Oh, life has been pretty busy, eh? You may have noticed that from my posts. I am moving house again. I may start a new blog all about that – I seem to do that more than anything else! Although that would be incredibly tedious, for you and me, and, oh just about everything that can sense any sort of boredom or pain, so maybe I will stick with this monument to pleasure and weight gain that I call Eat Like a Girl.
Sadly, this means that cooking chez moi has all but decreased to nothing. For now my home has ceased to be one, and is an ocean of boxes, vomiting their contents everywhere, while I anxiously decide what’s for the chop, the charity shop, or my new abode. In the middle of that, I am looking for a new place to live, which offers an anxiety all of its own, especially when I don’t have the time to dedicate to it. Before you comment, I know that must change and it will, any day now.
No cooking at home then, but lots of cooking elsewhere for I must feed my habit. I’ve been doing some cookery courses these past few weeks to keep myself topped up, in between endurance eating sessions at Posh Lunch Club and tasting menus in favourite restaurants. I am almost reduced to elasticated waists, *almost*, so next week, I am buying a bicycle.
I love cookery courses with an obsessive’s zeal, they’re so sociable too, and always fun. I like to do courses that offer a new skill or an insight to a cuisine. Something for me to get my teeth into, and get that brain whirring, so it was with much pleasure and a skip in my step that I made my way to La Cucina Caldesi, a bright and pretty kitchen and cookery school, tucked away in a mews in Marylebone.
I have attended a class here before, although not one given by the Caldesi’s themselves. This class was a showcase of recipes from Katie Caldesi’s new book – The Italian Cookery Course – a comprehensive book featuring 500 recipes and techniques of regional Italian cooking, taught by Katie and her husband Giancarlo. Appealing, no?
Running over three hours, we prepared a 3 course meal, starting with gnocchi nudi with spinach and butter, bright green and tender gnocchi, although not as I knew them. Katie described these as ravioli without the pasta skin. They were a nice light starter, and not too tricky to make. Incidentally this is the third time that I have come across them this month, I’ve seen them since on two menus (Fifteen and River Cafe).
These were followed by our piece de resistance, a deboned poussin, or Chicken Under a Brick (Pollo al Mattone). We each deboned one of these small birds, guided expertly by Giancarlo, and stuffed them with chilli, rosemary and garlic, before roasting a flock of them for our delectation. They were served with potatoes roasted with onion, rosemary and pancetta, a dish that I often make at home and really enjoy. How could you not love crispy potatoes with fluffy insides, blanketed in pancetta fat, with crispy pancetta befriending? The poussin was tricky, but delivered lovely results, visually and on the palette.
We finished the meal with hot chocolate cream in a cup, a dessert which Katie’s son had had in an Italian restaurant, and had cheekily requested the recipe on his mothers behalf. Good work on his part, it was a delicious, creamy rich and drinkable chocolate dessert. It is definitely one for the chocaholics that cross the threshold to your parlour.
I would not be so cruel as to tell you all about this and not share a recipe. So, courtesy of Katie Caldesi, here’s her recipe for Chicken Under a Brick (Pollo al Mattone). I’ve edited the method a little to equate how we did it at the class, which is slightly different to the one in the book, e.g. there’s no brick in this version of the recipe – the original version involves marinading overnight under one. I loved it, hope you do too.
Chicken Under a Brick (Pollo al Mattone)
2 red chillies, cut in half
1 garlic clove, smashed
4 sprigs of rosemary
100ml olive oil
Place the birds on a board. Insert a sharp cooks knife inside the first one by the back bone, and twist the knife slightly outwards along one side of the spine, press down firmly and hugging the bone with your knife as you go. Repeat on the other side.
Discard the spine and open out the poussin, snapping the wishbone when you reach it. Repeat with the other 3 birds, then stuff the inside with the chilli rosemary and garlic and a drizzle of the oil, fold together, cosy them in a baking dish drizzled with the olive oil and S&P and roast for 30 minutes or so. You can check that they are done by pushing a skewer into the thickest bit of the breast and checking that the juices run clear.
I attended this course as a guest of La Cucina Caldesi.