13 December 2013

GUEST BLOG: Mexican fave

By guest blogger TRACEY

We had another excellent session on Wednesday 11 December at the Approved Premises in Chorlton. The guys worked so well together, helping one another out, passing equipment, sharing the workload and, at one point, even wiping each others' brows! 

This cooperation always makes for a smooth-running and truly enjoyable session – which it was. Kim got them thinking at the very outset of this Mexican-inspired session by asking: “Where are the tortillas?” The group all stared down at the ingredients set out on the table and were flummoxed until one participant quizzically asked: “Are we making them?” Correct! Kim explained how simple they are to put togther, reminding the group how their dough-making skills have developed thus far through making naan breads, pastry and dumplings. 

Feeling confident, the group began peeling, chopping, slicing and grinding the ingredients for the guacamole, salsa and refried bean fillings, and shredding lettuce and grating cheese for the toppings. Kim shared tips on how to prevent avocados turning brown, how to swiftly remove the stone from the fruit and how to bulk out the guacamole with cucumber, which makes it cheaper. She also dispelled the misunderstanding of how the beans are not refried, it's just that the ‘re’ means heated up in Spanish. It was great to hear that the guys had been talking about the session among themselves prior to the session starting; they were intrigued to know what constituted Mexican food. Well, after the feast they delivered on Wednesday, it's no surprise that not only have they become acquainted with the cusine, they also loved it and will definitely be cooking it again: "It was just so good!"

Both Kim and I are really looking forward to next week’s session, when the guys have planned to banish us to the learning room while they get on with the baking! 

There are more step-by-step photos of how the Mexican feast came together on the Cracking Good Food Facebook page: click here.

10 December 2013


By guest blogger TRACEY

The guys were raring to go again on Wednesday at the Approved Premises session in Chorlton. A prompt arrival meant that the preparation for our protein-packed pasta dishes got off to a smooth start and came together to form a delightful duo of spaghetti Bolognese and also fusilli in a cheese, mushroom and ham sauce.

The carrots were diced, onions sliced, garlic puréed and mushrooms wiped instead of washing them due to their high water content. Meanwhile, the group discussed the pros and cons of making pasta sauces from scratch as opposed to opening a jar. Of course the timing of the latter appealed, but once someone mentioned the enjoyment you get from ‘actual’ cooking, the remaining guys agreed that this, as well as the knowledge of what’s going into your food, outweighs the convenience option.

Kim pointed out that the combination of ingredients we were using was really versatile: as well as the Bolognese sauce, she named shepherd's pie and lasagne as another a couple of ways to use the same ingredients. The guys were pretty enthused and suggested some of their own, such as pastry-topped pies, dips and chilli con carne. Kim encouraged the group to think about growing their own herbs - on windowsills, should space be an issue - as the guys added fresh thyme to the Bolognese. 

They picked up many tips when it came to making the roux sauce, which was lump free and tasted delicious on its lonesome, but combined with the sautéed mushrooms, ham and cheese, absolutely blew their minds. The guys all said that they will cook this dish at home, because they now know how nutritiously satisfying and how simple it is. Both pasta dishes were accompanied by a seasonal winter salad of shredded beetroot and carrots along with shredded kale which was tossed in soy sauce and sesame seeds.

6 December 2013

GUEST BLOG: Wild times

By guest blogger CLAIRE RICHARDSON

Cracking Good Food's resident wild food expert Jesper Launder kicked off the winter wild foraging session on a cold Saturday morning at Fletcher Moss Park in Didsbury by explaining that, although you might think that winter would be the least fruitful time for foraging, there are still many edible plants and fungi to be found. Jesper then led the group round the park and into woodlands, passing on his expert knowledge, and inviting us into a bit of risk-taking when we came across the berries of a yew tree. The outer part of the berry is fleshy and edible, however the seed is poisonous, but some of the more braver members of the group followed Jesper's lead by trying the berry!

The group consisted of a wide range of people, from well-seasoned foragers to first timers, but all were able to learn from the session. A wide variety of edible mushrooms, leek-like plants and nettle leaves from our successful forage were all chopped up and pan fried at the end of the session, then eggs added to make a delicious frittata which was shared among the group. 

There are more amazing photos from this wild food foraging trip on our Facebook page - thanks to Nick Jordan for supplying them!

