26 June 2012

GUEST BLOG: It's a wrap!

By guest blogger SIOBHAN KELLY

Even though the British weather put a stop to our BBQ plans for the third of our four sessions with NACRO, the griddle pan saved the day!

On the menu on Friday were souvlakia kebabs, flour tortilla wraps, yoghurt and mint dip, and green leaf, carrot and seed salad - all washed down with home-made ginger beer.

The marinade for the pork kebabs was prepared - fresh oregano, freshly squeezed lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper - and poured over the chunks of meat, and the bamboo skewers were put into soak in water so they didn’t burn when cooking later. Next it was time to make the tortilla mix using four ingredients, a healthy option compared to shop-bought ones that are full of additives and preservatives. We rubbed the butter and flour together then added water before kneading the mix, then added a drizzle of olive oil and put on one side to rest. The marinated pork was put on the skewers, and the tortilla dough was rolled flat and dry-cooked in a frying pan.

The cucumber was grated and added to the yoghurt – what a beautiful fresh smell! Chopped fresh mint and some seasoning completed this quick and easy dip. The salad was made of green leaves, grated carrots, tomatoes, sesame seeds, spring onions, sunflower seeds and seasoning.

Home made ginger beer came next, made with grated ginger, sugar, fresh lemon, fresh mint and sparking water, and the healing and health benefits of fresh ginger were discussed.

Tummies were beginning to rumble as we set the table and laid out all the dishes. The finished meal was a pure delight, and my favourite dishes were the pork kebabs and the fresh yoghurt mint dip.

As well as having a delicious meal and gaining some great cooking knowledge, all the session's participants were given goodie bags which included some ingredients to help them make some of the dishes from today, more photographs of which you can see on the CGF Facebook page

25 June 2012

GUEST BLOG: Everything's vine!

By guest blogger SIOBHAN KELLY

I was very excited by the prospects of last Tuesday evening's session: Lebanese mezze. On the menu was: baba ghannouj (smoked aubergine and sesame puree), stuffed vine leaves (Armenia), spicy lamb kofta, spinakopita (spinach and feta filo triangles) and hoummus.

A lovely bunch of people gathered round the table at Chorlton High School to learn and experience Lebanese cooking. Everyone introduced themselves and said a few words about what had brought them there. It was a lovely relaxed, informal and inspiring evening, full of learning, sharing and tasting, and lots of wonderful ingredients. Deanna’s teaching style was relaxed and enjoyable, and it was a real treat to be there, and thanks also to the two lovely volunteers who worked so hard.

My memories from the evening are... the smell of aubergine blanching on a flame (this was then peeled and mixed with lemon juice, tahini, garlic, cumin, chopped flat-leaf parsley and olive oil to make a puree). The separating of many vine leaves, blanching and laying them to dry. The smell of spicy lamb sizzling. Freshly ground cumin and coriander. Rolling vine leaves into tiny parcels filled with onions, rice, pinenuts, currants, spices and herbs. Huge sheets of filo pastry cut into strips. Making these into triangles filled with feta, spinach, butter, eggs, nutmeg, spring onions and pepper mix. Freshly made hoummus. Another memory is that halfway through the three-hour session, a fox cub ran across the playground outside on an early-evening hunt for food!

When the last dish was completed, the table was set and we all sat down to enjoy the feast before us – it was well worth waiting for, and disappeared very quickly indeed. I have never tasted vine leaves so good before!   

There are lots of great pictures from this class on the Facebook page. Click here to be redirected.

GUEST BLOG: Hot food for hot weather

By guest blogger SIOBHAN KELLY

There was a full house at Chorlton High on Saturday 16 June for one of Harjinder’s new Punjabi sessions.  She had tailored a new menu for the summer months, and included were: pureed spinach, green moongi and yellow chana dhal, alu gajjar curry (carrots and potato curry), yoghurt boondi (dhai pakoria) and roti (chapatti).

