Thursday, 18 March 2010
I have serious kitchen envy. I want the Caldesi kitchen.
My kitchen at home is only just big enough for TPG and I to work, crab like, as co joined twins. Our bin blocks the passage between stove and sink. We have enough storage to stock up on a whole 2 days worth of ingredients - so long as we're eating cheese on toast on day 2 (sometimes minus the toast). Our freezer is the size of a small box of matches. Handy.
Also, as my crunchy "caramel chicken" debacle pointedly illustrated (you don't want to know), my cooking skills could do with some serious polishing.
So the invitation to join Katie and Giancarlo Caldesi for an Italian cooking class at La Cucina Caldesi was gratefully accepted. Finally a chance to spread my cooking wings. To unleash my inner chef. To shine like the sun and soar like an eagle... Ahem. I was a bit excited.
La Cucina Caldesi is a family business, positioned next to the Caffe Caldesi where I have happily dined on Tuscan fare and celebrated with friends in nights out gone by. La Cucina runs a variety of cooking courses of different durations focusing on foods from various Italian regions, and with a range of chefs or foodie experts leading the charge.
On this occassion, the dynamic Caldesi duo would be showing me, and a bunch of other food bloggers, the ropes.
We started the evening with some prosecco and nibbles, before the cooking business began. We were each allocated a small chicken, before Giancarlo guided us through the deboning process - a first for me. They were stuffed with garlic, chilli, and rosemary then roasted and served with pancetta, roasted potatoes and onions - pollo al mattone (chicken under a brick). Gorgeous aromas of roasty bits filled the room. Yes, it was better than my caramel chicken.
Meanwhile, Katie showed us how to mould neat little parcels of gnocchi gnudi (a mix of spinach and ricotta, no pasta), later tossed with melted butter and sage and served as our starter.
We watched the Caldesis in action as they prepared a hot and very chocolatey chocolate and brandy dessert, served drinkable from a tea cup (although it solidifies to a mousse if left overnight). Cosy and warm, this was simply divine, and something I will eagerly replicate at home, perhaps even with a hint of chilli as suggested by Katie. The family had discovered this little gem on earlier travels - their son had the pluck to ask for the recipe from the original chef.
I enjoyed getting my apron dirty, however after cooking comes the feasting - where my talents really come to the fore. Everything was lovely. The Caldesis, as generous hosts, also supplied wines, and sparkling entertainment.
The Caldesi classes generally range from £25 - £170, although I sampled this one on the house. There are 7 week courses with Stefano Borella for £525. Obviously, like me, you won't be transformed overnight into a Michelin class chef by a 3 hour class, but my brief foray was enough to indicate that these classes will provide inspiration, at least as much as skills, for your Italian cooking inclinations.
Katie Caldesi has recently published an Italian cook book, The Italian Cookery Course, filled with recipes she has collected and adapted from over 3 years of research all over Italy and its varied gastronomic regions (Yes, I note jealously, this is called "research" in the world of K Caldesi). This thing is one comprehensive collection - over 400 recipes and 40 master classes are caught between its covers. It's thick and choc-a-block with a large variety of recipes and gorgeous pictures to have any Italianophile drooling. I did not have the opportunity to browse through it in great detail, but I loved the photos and the obvious breadth and depth captured - I'll be seeking it out for closer inspection.
I really liked Katie's style, and her non fussy approach to cooking good, hearty Italian food. And I want her kitchen.
La Cucina Caldesi, 118 Marylebone Lane, Marylebone, London W1U 2QF.