew.

We all admired the pattern of a candy-striped beetroot and agreed it added a sweetness to the dish. All this tasty goodness amounted to less than £1.85 per portion and we ate at least four of our five-a-day quota of vegetables. I am a convert to dumplings and will cook this stew for friends and family just to experience the silence as they bite into the "melt-in-your-mouth" herby dumplings.

See our Facebook page for more photos: http://www.facebook.com/crackinggoodfood