Harjinder started the session by talking about spices. Her spice box was passed around to smell, view and discuss – the smell of Harjinder's own garam masala mix is quite heavenly… I must get the secret combination one of these days. Next we divided into three groups to prep for the dhal, chopping onions, ginger, chilli, garlic and coriander, and mixing together the spices: salt, chilli flakes, garam masala, turmeric, paprika, fenugreek leaves and cumin seeds. It's a quick and easy dish, which you can leave to bubble on the cooker and get on with other things.

Then it was time to start the potato and carrot curry, which turned out to be my favourite dish of the day - spicy, healthy and cleansing.

Next, Harjinder gave us a roti demonstration, which ended in a round of applause from the group! It was textbook perfect, making the dough, shaping into tiny balls, rolling out, flipping from hand to hand, cooking both sides on the hot Tava, then finishing off on a naked flame and glazing with butter. Some of the group experimented with roti-making, and it’s harder than it looks. A gluten-free roti was made, and there was no need for kneading this flour - you just add water. Simple. 

An exciting new ingredient for me today was boondi (fried droplets of Besan batter), which were used to make yoghurt boondi along with white onion, chillies, salt, paprika, lovage seeds, cumin seeds and fresh coriander. I loved this new dish for its texture, colour, appearance and flavour. 

To make the pureed spinach, tinned spinach was added to fried onion, garlic, fresh tomatoes, chillies and spices, including plenty of cumin, and this was simmered till the water evaporated.

All the dishes ready and smelling great, the table was cleared and set ready for us to sit down, relax and enjoy a fantastic Saturday feast together. Better than any restaurant! I'm still thinking about the alu gajjar curry - I'll definitely be making this again at home. 

There are more photos from this class on our Facebook page.

20 June 2012

GUEST BLOG: Suet good

By guest blogger TRACEY

No surprises that the guys at the Approved Premises were delighted meat was on the menu on Wednesday 20 June. Stewing steak was used to make some hearty stew with suet and rosemary dumplings, while the rest was put to good use in our suet pastry-topped pie. Both were accompanied with cumin-coated roast potatoes.

The guys began by peeling, chopping, washing and slicing the numerous vegetables: beetroot, pumpkin, onions, celery, turnip, carrots, leeks - to name a few! These were divided into hard and soft veg so the latter wouldn’t turn to mush while cooking. Rob brought in his pressure cooker and highlighted that they reduce cooking time by a third… reducing fuel and cost! The hard veg, steak and fresh aromatic thyme were placed into the cooker and after a short while some lovely tender meat and perfectly cooked veg were ready to have the sautéed soft veg added to them. To my horror, two unnecessarily large tablespoons of Marmite were added to the stew along with tomato puree and bouillon powder. The mixture was then halved and chillies added to the stew mix.  

After a break, the guys got their hands mucky making the suet pastry and suet and rosemary dumplings. It was great as the guys work so well together - it’s not unusual to see one participant pouring water while the other is mixing it in to make the dough… teamwork at its best. The dough was rolled and shaped to form the pie lid, while the dumplings were portioned into ample-sized portions, then added to the stew and left to simmer. Twenty-five minutes passed and the dumplings hadn’t fluffed and neither had the roast potatoes roasted, but we didn’t let the slow hob or oven hinder us; the dumplings were transferred to the oven and the roast potatoes and pie were rotated to give each a chance to cook… some of life’s small challenges when cooking up a hearty feast!

This group don’t let anything go to waste (which we love) and one participant proposed cutting and twisting some strips of leftover pastry and brushing them with oil – a great suggestion. The overall opinion was that it was “a great session with some tasty and wholsesome food… roll on next week”. Personally, I can’t believe I’ve consumed Marmite, but the stew was delicious and I think Rob may have converted me!.

There are more photographs from this session on our Facebook page: click here.

18 June 2012

GUEST BLOG: Barbie world

By guest blogger SIOBHAN KELLY

Friday's session at NACRO's Longden House in Withington was a BBQ-themed meal. This was the second of four sessions Cracking Good Food are holding at the women’s hostel.