See the Cracking Good Food website for details of upcoming wild food forages in Chorlton, Didsbury and Hebden Bridge. Our next one is 12 January and would make a perfect present for a loved one this Christmas!

GUEST BLOG: Making a mash of it

By guest blogger HELEN ROADHOUSE

On Wednesday, we ran our last Love Food Hate Waste session of the year in partnership with Recycle for Greater Manchester, this time at the ucan centre in Halliwell in Bolton. A few of the participants were regulars from ucan, and they made it clear that they were looking forward to the sit-down-and-eat bit of the session!

On the menu was tagine and mash - perfect for the current cold snap - and Kim got everyone chopping and peeling while she explained that you don't need to peel veggies if you don't want to. As well as saving you a job, it saves on waste too if you don't peel. Kim also explained just how versatile a tagine is as you don't have to use just the veggies in the master recipe. It's ideal for those veggies that are 'on the turn' - you know, that tomato or carrot that starts to get a bit soft - as you can't tell in a tagine once everything's chopped and cooked. Saves money and wastage, perfect!

We had a great interactive chat about the Love Food Hate Waste ethos, discussing shopping with lists, and sticking to them, only taking the amount you need to spend so you can't overspend, and of course never shopping when hungry - that's asking for extras in your shopping basket! The participants were split into three groups for the quiz, which really got people thinking. Once participants started visualising their cupboards, the floodgates opened and all three groups had lists of ingredients, including long-forgotten oddities. One participant commented that she was pleased it wasn't just her with daft things in her fridge, and she was so right! All the groups were brilliantly creative, turning their ingredients lists into some really great meals and everyone said they now had some ideas on how to use up the random bits and bobs in their cupboards.

The guys who spend a lot of time at ucan really enjoyed the session as they admitted they didn't cook much at home. They loved the tagine and couldn't believe how tasty it was, especially as it didn't contain meat! Of course, they could add meat if they wanted to when making it themselves at home (which they said they would), but there's really no need as it is delicious - and cheaper - without. I really felt they benefitted from this session and felt confident enough to make the tagine themselves. 

We had quite a bit more tagine and mash than expected, but not one scrap was wasted - that's how good it was. This was a lovely group that interacted and asked a million questions, and really participating in all the Love Food Hate waste discussion and ideas, which is exactly what we wanted. Another resounding success!

This was the final Love Food Hate Waste session of 2013 - but fear not, we're back in the new year with another round of nine sessions! Sign up for FREE on our website or email tracey@crackinggoodfood.org.

4 December 2013

GUEST BLOG: All used up

By guest blogger HELEN ROADHOUSE

A busy session was in store last Wednesday evening in Levenshulme at the Inspire community centre, where we were running another of our free Love Food Hate Waste sessions with Recycle for Greater Manchester. We had a full house so Cracking Cook Maz distributed the veggies and demonstrated the best way to chop. She also explained that a great way to reduce wastage is to leave the skins on some veg, especially carrots and potatoes - there are more vitamins and fibre in the skins anyway! We had carrots, peppers, tomatoes, sweet potatoes (we did peel these!) and aubergine - a whole variety of veg can be used in the tagine we were making, and it's a great meal for using up those vegetables that might be getting a little past their best. We added chopped apricots and honey for sweetness, and spices, including cinnamon.

Maz asked about shopping habits and lots of the group were quite candid and admitted to shopping while hungry and ending up buying too much or falling for BOGOF (buy one get one free) offers. We discussed writing lists so you just buy what you need and will use, and a few participants already did this. One lady was great at freezing her extras and leftovers but now had a freezer full to bursting! Our quiz helped her with some ideas of how to use her frozen supplies, while everyone was really creative in coming up with recipes to use up all those forgotten items at the back of the cupboard - including enough ingredients to make sushi! 

By now, the tagine and mash was ready and was served up with a minty yoghurt sauce. It was delicious and so distinctive in flavour. Everyone's plate was emptied, and the general consensus was that everyone wanted to make it again at home. This was a lovely, open group of people really enthused and really wanting to learn about how not to waste food and how to use ingredients more creatively. It was a very satisfying session for us to run and the LFHW message was well and truly received.

Our last Love Food Hate Waste session this year is tonight in Bolton. Details of how to sign up for this FREE class and those in the next round, which starts on 20 January, can be found on the Cracking Good Food website.

Visit the Recycle for Greater Manchester blog for our 12 Top Tips for a waste-free festive season.