Thursday, June 20, 2013

Cracking Good Food - Middle Eastern Spice

One of my birthday pressies from Bailey this year was a trip to a Cracking Good Food cookery school event called Middle Eastern Spice. I'd been interested in Cracking Good Food for a while as they are a pretty punk rock not-for-profit community organisation and offer a lot of courses involving decent local chefs. However, Middle Easern Spice wasn't just any Cracking Good Food event, this event was to be run by none other than Wendy Swetnam - Manchester's most excellent vegetarian chef who we'd had the pleasure to meet at The Hungry Gecko and whose food we'd had the pleasure to taste at both Bistro 1847 and the Secret Vintage Veggie Vegan Afternoon Tea Party. I really like Wendy and am really keen to go to one of her Wendy's House supperclubs very soon!

I rocked up at Chorlton High School (which was a bit weird as I did my teacher training there) and all the other 'cooks' and I sat down and had a cuppa and a chat before getting started. I'd been really looking forward to Middle Eastern Spice - Bailey knows how much I love Middle Eastern food and how keen I am to learn how to use new ingredients. The words "Ottolenghi inspired" in the description had also filled me with excitement as he is one of my favourites and a real inspiration.

Wendy started off by showing us how to make the dough for her Manakees bi Za'atar. This was a surprisingly quick and easy to make flatbreads recipe and I immediately started daydreaming about the hundreds of exciting flatbreads I could make now that I had this recipe under my belt.

Leaving the dough to one side to give it time to rise, Wendy now showed us how to make her vegan Couscous Tabbouleh. I've made salads with couscous quite a few times before but never made a proper traditional beautiful, colourful tabbouleh so really enjoyed doing this. I also picked up quite a few good knife skills tips too which will of course be very useful to me in the future.

Next was the dish I'd been waiting for, the "Ottolenghi inspired" Fried Butterbeans with Sumac and Feta. This was surprisingly simple to make, nice and healthy as it's packed full of fresh veggies and also the first time I'd used sumac. It's a gorgeous looking dish and the smells going through the kitchen as these were on the hob were quite something.

By this time I was pretty excited about getting to the business of eating but we had the important matter of our flatbreads to deal with. We rolled out the dough and topped the flatbreads with a little Za'atar. Like the sumac I'd never used this before and I was really pleased to get the opportunity to familiarise myself with another new ingredient.

Once everything was ready came the sociable part of the evening - everyone sitting down and eating together. I liked this as I got to chat to all sorts of people all with the common interest of food and a few veggies and vegans too. All of the food was delicious and perfect preparation for the upcoming summer months of (hopefully) good weather and barbecues. I have a lot of veggie friends and a few vegans too and I know they will love having all of these as accompaniments to some nice meat free BBQ options.

The Middle Eastern Spice was a great event, very well organised and enjoyable and I do feel like I learned quite a bit too. I've already picked up some sumac and za'atar of my own and am looking forward to trying them out in other recipes soon. One of my favourite parts of the evening was getting the chance to listen to Wendy talk about her time working at Noma - probably worth going along just to pick her brains about that! There are a few other Cracking Good Food events coming up and I would recommend going along to one - they're perfect for people of all cooking abilities and levels of knowledge. Thanks to Wendy and of course Bailey for buying me my ticket in the first place.


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