Friday, August 18, 2006

La Cucina Caldesi, London

La Cucina Caldesi
118 Marylebone Lane
London W1U 2QF

La Cucina Caldesi is an Italian cookery school attached to Caffe Caldesi restaurant. You may have seen Giancarlo and Katie Caldesi on the BBC series "Return to Tuscany" which showed them setting up their cookery school in Italy.

Their cookery school in London runs a host of courses many with well known chefs and cookery writers such as Gennaro Contaldo and Ursula Ferrigno.

I picked to do the Italian Vegetarian course run by Giancarlo and Katie. However, when I turned up I found it was being run by Stefano Borella, the pastry chef rather than Giancarlo Caldesi himself. I was a little disappointed, as I wanted to ask Giancarlo about the suitability of the Tuscan cookery school course for vegetarians.

However, Stefano was a good tutor so my disappointment didn't last long.

There were around a dozen of us on the course, so it was reasonably crowded. Luckily, there were plenty of dishes we had to cook, so there were plenty to go around.

The course started with Stefano showing us all how to make foccacia bread and we then volunteered to cook the various dishes.

On the menu was Focaccia Bread, Melanzana Parmigiana, Roasted Vegetables, Balsamic Onions, Sformato of Carrots, Saffron Risotto and Stuffed Tomatoes.

I volunteered to do the sformato of carrots which is a carrot puree mixed with bechamel sauce, whipped egg whites and then baked. I was quite chuffed as Stefano complimented my bechamel sauce. Mind you, I've been making it fairly regularly over the last couple of weeks as I practise for my CV diploma so I'd be in trouble if it wasn't at least half decent.

Stefano himself demonstrated the risotto, using a fresh stock made from the carrot peelings and other leftovers from the morning's cooking. Once he had finished we sat down and had the risotto for starters before tucking into the rest of the food .

The food was really nice, especially the melanzana parmigiana and the roasted peppers and courgettes which we had with mozarella sandwiched in the focaccia. The sformato was pretty good too.

I enjoyed the course, its a shame that there were so many on it and that we couldn't have done a bit more hands on stuff, but we came away with the recipes so I can try them at home sometime.

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