30 April 2012

GUEST BLOG: Spice girls... and guys

By guest blogger SIOBHAN KELLY

On Saturday 21 April, Harjinder ran an extra-long veggie Punjabi session at Chorlton High School – lasting four hours, from 10am–2pm. It was a lovely and relaxed session due to the extra hour and a friendly, fun, sociable group of people.

We made chappattis, aubergine and potato pakorahs, paneer and spinach curry, mint and yoghurt sauce, and Harjinder gave us a demonstration of lentil tarka dhal - a quick, easy, nutritious and very cheap dish to make. Harjinder started the session talking about spices and these were handed around the table to smell and view alongside stories of their use and origin with laughter and chatting. Everyone was given a handout of all the different spices full of useful information to take home and refer to in the future. We also discussed palette knives with ruler measurements on the blade - a useful tool to have in the kitchen.

Chapatti-making was demonstrated and everyone got a chance to prod the mixture and feel the consistency before making their own chapatti dough. Fun was had flipping the mixture from one hand to another, then into the very hot Tava where it was finished off on the open flame, then spread with clarified butter.

The sound of chopping filled the air along with the aromas of fresh garlic, ginger, dried spices, onions and fresh coriander… what a beautiful mix of colours and smells!

The pakorah batter was made with flour, water, spices and potato and gently cooked in hot oil, then served with the yoghurt mint sauce.

We started making the paneer and spinach curry by frying cumin seeds, the diced paneer, onions, garlic and ginger, adding tomatoes, chillies, spices, fresh spinach and then cooking. This was then garnished with fresh coriander and served with roti. It was so delicious and I’ll definitely be making this at home myself in the future - I wish I had a plate of it sitting in front of me right now!

Once the feast was completed, it was time to set the table, sit down, relax and enjoy a wonderful meal together.

There are more photographs from this class on our Facebook page. Have a look and remember to click "like"!

26 April 2012

GUEST BLOG: Who ate all the pies?

By guest blogger TRACEY

I think we all enjoyed the stews and pies session at Approved Premises on Wednesday 25 April, especially the guys as the recipes included meat! All were eager to get chopping the lovely mix of vegetables, beetroot, parsnip, red onion, butternut squash, leeks, tomatoes and garlic, while one person put slits in a hot chilli pepper. A bay leaf and some thyme were added to the simmering pot of veg, while the chicken thighs were chopped and then added to the pan too. The ingredients were split into two saucepans: a full chilli was added to one; the ‘slitted’ chilli to the other. The suet pastry was made for the dumplings which were enhanced by the addition of a few sprigs of rosemary, and the guys seemed particularly enthralled when personalising their pie lids! The results were amazingly tasty and filling, with everyone appreciating the blend of flavours and how wonderfully pleasing to the eye their efforts were. Many felt they would make these dishes again, personalising them to their own taste, but nonetheless using beetroot as previously they would not have considered doing so.

You can see more photos on our Facebook page.

24 April 2012

GUEST BLOG: Woks going on

By guest blogger TRACEY 

We couldn’t have expected more on Wednesday 18 April at the first of six sessions at a Manchester Approved Premises for ex-offenders run by the Probation Service (a 12-month project that’s been funded by the Home Office). There was a wonderful sense of team work and camaraderie as individuals continually offered help to others. There was a good selection of seasonal vegetables going into the stir-fry - mangetout, carrots, onions, pak choi, peppers, garlic and mushrooms - and some were unfamiliar. Some members of the group were keen to share their experiences of having tried them previously and Alison was on hand to explain not only the health benefits but also seasonal availability and alternative options should the individual choose not to include them. The verbal feedback was excellent: “was so much more than I expected” “I’ve learnt some new skills”, and so many of the participants said how much they enjoyed it. Stir-fry was such a good choice as a couple had never had it before, and they all went away with one or more new skills and knowledge under their belt!

The six-week programme will be run four times over the year. For further details, please contact: Sean.Hunt@manchester.probation.gsi.gov.uk.

See our Facebook page for more photos from the session.

23 April 2012

GUEST BLOG: Where the wild things are

By guest blogger ANGELA CONNELLY. Photograph by JAKE GARLICK

A forage down Chorlton Ees in the spring promised much abundance – sooner rather than later as we came to see. A mere couple of steps from the car park and we happened upon a small patch of edible greens that, like most things we discovered, had amazing healing properties as well as being nice to eat! Jesper Launder is a qualified herbalist as well as wild food guru and he gave us a very good insight into wild food – as well as allowing us plenty of time to take pictures and write notes. This, I came to see, was important – particularly when identifying mushrooms. We lucked out with the time of year, managing to find the St George’s Mushroom, but Jesper also pointed out potentially dangerous other varieties. Fortunately, the St George's Mushroom is not easy to confuse. To this, we were able to accumulate horseradish and many other kinds of leaves. Back at base, Jesper cooked up some wild St George’s Mushrooms and we even had dessert – Stewed Japanese Knotweed with Greek yoghurt (courtesy of the corner shop, not Chorlton Ees!), all washed down with some superb Japanese Knotweed wine – a great way to cut back some of what is a voracious plant. Well worth all of the effort!

