29 October 2013

GUEST BLOG: More for less

By guest blogger CHRIS YOUNG

CGF is partnering up with Love Food Hate Waste, aka LFHW, and Recycling For Greater Manchester to raise awareness of the need to reduce food waste via free cookery classes. Not only will it help the environment, it will also help our purses!

We had a full house of participants at the Hub community centre in Altrincham last Wednesday where we talked about how to reduce waste and how we can achieve this in our homes, how to store food correctly, how to understand Best Before and Use By Dates, how planning your meals reduces food waste, and how to cook up the food in your cupboards and fridge before the food’s due dates.  

The chef Maz engaged everyone in the discussion and so much was also learned from the participants’ questions and shared ideas. Halfway through, everyone was divided into groups to write down what they have in their cupboards (maybe even things they didn’t know what to do with), and then came up with ideas of what dishes could be made out of it!

The participants also got to make and eat a truly tasty tagine, served up with mash - perfect for the autumnal weather!

See the Facebook page for more photos from this session.

The FREE cookery sessions continue around Greater Manchester, with CGF and LFHW off to Oldham this evening. See our website for dates and details.

25 October 2013

GUEST BLOG: Free for all

By guest blogger SIOBHAN KELLY

In the last week, we've run three of our 24 sessions with the Love Food Hate Waste initiative and Recycle For Greater Manchester, addressing the issue of food waste - which hit headlines this week - and offering practical tips about a range of food saving measures. Last Thursday at Duckinfield Town Hall, 13 people attended, preparing and cooking a tasty vegetable tagine with golden mashed potato.

The participants chopped red onions, parsnips, potatoes, peppers and dried apricots, then fried the onions before adding the other vegetables to the pot. A mix of cumin, paprika, cinnamon and mild chilli powder were heated in a frying pan using honey instead of oil or butter, and a lovely aroma filled the room as the spices started to cook. Tinned chopped tomatoes were added with some water, and the contents covered and left to simmer, while the potatoes were put on to boil for the mash.

The group then split into three smaller groups for a fun exercise coming up with three main dishes they could make from the ingredients they have in their cupboards at home. These ingredients could be items they regularly use or odd items that seem to have no use, or are difficult to include in a meal. Some creative dishes were suggested, and everyone took turns to write their ideas down on the flipchartDiscussion and the sharing of information throughout the session was encouraged. Interesting facts about cooking, storage, recipes, ingredients, cooking habits, waste, freezing foods, different tastes and recipes were talked about, and a favourite recipe for mushy pea curry was also shared along with recipe sheets from CGF and recipe cards from LFHW. 

The tagine was soon ready to eat, and what a beautiful taste and colour it was. I think that cooking the spices in honey helped the flavour and there was a pleasant mild after-kick of chilli. The pan was emptied, so no waste there, and we took away the vegetable peelings to compost and the empty tins to recycle. This was a lovely evening with a friendly bunch, in a beautiful building. 

See the Cracking Good Food Facebook page for more photos from this session.

If you fancy taking part in a FREE cookery class, check out our website for upcoming dates and to book your place. 

23 October 2013

GUEST BLOG: Not wasting time

By guest blogger HELEN ROADHOUSE

What a fantastic turnout at the Chesham Community Centre in Bury for our free cooking session in conjunction with the Love Food Hate Waste campaign making tagine and mash. We soon had everyone chopping veggies - a few tears were had over the onions but we still got all the spuds, carrots, parsnips and peppers diced for Gideon's pot.

We had loads of questions about recycling the peelings, and Gideon discussed how easy it is to use them for stock, especially if boiled up with some chicken bones. There were questions about how much it all cost... very little. Gideon also revealed that pretty much any veg could go into this dish, and ones getting a bit past their best were perfect!

Spices were passed round to sniff, and we explained how you can make a meal more appealing simply and cheaply with a bit of paprika, chilli or cumin and how cheap spices are to obtain in large quantities which you can share out with friends and family or keep for ages if you know how to store them properly. What was great about this session was how engaged and interested everyone was. Everyone was keen to ask questions - and, of course, to taste the finished tagine, which was yummy and spicy!

We had no waste tonight and, after second helpings, no extra for people to take home. The general consensus was that everyone felt confident enough to make the dish at home, and everyone left more knowledgeable about food waste and how to avoid it - a successful evening!

For more FREE COOKING SESSIONS with Love Food Hate Waste and Recycle For Greater Manchester, visit our website where there is a list of dates and locations around Greater Manchester.

