27 June 2013

GUEST BLOG: Woks going on

By guest blogger CHRIS YOUNG

Cracking Good Food is lucky to have a new guest chef, Judy Wong, who has been cooking Chinese food for many years. Many people assume Chinese food is difficult to make or that it is unhealthy; however, on Tuesday evening Judy showed us otherwise in the professional kitchen at Chorlton High School. The great group of participants learned to cook egg-fried rice, chilli beef, and pan-fried fish fillet with vegetables and a soy sauce.

Judy started by going through the ingredients and said it is worth going to a Chinese shop to purchase them as the taste is different to supermarket merchandise. Having a sharp knife is also very important as you are slicing and dicing different meat, fish and vegetables. Also, take the time to chop the vegetables in different ways – it will give the food different textures as well as give your dish that little bit ‘extra’ as it will also look nicer.
In this class, everything was cooked in a wok. And as most people usually use a frying pan, it was very interesting to see how food can be cooked so differently by just using another tool and by using different techniques. The food was fresh and absolutely delicious! I’m a big fan of Chinese takeaway but no more! From now on I will make my own Chinese food and save both money and calories - thank you to Judy, the participants and the volunteers for a great cooking evening!

There are more photos from this session on our Facebook page. Did you miss the cooking class? CGF will be holding another Chinese session at Chorlton High School on 28 September - click here for full details and online booking.

26 June 2013

GUEST BLOG: Spicing things up

By guest blogger TRACEY

Kim delivered a bumper packed session at Barlow Hall Primary School last Wednesday. The 10 participants welcomed Kim’s tips on how to create a deliciously nutritious chicken and vegetable Madras curry and some were introduced to new spices and cooking methods.

Firstly the chicken thighs were sprinkled with salt and placed onto a tray for roasting. Kim explained that thighs on the bone were a cheaper cut and often tasted better too. So while the chicken was roasting, the participants set to chopping and slicing all the veg. A great discussion took place about the spices, as each holds many medicinal benefits and unique flavours and Kim wanted to highlight the beautiful visual effect these spices have, as of course the mix of turmeric and paprika result in a vibrant and enticing orange. A participant made an excellent time-saving suggestion of weighing out the required spices ahead of use, a bit like your very own garam masala mix! Kim stressed the advantages of using vegetable oil, sunflower oil or rapeseed oil, as these are lightly flavoured oils which will not taint the taste of the dish when heated. They are also cheaper and withstand being heated to higher temperatures as opposed to olive oil and some nut oils.
The group was surprised by how few spices were used to make the curry - just three! I think people are often put off making curries for fear they’re going to have to hunt out a plethora of spices, hence jars can seem more convenient. Not true, plus another benefit when cooking from scratch is that the sugar and salt content is far less than that used in jars. I've noticed that Kim really likes using dried crushed chillies and at 60p a 100g bag, I’m not surprised - it's a tempting bargain!

While the vegetables, spices and shredded roast chicken were simmering and blending their flavours, the group shared their many different ways of cooking rice, a simple dish with what appeared to be many complex methods! I’m glad they opted for the failproof method of 1cm of water above the rice line. All agreed the rice looked perfect as Kim added some turmeric to the water, so it took on a golden glow.

The group are definitely on board to the benefits of slow cookers and were delighted that Kim has added another recipe to their collection! Thanks guys, for a tasty and informative session.
See our Facebook page for more pictures from the session.

20 June 2013


By guest blogger KIM IRWIN

Tuesday 11 June saw the team return to Chorlton High for a 'Guest Chef' session, showcasing the talented local chef Wendy Swetnam. Wendy's chosen menu reflected the tantalising tastes of the Middle East with tabbouleh salad plus fried butter beans with feta and sorrel, accompanied by handmade flatbreads. It was a super packed-out session with 14 eager cooks ready to learn the secrets of this mouth-watering cuisine.

They were soon divided into three groups and Wendy demonstrated the dough-making process first in order for the bread to rise in time. The cooks then began making their own dough with the ingredients of flour, yeast, salt and water… it's as simple as that, and all the batches began to rise nicely a short time after. Next up was the tabbouleh salad, using couscous as a base. This was soon soaking in boiling water as the cooks prepped the ingredients to make up this traditional, fresh dish. Deseeded tomatoes, cucumber and purple spring onions were all finely diced then combined with the fluffed-up couscous, and the final stage was prepping the delicious fresh herbs which really brought the dish alive. Wendy suggested using flat leaf parsley, mint and basil to give the salad depth and flavour, and it was finished with lashings of freshly squeezed lemon juice. After seasoning, the salads were ready to taste… wow! All agreed it was the perfect food to enjoy in warmer weather.