More of Jake's photos can be seen on our Facebook page.

19 April 2012

GUEST BLOG: Stew good

By guest blogger HELEN ROADHOUSE

I was slightly nervous when it came to explaining to the Chorlton Good Neighbours group gathered in St Ninian's church hall on 3 April that Cracking Cook Juliet Lawson would be cooking hotpot as it became apparent quite quickly that many were already very adept at their own version of the dish and had been cooking it for many years... so what could we possibly show them?

Well, we also had a tasty vegetarian bean stew to make as well as a lovely braised red cabbage recipe, and for dessert there was something that they were not expecting: a chocolate tofu mousse.

The hotpot was made with a cheaper cut of beef - skirt - as this tends to be really tasty and doesn't break the bank. We passed the test though and Juliet's recipe, though not exactly unconventional, went down a treat and after all the second helpings were enthusiastically dished out, there was none left to worry about!

The veggie bean stew had a bit of a kick but we followed Hilary's advice on not chopping the chilli but just piercing it, cooking it whole and removing it before serving up. This adds the delicious chilli flavour without overwhelming the dish with heat... perfect. Even some of the hardened carnivores were pleasantly surprised at how tasty and satisfying it was!

The tofu certainly raised a few eyebrows and there was huge interest in the dessert, especially when it was explained just what a healthy alternative it can be. Lots of questions were asked as to what it was made from and how it could be used and how it would taste, and the information was soaked up - quite a few people in the group had health issues related to dairy or cholesterol, and that this was something they could eat. We did find that the cocoa and date syrup should be added to taste rather than by recipe and it was explained that it can be served up with all sorts of fruits and nuts and whatever takes your fancy!

So a tried and tested classic hotpot got the once-over from some seasoned family cooks with the thumbs-up. The veggie bean stew went down well and was deemed to be very tasty and the chocolate tofu mousse dessert that was greeted with initial uncertainty ended up being a surprise hit. A great session all round!

You can watch a video of this session on YouTube here.

You can see more photos on Facebook here.

12 April 2012

GUEST BLOG: Last, but not least

By guest blogger SARAH FANTHORPE

Congratulations to Safia who ran (with a little guidance from Alison) our celebratory cooking session at Buckthorn House on Southway Housing's Nell Lane estate in Chorlton. Everyone was keen to show their new cooking skills and Safia's name was picked from a hat from all the participants who attended our cooking programme.

She chose to cook one of the Saucy Pasta dishes and all agreed that Gruyere cheese was a luxury ingredient we could include as this was the grand finale to our fantastic five-week food fest. We also prepared a beetroot and carrot salad with a delicious dressing of lime juice, soy sauce and just a touch of fresh chillies.

You can see more photographs from the fifth class on our Facebook page. Click here to be redirected. The event was also filmed, by MA social anthropology student Jacob, who will be editing a four-minute film which will appear soon on YouTube.

Here are some quotes from participants on the first five-week course...

"It has been a very enjoyable experience, the course was well thought out and the Cracking Good Food tutors were very friendly and welcoming. I learnt a lot about healthy eating"
- Gill, Southway Housing resident.

"I have enjoyed attempting dishes I previously wouldn't have cooked. I would definitely recommend the course to anyone lacking in confidence with food and would not hesitate to sign up to any subsequent courses" - Tobias, local resident.

We have a second five-week cooking programme starting on 17 April. Please contact Sarah on 07930 898935 or via sarahsish@yahoo.co.uk.

4 April 2012

Pizza the action!

On Saturday, 31 March, Cracking Good Food was at Chorlton's Big Green Festival, rustling up delicious homemade pizzas with festival-goers and celebrating our second birthday (doesn't time fly?!).

We cooked the pizzas with the help of Stretford Pizza Ovens, who design and build special clay ovens for tasty stone-baked pizzas. There's a video of them at the Green Festival in 2011 on YouTube: click here to be redirected.

As usual, we used fresh vegetables and herbs and made our pizza dough, tomato sauce and toppings from scratch. The majority of our ingredients were sourced from Fareshare, the national organisation that re-distributes short-dated supermarket food to community groups, saving it from landfill. All our cheese (there was loads!), olives and tinned tomatoes were all used. There are loads of photos from Saturday's event on our Facebook page. Click here to view.

3 April 2012

Tales from the Riverbank

On 28 March, Sarah ran two consecutive hourly sessions at the Riverbank Community Cafe and Market Garden near Barlow Moor Road in Chorlton. As part of Cracking Good Food's work with community groups, Sarah demonstrated how to cook up some tasty seasonal tortillas, which she served with salad and homemade French dressing.

It was a delightful day and there was loads of positive feedback from the participants. Frank Heaton said: ‘I found the first part relating to herbs very interesting and I particularly like the cooking, especially the tasting. All those involved in the event were very friendly and had plenty of time to answer questions.’

See the Cracking Good Food Facebook page for more photographs from the two sessions. Click here.