GUEST BLOG: To pie for

By guest blogger HELEN ROADHOUSE

The Ginger Kid, aka Kevin White, was back in Chorlton to show us how to make delicious pies. I co-ordinated the last pie session and have rabbited on to all who would listen about how yummy they were. I've even bumped into one of the participants, Janet, at a few other sessions and each time we've both said, 'Oh, those pies!' My mouth waters just at the thought!

We started by making a roux with butter and flour to add to the fillings: one was going to be garlic mushroom; the other chicken and tarragon. Next, the mushrooms were fried with garlic (fab cooking aroma alert!) and then dried off on some kitchen towel and the spinach was blanched and drained and dried too. This was all mixed with the roux and some creamy, flavoursome Gorgonzola was added. For the second filling, the meat from two ready-cooked chickens was flaked into some more roux, along with some tarragon, which goes beautifully with chicken - not too much, though, as tarragon is a powerful flavour. We had all made our pastry earlier and it was left resting in the fridge while we made the fillings. Time to get it out for the fun bit: rolling out the pastry for the tins! All the tins were lined and filled (not overfilled; we don't want leakage!) and the edges egg washed and topped with a pastry lid. Most of the pies were edged very prettily although one or two needed Kevin's expert touch! Once the lids were all egg washed, the pies went in the ovens while we tidied up and asked Kevin about his pie-making.

The resulting pies were all stunning - everyone's came out golden and crispy, and there wasn't a soggy bottom in sight! Everyone ate one at the table together but had another to take home to show off to friends and family and enjoy later. So which filling was the favourite? Well, I loved the mushroom, but I think it was an even split. Everyone said they couldn't wait to make them again at home - and you know what, I bet they do too!

For more to pie for photos, visit our Facebook page.

If you'd like to join Kevin "The Ginger Kid" White, he is running a class creating pasta from scratch on 19 November at Altrincham Grammar School For Boys. Click here for details and how to book.

22 October 2013

GUEST BLOG: Our daily bread

By guest blogger SIOBHAN KELLY

On Saturday's all-day bread session at Chorlton High School, we had loads to make: a traditional tin loaf, soda bread, caraway rye bread and focaccia. The volunteers and myself also made pizza dough from scratch, homemade pizza sauce and toppings, and served this up for lunch halfway through, along with a farro grain and yellow beetroot salad.
First job: ovens on, and soon the kitchen was warming up to the right temperature to help the dough rise later on. After some introductions and health & safety information, it was over to Rob to begin the session. Rob is a very experienced, knowledgeable and passionate baker and throughout the session shares his wealth of experience with the group.

To kick off, the group was shown how to make the soda bread, a variation to the standard loaf as bicarbonate of soda and buttermilk are used, and some very professional looking loaves had appeared from the oven by the end of the session. I will never tire of seeing the spectacular focaccia being made - a piece of rustic heaven. The dough is rolled out, sprinkled with ingredients like black olives and tomatoes, folded over, rolled again and then topped with rock salt, fresh rosemary, sliced red onions and olive oil, beautiful before baking, and quite spectacular after some time in the oven.
The tin loaf never disappoints despite the simple dough-making process, which is just left to rise before going in the oven for a spell. Homemade bread is something that far outweighs the supermarket loaf and all its preservatives. Finally, caraway rye bread was made with a mix of flours and slightly more water than the standard loaf, and with additional honey and seeds of choice. So tasty!
Click here to see our Facebook page for lots more photos of the delicious bread made during this session.
If you missed this session but would like to learn the fine art of baking your own bread, we're running a session in Altrincham on 9 November and in Chorlton on 23 November. Visit http://www.crackinggoodfood.org/ for full details and how to book.

11 October 2013

Roti dinner

Step-by-step roti-making with Harjinder at last Saturday's class on vegetarian Punjabi cuisine...


9 October 2013

GUEST BLOG: Spice age

By guest blogger SIOBHAN KELLY

The group who had booked onto Harjinder’s Vegetarian Punjabi Extra session at Chorlton High School last Saturday got to make a feast of fabulous dishes. On the menu was Smoked Aubergine (Bhartha), Lentil Tarka Dhal, Paneer and Spinach Curry (with a pea variation), and rotis (using atta dough).