Next up was our main dish of Ottolenghi-inspired fried butter beans. The butter beans were fried with garlic and olive oil until nicely golden and begining to caramelise. Sorrel was shredded and wilted in with cubed feta, then lemon juice was added with some sea salt for seasoning. It tasted amazing and we were all keen to cook the flatbreads so we could get eating. The dough was soon rolled out into single breads and sprinkled with the traditional spice of za'atar, which is a combination of sesame seeds, oregano and sumac. As they baked in the oven until golden, the room was soon filled with a delicious smell, and we were ready to eat. It was such a flavoursome banquet with the tastes of sumac, lemon and sorrel all combining to produce a citrus taste sensation. Well done to Wendy and the cooks - another great Cracking Good Food session with some inspiring recipes and great food!

One of the participants has written about her experience over on Good Gobble: a blog about gobbling delicious food and there are more photos from this session on the Cracking Good Food Facebook page.

GUEST BLOG: Open sesame!

By guest blogger TRACEY

We had a wonderful start to the run of four cooking sessions at Barlow Hall Primary School in Chorlton on Thursday 13 June, making a tasty stir-fry. Eight participants arrived with an eagerness to learn and a willingness to peel chop and slice... which was fortunate, as we had a lot of veg to get through!

The group set to chopping carrots Julienne style, along with ginger and peppers. Cracking Cook Kim explained how best to get the flavours from the veg, which coincidentally makes the final dish look appealing, so both spring onions and courgettes were cut on the diagonal. The broccoli florets were chopped and the pak choi shredded. It was great to hear that many of the participants either hadn’t previously made the dish or would actually never have considered making it as of course supermarkets do sell the ready-prepped packs. While these packs save you prep time, you do actually lose out on some of those vital vitamins and minerals as the vegetables are put into the wok all in one go, and now our participants know that to get the best out of your vegetables, you need to be aware of which veg are considered hard and therefore take longer to cook and, of course, which are soft. 

The stir-fry started to come together once the vegetables were thrown into the wok individually, then a sprinkling of crushed chillies was added and Kim explained how sesame oil is best added while cooking to enhance flavour as opposed to using the oil to cook the vegetables in from the outset. Noodles were boiled and stirred into the vegetables and sesame seeds were sprinkled over the mix along with soy sauce. This was a great start to what promises to be an informative and beneficial course, and the ladies are already looking forward to the next session and, quite frankly, so are we!

See our Facebook page for more photos from the new course.

19 June 2013

GUEST BLOG: Madras for the masses!

By guest blogger SIOBHAN KELLY

Following the success of previous Feeding The 5,000 events in London, Bristol, Dublin and Paris, Saturday's event in Manchester's Piccadilly Gardens was another brilliant opportunity to highlight the extent of food waste that is going on in the UK.

What a wonderful and successful day it was in Manchester - huge crowds gathered and soaked up the atmosphere, sat in the sun, attended free cooking sessions led by Cracking Good Food, learnt about the food waste problem and how we can all help to tackle it, got to take away bread, teabags, oatcakes, avocados and other donated food, and ate a delicious, healthy and free meal. Enough vegetarian curry was cooked up to feed 5,000 people and the great thing was that it was made out of locally sourced vegetables that would otherwise have been wasted and ended up in landfill, but instead were rescued from Smithfield Market by FareShare! It really is a scandal that so much food is wasted when millions of people are going hungry. We hope the event has highlighted this problem and made the public more aware so that things will start to change.
It was a really busy day for CGF. We had three pods/tents, each accommodating groups of 10 and each running four cooking sessions throughout the afternoon. Sessions ran on the hour, every hour from midday till 4pm, giving 120 people the opportunity to benefit from a free cooking session as well as having the chance to eat the free vegetable madras curry afterwards - and share it with another 800 or so passers-by! We managed to attract a great mix of young and old, overseas visitors and Manchester residents, men and women, and everyone had fun chopping and preparing a wonderful mix of colourful vegetables for the curry. We used aubergine, courgettes, white potato and sweet potato, pumpkin, broccoli, onions, garlic, fresh coriander, red, green and yellow peppers, tomatoes, fresh chilli, paprika, turmeric, chilli flakes, garam masala, Thai curry paste, tinned tomatoes and mangetout - phew!

