Pumpkin soup, cheese tart and parkin with fruit and creme fraiche were all on the menu at our session with the Chorlton Good Neighbours group last Tuesday (30 October). We had a lot to cook up for quite a good-sized turnout, so we started on the parkin as it takes the longest to bake. Kim measured out enough ingredients for three cakes and several people wanted to know the conversion to imperial from metric. I was starting to realise that this group were not going to be shy when wanting to know what's what, and questions were asked about the raising agents and whether bicarbonate could be substituted for baking powder - the general consensus is that baking is a science and if the recipe states one or the other, then it's best to stick to it...
The ingredients for the soup are a different story, however, and can be varied in types of veg and quantities, pretty much to suit your taste. Pumpkin certainly seemed to be a veg that most in the group had never actually cooked with before, so all were very curious as to how it would turn out. We explained that you could use the pumpkin flesh dug out from making halloween lanterns rather than thrown away, so it really is a seasonal veg.
We blind baked the pastry bases for the cheese tarts to keep them crisp, and Kim explained how she uses beans of almost any kind to keep the bases of the pastry flat. Our volunteer Jim showed us how to make greaseproof paper cartouche to put on the base before the beans to stop the beans sticking to the pastry. The cartouche can also be used as a lid on a pan of veg to stop too much evaporation and limit how brown it goes. There are always useful tips to be picked up at these sessions for all of us, not just the participants! Actually, some of the interesting titbits came from the participants themselves - for instance, Bernard was telling us how as you get older your tastebuds become a little less sensitive so it makes things like mature cheese more desirable and stronger flavours in general.
Everyone was really getting hungry by now and our cheese tart was running late... Luckily though the tarts were done in time and were delicious, and the soup went down really well. We talked about what herbs and spices could be used and about squashes and what they could be used for. The parkin with the cooked apples and pears in syrup with creme fraiche was utterly yummy, and it was snapped up and eaten there and then or wrapped up to be taken home for later. The volunteers Jim, Louisa and Chris loved the session, and Jim said that so far it was the best one he had been at in terms of atmosphere. I agree, they are great fun those Chorlton Good Neighbours!
There are more photographs from the Chorlton Good Neighbours session on the Cracking Good Food Facebook page.