The session started with Harjinder’s now famous Spice Tin (pictured) talk - it has been featured on national television: BBC's Hairy Bikers Mums Know Best and ITV's Cook Me The Money. We spent a lovely 10 minutes listening to Harjinder’s tales of childhood cooking, her family history, the values of certain spices: paprika, tumeric, red chilli flakes, kala masala (you won’t find this in the shops) and a very special garam masala mix, and we had a chance to smell and taste some of these.

Next, Harjinder demonstrated how to make atta dough for the roti later on, then the aubergines were prepared for the Bhartha: rubbed with oil and put on the hot tavas to cook, giving a smoky flavour, then dropped into cold water so the charred skin could easily be removed. The flesh was then cut and mashed into pieces and set aside before being added to the flavours: cumin was fried in hot oil, before onion was added, then ginger, tomatoes and chillies, and it was all finished off with fresh coriander.

The room was now a hive of activity! For the Paneer and Spinach Curry, diced paneer was added to fried cumin and put to one side. Onion was fried, then garlic and ginger were added, followed by fresh tomatoes. The paneer, green chillies and spices were added, before freshly chopped spinach and bay leaves (picked fresh from my garden that very morning), completed the dish.

The Lentil Tarka Dhal was made by first preparing the dhal with red lentils, water and tomatoes, plus a mix of spices: fresh ginger, chilli, fenugreek leaves and fresh coriander. As it was covered and left to cook, we made the tarka by toasting cumin seeds, adding oil, frying onions and asafoetida powder and adding to the lentils. This is one of my favourite recipes, and is always in my freezer, so it is ‘on tap’ in my house.

Harjinder demonstrated roti-making with such ease - but, as she says, she has been practising this skill since she was a small child! It is a work of art to watch. Tables were then cleared and set for lunch - it was time to relax, chat and reflect while enjoying the products of a busy morning and afternoon in the kitchen. It was a real feast of colour, flavour, and taste, with dishes which complement each other perfectly. This combination of dishes was a delight to eat - I never tire of Tarka Dhal and Harjinder's magical Garam Masala mix really makes the dish. Recipe sheets were then given out for the participants to take home and share with friends and family. 

There will soon be a complete photo album on the official Cracking Good Food Facebook page. 

3 October 2013

GUEST BLOG: Totally woks

By guest blogger SIOBHAN KELLY

On the menu on Saturday was Egg Fried Rice, Egg and Vegetables with Lemon Sauce, and Stir-Fry Pak Choi with Mushroom and Tofu. The session started, however, with guest cook Judy Wong providing a valuable lesson on ‘how to treat your wok’, which was interesting, helpful and worth remembering for those not familiar with cooking this way. Heating the wok upside down over a flame, wiping it and washing it, then repeating this process a few times and sealing the surface with heated oil will keep it ‘treated’ for many cooking sessions to come. (This only works with metal woks, not non-stick ones.) This was followed by facts and information about soy sauce, sesame oil and other ingredients, Chinese supermarkets and knife-sharpening tips. This latter was essential as Judy’s next demonstration was how to make sliced carrot 'flowers’ - simple but beautiful - then how to make a decorative spring onion flower; putting it in a bowl of water helped open up the end tails.

 The benefits of rice cookers came next, followed by a demonstration of how to prepare and make Egg Fried Rice. The participants then all made this themselves and lovely aromas spread through the cooking room, followed by the chance to eat this surprisingly simple yet tasty dish. Egg is cooked in a wok, cold rice is added, spring onions and peas are next, stirring constantly, and then the dish is seasoned with soy sauce, salt and pepper, and optional sesame oil. Delicious for breakfast, lunch or supper. Next up was Egg and Vegetables with Lemon Sauce. We all stood around the cooker to watch the process demonstrated by Judy, then it was back to the work stations to prepare and cook the dish ourselves. Last but not least, and my favourite of the three dishes today, was Stir Fry Pak Choi. Large triangular pieces of tofu are sealed in a wok of hot oil, then drained. Garlic and ginger is heated then shitake or black mushrooms are added, followed by spring onions and greens, then it's seasoned with salt, pepper, soy sauce, rice vinegar and corn flour mixture, then oyster sauce and a few drops of sesame oil are added before serving. Such a tasty dish!

A great session, in which I learnt a lot of new skills and some amazing new recipes. Thanks to Judy, and to our two volunteers Angela and Kate who worked hard during the session today.

We're re-running this session on 25 January in Chorlton and, on 1 February, Judy will be leading a non-vegetarian Totally Woks session: full details and bookings of both classes are now on the Cracking Good Food website.

See our Facebook page for a full set of pictures - and don't forget to click "like"!