This week I thought I’d give the chefs of Manchester a night off and cook my own tea for a change. I didn’t just want to end up with something boring though, so I needed a helping hand and maybe a few pointers. Don’t get me wrong I’m not too shabby in the kitchen, but it’s always good to teach an old dog new tricks, so in an effort to pick up some new skills and have a bit of fun along the way I found a pasta making course to get stuck in to.
Cracking Good Food are a cookery school based mainly around South Manchester that offer courses in a whole range of different cuisines, as well as community outreach programmes that aim to promote healthy eating and reducing food wastage. Making ends meet and putting good food on the table is more difficult than ever these days and there are free courses and food banks running across 9 boroughs of Greater Manchester feeding the hungry and teaching people how to make the most from a modest budget.
The cookery school offers lessons teaching skills as diverse as sushi rolling, Nepalese momo making, wild food foraging and my choice for the day pasta production. Our tutor was Marcello Ghiretti, who has cooked in Michelin starred kitchens as well as running Master Pasta classes for UK wide Italian chain Piccolino. We were lucky enough to be in a group of only 5, and it felt a real privilege to get hands on training from someone with that amount of experience, check out nutrifunctional.com for some of his recipes and more.
After an interesting introduction to the history of pasta, plus some stories from Marcello’s own career and a nibble on some of the ingredients we’d be using, our lesson began with spinach ravioli. The double zero flour is mixed together with egg and blended spinach to form a beautifully green elastic block, not unlike play-doh in texture, which we then passed through our rolling machines, admittedly some more adeptly than others, I got the hang of it on my second go.
The filling was a rich, fragrant mix of ricotta, basil and walnut that was dolloped on to sheets before being wrapped up in our lovingly made pasta dough. I have to admit I was glad to be making a mess of someone else’s kitchen as there was a fair bit of flour on everything I touched at one point. The classes are held in multiple venues across the city, ours was in Parrs Wood High and it was a bit of a blast from the past being back at school. I wish my food tech classes had been this interesting, I remember one lesson where we learnt how to make Nesquik, literally add the powder to the milk, not sure how we span that out to 60 minutes.
Anyway we also tried our hand at stripey bon bon pasta parcels with a cheddar cheese filling and, my personal childhood favourite of farfalle, or pasta bows to you and me. I’ve seen how fascinated Rick Stein is watching old Italian grandmothers knocking out gnocchi or popping little discs of dough through their hands like a motorised pasta maker, and I can confirm it’s harder than it looks. I was more than happy with my day’s work though and left well fed and with plenty left to take home as well.
Cracking Good Food have loads of classes on offer and there is definitely something for everyone, not to mention opportunities to volunteer and really make a difference. If you’re interested in food, foraging or just want to have fun learning a new skill and meeting some cool people get yourself over to www.crackinggoodfood.org to find out more.