28 September 2012

GUEST BLOG: Sunday roti

By guest blogger SIOBHAN KELLY

Last Sunday (23 September), Unicorn celebrated its 16th birthday and we were asked to take part and cook. 

Harjinder, one of our wonderful Cracking Cooks, held three workshops outside making lentil tarka dhal with each group of eight making their own roti, finishing them off on the flame. 

The wind was blowing but the rain held off, and even though our gazebo left the ground at one point, a fun and sociable day was had by all.

The tarka dhal was delicious and warmed everyone up - two huge pans were given away to customers and passers-by to taste, as well as the Unicorn’s delicious celebratory cupcakes. What a treat!   

I am such a big fan of dhal - it is a quick and easy meal to make, full of healthy ingredients that can be made almost anywhere, and it’s so cheap to make!

Our three volunteers, pictured here with Harjinder, Cracking Good Food Director Adele and myself, were an incredible help - we couldn’t have done it without them.

For more pictures from the Unicorn day, visit our Facebook page by clicking here.

27 September 2012

GUEST BLOG: Pastry chefs

By guest blogger KIM IRWIN

Tuesday night saw us welcome a guest chef to Chorlton High as part of our ever-expanding public programme. Kevin White, aka The Ginger Kid from Macclesfield, is a pastry specialist and, during the course of the workshop, we got a glimpse into his world.
We started with the formidable task of making our own puff pastry, which was fine as Kevin showed us a slightly easier version to try at home - the 'ruff puff'. With less folds and rolls, and a bit less time spent resting in the fridge, this made it perfect for us to tackle in the workshop. With Kevin's guidance and handy tips, we soon had our puff pastry resting in the fridge. It was a good job everyone had an apron as more flour was on us than on the table! 
We then moved on to making a sweet shortcrust, the basis for some raspberry tarts. Using traditional French techniques, we combined the egg, flour and sugar together, and using cold water we began to work fast… the warmth of the room was against us and it was a race to see who could have their batch chilling first! 
While the pastry was resting, we made a pastry cream for the filling, so easy and yet sooooo delicious, kind of like a custard, but way better. Once our sweet pastry was ready, we rolled it out and, using baking beans (or, rather, dried lentils and split peas), blind baked the cases until brown. Our sweet cases turned out perfectly and we filled them with our pastry cream and raspberries, and topped them off with some decadent buttered almonds. A dusting of icing sugar later and they wouldn't have been out of place in a patisserie window (see the photograph above for proof!).
Meanwhile, we baked our ruff puff tarts and made a red onion jam. Kevin demonstrated some useful knife skills and then our slices of red onion began sweating in the pan before topping off the pastry bases with the jam, a slice of French goats cheese and some dressed rocket. 
There was so much to get through that it turned into a bit of a mad dash towards the end and the smells had everyone's tummies rumbling, but finally we were ready to eat… Kevin had rustled us up a giant couscous salad with slow-roasted tomatoes which we ate alongside our savory tart. Wow, lips were smacked and plates were licked clean - it was indeed a fine feast.  
Our raspberry tarts were carefully wrapped and taken home to show family and friends our new pastry-making skills, and if they were lucky to sample our delicious wares.

All in all, it was a thoroughly enjoyable session. New skills and friends were made and we at CGF were delighted with Kevin's guest appearance. We just hope we can entice him back in the future :)

See our Facebook page for lots of inspiring photos from Kevin's session on Tuesday.

26 September 2012

GUEST BLOG: Outdoor entertainment

By guest blogger VICTORIA GRANT

Family visitors were treated to some seasonal cookery demonstrations at the Manchester Museum’s Allotment on Saturday 22 September, which marked Harvest Festival Big Saturday. 

As people gathered at the allotment, some of them drawn in by the delicious smells, they got some top tips from Cracking Good Food’s Kim Irwin and helped make - and eat! - a curry that tickled the tastebuds. Cracking Good Food also encouraged the visitors to swap recipes with each other.