The sun was shining and we couldn’t believe our luck, but the minute we said BBQ, the skies turned black and the rain started! Not to worry, in true British style, we didn’t let this dampen our spirits and the charcoal was lit outside under an umbrella. The feast we prepared included homemade lemonade, homemade lamb and beef burgers cooked on the BBQ, potato wedges, beetroot, carrot and lentil salad, and Mexican tomato salsa. All of these dishes are rich in vitamins, flavours, aroma and colour. The group was very enthusiastic, and there was a lot of chatting and discussion about food, nutrition, tastes and favourite flavours, and we picked up some top tips…

We started with the fresh homemade lemonade, using a fancy and effective lemon squeezer. The juice, zest and some sugar were heated in a pan along with the lemon shells to make a syrup (pictured above), then this was sieved and left to cool before sparking water was added. On to the salad: grated beetroot, grated carrot, spring onions, garlic, lemon juice, dry heated pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and lentils. The colour was magnificent - one of my favourite combinations of colours and flavours. Next, potatoes were cut into wedges, parboiled then finished off in the oven. Then it was salsa time and the chopping of tomatoes, garlic, onions, chilli and fresh coriander, to which we added cumin and salt. This was just bursting with freshness and health. Last but not least were the homemade burgers. The beef burgers were made with minced beef, spring  onions and chives, and the lamb burgers with minced lamb, garlic, fresh mint and red onion. Fresh rosemary was also on hand to add more flavour. These were shaped by hand then cooked on the BBQ outside, and the smell was truly wonderful - our mouths were watering waiting for them to cook. Ah, the memories…

While the burgers were cooking, the table was set and the lemonade poured, then we all sat down with plates full of a mix of all these wonderful dishes. A true delight - I can still taste the delicious flavours.

The participants are rewarded with certificates after each session, and should be proud of their hard work, enthusiasm and new food skills. Their goody bags this week contained two tomato plants (one yellow, one red) for them to tend and reap the rewards, and a cooking utensil, recipe sheets and instructions on how to take care of their tomato plants. Perhaps they will be able to make some of these dishes with the tomato yield this summer.

Thanks again to our hard-working volunteers too - such a great help.

You can see more photographs from the BBQ on the CGF Facebook page. Click here to be redirected.

GUEST BLOG: A right curry on

By guest blogger SIOBHAN KELLY

The Dandelion Food Community's Tree Of Life centre in Wythenshawe is a space used by St Mark's Church and the local community. It is a venue for classes for relaxation and exercises for older people, a meeting place for carers' groups, and the location of a furniture shop and café. There is also a regular stall selling mixed vegetable and fruit bags of varying sizes. 

On Thursday 14 June, Harjinder was there demonstrating how to make her delicious curries. This evening's vegetable jalfrezi and rice was a huge success, and a group of participants helped chop the ingredients for this wonderful dish: onions, spring onions, red peppers, courgettes, garlic, green peppers, mushrooms, fresh coriander, aubergines and fresh ginger. Tinned chickpeas and tinned tomatoes were the other main ingredients, and all together make up the base for 95% of curries. The rest of the ingredients are the all-important spices. After adding these to the wok, Harjinder passed around her spice box so we could all see, smell and discuss the flavours and Harjinder told us about the medicinal values of a lot of spices. She also informed us that the word jalfrezi actually means a method of cooking like stir-frying, and it was traditionally a way of using up potatoes and meat to make another dish.

With the rice cooking, and the vegetables in the wok bubbling away, it was just a matter of time… The table was set and as the smell wafted past our noses, anticipation filled the air. After dishing up, yoghurt was added as the final ingredient, then the feast began. Clean plates all round! I even encouraged someone to just lick their plate, rather than chase the last grain of rice - we were among friends. A satisfied table of people, all of us inspired to cook this again, made possible by recipe sheets for everyone to take away. I am sure this dish will be made at home very soon.  

