Last year I had the pleasure of meeting Italian chef Giancarlo Caldesi at PDO ‘Taste of Origin and Tradition’ Cookery Event while he was working as an ambassador for Grana Padano Cheese and Prosciutto di San Daniele, Italian Protected Designation of Origin products.
Following the event, I was invited to take part in the PDO Cookery Challenge and created a recipe with the products provided: Stuffed Chicken Wrapped in Proscuitto with Pea Risotto and Grana Padano Salad.
I was delighted when I was informed that my recipe won the challenge and my prize would be lessons at La Cucina Caldesi. Over the past few months, I have been attending Italian cookery courses and I loved each one of them.
My first course was in November, “Cooking & Wine Tasting”, with Stefano Borella and Castello Banfi Wine Estate, Tuscany. It was a very enjoyable evening lesson in which we learnt to cook a range of dishes such as Black crostini; Bruschetta with mushroom pate, San Daniele and Grana Padano; Caramelised red onion and potato frittata; deep fried sage leaves and assorted deep fried vegetables.
Apart from the wide variety of snacks, we also cooked Lentils and Chesnut Soup and a very tasty Traditional Tuscan almond biscuit (Cantuccini), which was the highlight of the evening in my opinion as I always wanted to learn to make Italian biscotti. After we finished making the dishes, we sat down to enjoy the lovely food we made together with wine tasting.
In December I went to another course “Pizzette & cocktails”, with Stefano Borella. We learnt to make a selection of Italian bites, such as Pizzette; Hot potato croquettes filled with smoked cheese; Grana Padano and San Daniele fritters; and Endive salad with gorgonzola, pine nuts and honey. There was also an Italian cake on the menu, Orange and polenta cake.
I had a lovely evening, it was very enjoyable preparing the dishes and also making festive cocktails, the dishes and cocktails complemented each other. We made White Christmas Dream with Amaretto and Sagittario with orange and Campari.
In January, I went to “Giancarlo’s Italian Kitchen”, with Giancarlo Caldesi, a full-day cookery lesson over the weekend. Not only had we learnt to make a selection of dishes with fish and beef, we also made fresh pasta. I love filled pasta, but never made it at home, I was surprised by how simple it is to make by mixing flour and egg.
The hands-on cooking and demonstration was very enjoyable, in which Giancarlo shared his knowledge and top tips with us. I loved the wide range of antipasti, pasta, main course and classic Italian desserts. If I had to choose a favourite dish from the day, it would be spinach and ricotta ravioli, incredibly tasty filling in a beautifully made pasta.
In March I went to “3 course Italian – aimed at intermediates”, another great class with Giancarlo Caldesi. From the delicious dishes we cooked during the day, my favourite was ravioli with seabream and béchamel filling in a butter and lemon sauce. I have never tried fish ravioli before and it was very tasty!
We also made grana padano timbale with roasted pepper sauce; Tuscan roast stuffed baby chicken; battered cod with tomato sauce and onion; slow roasted Florence fennel with thyme; and spinach sformato. To finish off the day, we made Rum baba with fresh crema pasticcera, yummy!
I had a great time at La Cucina Caldesi, really enjoyed the hand-on style of the courses in which you get involved in creating every single dish. Both chefs, Giancarlo and Stefano, were fun, professional and very talented, and the dishes were extremely tasty! Thank you very much to La Cucina Caldesi for such wonderful and tasty courses!
For more information, please check http://caldesi.com/