Also at the event were the Northern Fruit Group, RSPB, Wildlife Trust, British Science Association and Grey to Green. As well as perfecting their culinary skills, family visitors could have a go and making clay fruits and vegetables and using these to craft fruit and vegetable mobiles. There were also composting demonstrations.

The next Big Saturday at The Manchester Museum will be Dogs on Show on Saturday 13 October. Click here for more details.

See the Cracking Good Food Facebook page for more photos from the Museum event.

Roll with it

On Saturday 15 September, cooking leader Kim shared her secrets of cooking Japanese cuisine, the delicious results of which can be seen here, and on our Facebook page.

We asked the participants on the course to tell us which aspects of the event they found particularly interesting or useful, and this is what they said...

'Making sushi, new tastes and combinations of ingredients in a new way' - Fiona
'The technique and the background about the food, ie country, reason for ingredients, tips...' - Fabienne
'Sushi rolling! It's really tricky and something I will be trying to improve at home' - Claire
'The use of Oriental seasonings' - Steven
'I found the whole course interesting and using new techniques and flavours' - Simon
'The technique to roll the nori using the mat' - Sonia
'Learning about new flavours and ingredients. How much can be achieved from so few ingredients' - Andrea
'Very good cross-cultural method of cooking & the technique of cutting' - Pricilla
'Explanation of umamé flavour, techniques for cooking rice, rolling sushi, new flavouring ingredients - umeboshi, mirin, gomasio' - Liz

21 September 2012

GUEST BLOG: Pancake day!

By guest blogger SARAH FANTHORPE

The residents of Hough End and Nell Lane gathered again at Buckthorn House to learn how to create deluxe savoury pancakes. Kim showed us how easy it is to make gluten-free fluffy pancakes using gram flour, which is made of chickpeas. When she explained that the batter consisted of only gram flour and water, I immediately thought of my Grandad's wallpaper paste, but the sumptuous flavours of fresh coriander and chilli flakes created a pancake like I've never tasted before. 

We learnt how to spice up re-fried beans using lime juice and garlic, and added a sprinkling of cheese to create our first mouthwatering pancake. The second filling consisted of rocket and feta cheese (pictured) - a melt-in-your-mouth experience after rolling and reheating.  

As usual, we shared recipes while eating our feast and everyone said they were looking forward to practising their pancake-flipping with their families.

I would like to say a big thankyou to all our regulars. You have been loyal and enthusiastic, and displayed fabulous washing-up skills!

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

17 September 2012

GUEST BLOG: Love food, hate waste

By guest blogger TRACEY

We pulled quite a crowd at Shaw Market in Oldham on Wednesday 13 September. I would like to think it was mine and Siobhan’s market-banter that attracted the crowds… but actually it was the fragrance and collective colours of freshly chopped garlic, onion, coriander, broccoli, carrots, curry mix and a purple cauliflower (a wee bit psychedelic but tasty all the same) that drew the crowds over to query, question and sample the deliciously spiced batches of vegetable curry with lentils. 

We shared a stand with Oldham’s Waste Management team and jointly spread the message that left-over meat and veg can easily and quickly be used to make countless dishes. Many within the crowd were eager to share their own tips on reducing food waste; planting raw potato skins can yield a healthy crop, using the peelings from many vegetables (leek, beetroot and carrots, for starters) will add heaps of flavour to a simmering joint of meat, and some tender loving care can produce a batch of tomatoes from the previous years’ seeds.

It was great to see that while many of the crowd had never used nor tasted lentils, they were quickly sold on the economic and health values of this little pulse! I am pleased to say there was not a ‘spot left in the pot’ and many onlookers and samplers took a copy of the recipe sheet to try making the curry at home. This was a great session and we felt extremely welcomed into the ‘marketer’s domain’ - thanks, guys!

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

Fantastic foraging

There are two new sets of photos on our Facebook page of recent foraging trips in Chorlton and Didsbury: click here and here to view. Thanks to Angela Connelly for the great snaps! We've just released details of two new sessions with Jesper: Saturday 24 November 2012 and Sunday 20 January 2013. Visit our website for more details and booking information.