Once word had got out, we had queues forming long before the curries were even ready to serve, with many coming back for second helpings, and telling their friends and family. Some were even spotted scraping the large cooking pots with slices of bread to get every last morsel (the equivalent of 'licking the plate' in my eyes) - what a compliment! It was such a pleasure to be involved in this fantastic event and to be able to spread the word about food waste, share information about healthy eating, food sources and seasonal vegetables, have a chance to chat to the public, and join together for cooking and eating - this is what Cracking Good Food is all about!

There are loads of photographs and videos from Saturday now up on the Cracking Good Food Facebook page. Click here to be redirected.

8 June 2013


By guest blogger TRACEY

We delivered a two-hour session to a team of Mosaic Workers on Thursday 23 May at the Chelwood Baptist Church in Adswood, Stockport. A healthy stir-fry with a Malaysian Laksa sauce was on the menu, and as many vegetables as possible were being used to create this dish, so the group set to prepping the carrots, courgettes, cabbage, onions, garlic, chillies and peppers. Kim highlighted the benefits of including a variety of colour in your food choices, because this helps to provide a good mix of antioxidants in your diet. The process of prepping was calm and relaxed which highlighted how good cooking can be for you, especially as the group were easily able to share their current cooking practices and what it is they have tried and tested in the past.

Kim quickly realised that this group had a good deal of experience under their belts, so furnished them with lots of facts and tips to strengthen their knowledge. She also shared advanced knife skills by showing them how to create decorative floral patterns with carrots – which was great. Kim encouraged them to have a go at growing beansprouts at home using mung beans, and explained the benefits of not washing your wok and whether or not to use olive oil when stir-frying.

Once all the vegetables were prepped, it was time to start sautéing them. The participants began by lightly frying the chilli and ginger to season both the oil and the wok. The hard vegetables (carrots and peppers) were added next, then the beautiful array of other vegetables followed. Coconut milk was poured in along with lime juice for taste and fragrance, then the turmeric was sprinkled in for both taste and colour. Meanwhile the noodles were simmering away and, once cooked, and drained, they were mixed into the vegetables and milk.

Our cooking leader Kim delivered an informative hands-on session in a lovely informal setting, enabling each participant the chance to contribute and share their own experiences. I think each person left having gained a new skill or a great tit-bit of knowledge – thanks, Kim! 

More photos from this session can be viewed on the CGF Facebook page.

GUEST BLOG: Soup, salad and scones

By guest blogger TRACEY

It’s not surprising that I felt a little disappointed when the six sessions at the Approved Premises came to an end on Wednesday 22 May. I really enjoyed listening to the participants' previous cooking experiences and seeing how what Kim had taught them was so easily replicated in the sessions leading up to the final one. The guys had discussed the limited options available to them from the dry stores and fresh foods in the virtual cupboard and fridge, and had chosen to make a carrot, lentil and chickpea Moroccan-style soup, garlic naan bread, salad Nicoise and fruity scones.

And so began the familiar production line: chopping the onions, topping and tailing the garlic and peeling and chopping the carrots. The guys led the session and got to work sautéing the onions and adding the garlic once the onions had softened to reduce the chance of the garlic being overcooked and tainting the soup. Cayenne pepper, cumin and paprika were sprinkled over the onions and garlic, then the carrots were added. Meanwhile, the lentils were washed to rinse off the starch, then drained and added to the pan along with some tinned tomatoes and seasoning. The soup was left to simmer, while everyone got on with making the garlic bread dough. The garlic paste swiftly came together as their honed knife skills aided the process. The paste was mixed into the flour, then yeast and salt were added, and the mixture was combined with cold water to form a sturdy dough - once the sticky dough hands were removed!

Attention was turned to the salad Nicoise, as the new potatoes were put onto boil; later joined by the green beans - a fuel-saving tip from Kim. Meanwhile the eggs were boiled, and the tinned tuna and oil was tipped into a serving bowl. A conversation ensued about other fuel-saving tips in the kitchen and I believe someone mentioned eggs in a kettle…which is NOT to be tried at home, but did raise a chuckle! The salad took shape once the eggs were cooled and quartered and it looked so refreshing and enticing.

We were nearing the end and starting to think ahead to a cup of tea and a scone, but a tangent ensued as we debated the age old argument of  ‘scowne or scon’. Differences were set aside as we mixed together flour, sugar, butter and fruit, then rolled the dough out and cut into a tray full of scones, which were put into the oven as we ladled out the soup, sliced the garlic bread sliced and served up the salad as a side dish then all sat down to reflect on the session and course as a whole.

Thanks to both Kim and the Approved Premises guys who collectively felt the course had been “really enjoyable and rewarding” and said “they can see their progression over the past six weeks”.

There are more photographs from this session on the Cracking Good Food Facebook page. Click here to be redirected.