You can see more photographs from the evening on our Facebook page

15 June 2012

GUEST BLOG: Vegging out

By guest blogger TRACEY

It was great to be back at the Approved Premises on Wednesday 13 June and to be joined by our established cook, Rob. The new group of guys were just as keen as the last to get started, but dismayed to hear that the first dish was a veggie stir-fry… However, by the end of the session, their tastebuds and attitudes were awakened!

Rob began by demonstrating how to finely chop spring cabbage (for our cheats' seaweed!), then the group formed a pretty slick production line, chopping peppers, Julienne carrots, celeriac, onions, broccoli, sweet potatoes - a total of 13 different vegetables were used in the dish, giving the guys an opportunity to handle some new varieties and sample the delicious combination of tastes and textures.

After a break, the guys were paired off to make egg-fried rice, faux seaweed and a sweet and sour sauce. We were delighted with the results: the seaweed was glazed with tahini, resulting in a lovely aroma and deliciously nutty taste, while the eggs were beaten and added to the cooked rice which had been lightly browned in a little oil when dry. The sauce came together with some simple and easily accessible ingredients - pineapple juice, sugar, wine vinegar, soy sauce, tomato puree and cornflour - it was well worth the effort as it really gave the dish a beautiful depth.

The veg were then stir fried, adding the hard veg first, then the mushrooms, spring onions, garlic and ginger. The aromas wafted upstairs, enticing additional diners to the kitchen. The feedback was amazing “best meal I’ve had for three years”, “I can never finish the dishes made in the centre, but this is delicious and I’ll finish it all” and “it's great cooking with fresh vegetables, it makes such a difference”. The group really seemed to enjoy the session, and it gave an opportunity for them to cook together, sample new foods and share some of their own recipes and tricks in the kitchen… thanks guys!

You can see more photographs from this session on the Cracking Good Food Facebook page. Click here to be redirected.

14 June 2012

GUEST BLOG: Mezze business

By guest blogger SIOBHAN KELLY

Friday saw the first of four sessions aimed at engaging a group of women at the 24-hour hostel Longden House, in Withington. The aim was to help the participants make fresh and healthy dishes in a relaxed, informal and fun environment. At the end of the course, a small cookbook with photographs will be produced.

We received a warm welcome from the staff at Longden House. We were making a summer mezze: Turkish bulgar salad, butterbean and sundried tomato pate, falafels and warm potato salad.

Each dish was prepared by the group, who made a great team, working well together. During the sessions, Kim gave healthy tips about the ingredients, and as herbs were chopped, the smell of fresh mint and dill floated across the room. As each dish was finished, especially the frying of the falafels, I got more hungry by the second!  

Even though it was raining outside, it didn’t dampen the spirits inside and at the end, we all sat down together to eat the wonderful feast. Thanks again to everyone who took part, and to our two helpful volunteers.

13 June 2012

GUEST BLOG: Rain didn't stop play

By guest blogger SARAH FANTHORPE

Riverbank Market Garden Project hosted another fabulous event on Saturday, and Cracking Good Food were there to cook up Souvlakia kebabs, beetroot and carrot salad, and a warm potato salad. This delicious combination was accompanied by a tangy mint yoghurt sauce.

The residents of Barlow Hall Estate were not deterred by the torrential rain and all joined together under our gazebo to learn how to cook this nutritious meal using vegetables and fresh herbs grown on the community allotment. Gideon our chef showed us how easy it is to transform simple belly pork into mouth-watering kebabs using a simple infusion of oregano, lemon juice and garlic, and everyone was suitably impressed.

The Riverbank project encourages families and local residents to come together to grow and sample their own fruit and vegetables, and the day with Cracking Good Food was perfect for that. Riverbank Market Garden is behind the Co-op on the junction of Barlow Moor Road and Hardy Lane in Chorlton, and is accessed via the small road next to the dentist’s. All are welcome.

There are more photographs from this event on the Cracking Good Food Facebook page.