13 September 2012

GUEST BLOG: A good grilling

By guest blogger KIM IRWIN

After cooking with the residents of the Nell Lane Estate for over two years, we returned on Tuesday night to host an end of season celebratory event and to have a good old catch-up and see what they had been cooking since we were last there.

In hindsight, a BBQ wasn't the best of ideas in light of our horrendous 'summer', but we were kind of banking on a balmy September evening... so after the rain and hail died down, we donned our coats and with true British spirit set up our gazebo and portable gas cookers and got on with it.

It was lovely to see some familiar faces turn up and soon everyone was engrossed in marinating the belly pork which Sarah, our cook, had sourced locally. Lashings of fresh lemon and the pungent smell of oregano was soon hanging in the air and making people's tastebuds tingle. Once the griddle was hot, everyone quickly got busy skewering the pork and sizzling the kebabs on the makeshift barby!

While the meat cooked, Sarah showed us how to make a delicious yoghurt and mint tzatziki to complement the kebabs, and the kids got stuck in with grating the beetroot and carrots to make a super-healthy, mega-tasty salad… wow, what a feast.

Everyone agreed the kebabs were wonderful and, despite the chill in the air, we all enjoyed the experience of eating outside.

We're back next week for our final session with the residents when we'll be cooking up some savoury Middle Eastern pancakes stuffed with all sorts of goodies like refried beans, panfried veggies and delicious salads. Stay tuned to see how it all works out...

There are more photos from this session on the Cracking Good Food Facebook page. Click here to be redirected - and remember to hit the "like" button!

11 September 2012

GUEST BLOG: Dhal-icious!

By guest blogger SIOBHAN KELLY

Saturday morning brought together a group of 12 to cook a vegetarian Punjabi feast. On the menu was aubergine and potato pakorahs with mint yoghurt sauce, saag paneer, lentil tarka dhal and a vegan alu saag. We also learnt the art dhalatta dough and puri making, including a gluten-free puri.   

Harjinder started the session talking about her spice box and this was passed around, with the spices smelt, viewed and discussed. Stories were shared of Harjinder's family traditions and methods of cooking and preparing food. 

The group worked together in a sociable, relaxed atmosphere, swapping tips and stories about food and cooking, and producing a healthy, cheap, locally sourced, varied, tasty feast which was enjoyed as a group around the table at the end of the session. A lovely way to spend a Saturday!

Harjinder is back with a new vegetarian menu on Tuesday 16 October (6-9pm, £35/£30 concessions) and with her Punjabi extra class on Saturday 10 November (10am-2pm, £40/£35 concessions).

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

GUEST BLOG: Park life

By guest blogger CHARLOTTE ASPINALL. Photograph by ADELE MYERS

Having enjoyed the spring forage with Jesper Launder (pictured) earlier this year, I was looking forward to exploring Chorlton Water Park to see what difference the change in seasons would make for budding late summer foragers.

The weather started out as a somewhat wet and soggy picture, but this worked to our advantage as we headed into the woods for shelter and stumbled upon ‘The Prince’ of mushrooms, which proved to be a delightful addition to our mushroom medley feast. As our spirits lifted, so did the clouds, and we were treated to a perfect bright sunny day.

Next up was a search for our dessert and we weren’t disappointed with an abundance of blackberries, blackcurrents, plums and apples. Sloes were also picked by those wishing to experiment in making a homemade alcoholic treat!

While we didn’t have beef and Yorkshire pudding for our Sunday lunch, we certainly found a perfect accompaniment of horseradish root growing beside the River Mersey (not for the faint-hearted!). 

The smell of nature's presents wafted across the Water Park and there were several longing glances over to our make-shift kitchen from passers-by. Our feast included sautéed mushrooms for main course and our beautiful plump deep purple fruit for afters. All this was finished off with a sample of Jesper’s homemade acorn leaf wine, which was surprisingly pleasant and perfect for sipping in the sunshine!

Our upcoming forages (12 and 26 September) are currently sold out, but keep checking our website for cancellations and for details of courses we will be running with Jesper in the future.