Pellegrino Artusi & A Recipe for Perfect Pasta Dough (Photo Illustrated)

Pellegrino Artusi, Casa Artusi, The Art of Cooking Well in Forlimpopoli & A Recipe for Perfect Pasta Dough (Photo Illustrated)

Pellegrino Artusi is widely referred to as the father of Italian cuisine. Penning the first pan Italian cookbook, (self) published only 20 years after the unification of Italy in 1891 and in the language of the new unified Italy (which was the dialect of Florence), when he was 71.

Artusi’s cookbook, Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well, featured over 475 recipes gathered from Italian home cooks on his travels as a business man. 15 editions were published before he died 20 years later, with many further recipes added (finishing with 750).

Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well was predicted to be a commercial failure by Italian publishers at the time, and they refused to publish it, but it was a tremendous success. It has been in print since publication, and is in almost every Italian home. It has been translated into several languages also (it was translated to English in 1997). 200,000 copies were sold in his lifetime and many more in the 103 years since then.

(So, you know, the message being if you believe in something strongly enough, take a risk and make it happen. You never know, do you?)
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L’atelier des Chefs

Latelier des Chefs

L'atelier des Chefs

I have a bit of an obssession with food, this is true. Even more so when cooking and trying new things. So, when I heard about a new cookery school that had opened in central London I had to try it.

Firstly, I was curious, l’atelier des Chefs is very popular already in France, and, their arrival in London has been highly publicised in the media and blogosphere. They’ve different types of classes, they run up to 5 sessions a day ranging from a half hour to two hours. For them it’s about the food but also the social experience of sitting down and enjoying your meal with your fellow cooks and a glass of wine. One class runs for half an hour over lunch, called the “Cook, Eat & Run”, then there’s the 60 minute class covering two courses, the 90 minute class covering 3 courses and the 120 minute class covering 3 courses based around a theme (e.g. they’ve one coming up for foie gras). Secondly, I’ve been reading great things, Krista (of Londonelicious) was an immediate convert and she doesn’t even like to cook! So, I registered for on of the “Cook, Eat & Run” lunchtime classes and off I went.

You chose your day around what they’re cooking (at least I did!) and I chose to go the day that they were cooking Risotto di Gambas (prawn risotto for the non-French speakers amongst us – that includes me :-). I arrived a little early as I wanted to take a look around, and was quite impressed with the venue that greeted me, it’s a bright airy space with a vast sparkling kitchen with lots of natural daylight coming through the skylights ahead. They were extremely friendly and offered a glass of water while I waited for the rest of my class to arrive which they did shortly after.

We were greeted by our chef Tony. Now, I am a fan of risotto and when I make it, it takes me some time, so I wondered just how are we going to get this done in half an hour? Well, many hands make light work, Tony took us through what we had to do, and within a few minutes we had been shown how to do everything and I was beheading and shelling super fresh prawns. This particular recipe also included mushrooms (shitake and normal) and I was curious about how this would taste.

We spent a very sociable 17 minutes cooking our risotto (yes – we timed it!), each person taking their turn stirring for risotto is a labour of love. Tony was on hand for any advice and tips along the way. Once the risotto was cooked we left the kitchen and sat at a table outside with our spoils, with white wine and bread to go with it. The risotto was delicious, and I plan to recreate it and experiment with the prawn/mushroom combination. We followed it with a fantastic chocolate mousse dessert – chocolate mousse with five spice crumble and kiwi emulsion – which rendered me speechless temporarily.

Risotto di Gambas

Risotto di Gambas

Chocolate mousse with five spice crumble and kiwi emulsion

Chocolate mousse with five spice crumble and kiwi emulsion

It was a very sociable and uplifting experience, I didn’t know any of my fellow cooks having arrived on my own. This didn’t act as a barrier, everyone was so friendly and really into it, despite the differing levels of experience among the group. The staff were really friendly and encouraging too.

One thing I hadn’t read anywhere was how good the range of produce available to buy is. It’s an eclectic mix from ceramic knives to silicone moulds to tomato vinegar and the El Bulli Spherificaion Kits which I haven’t seen for sale in many places.

I had a great time and I am looking forward to bringing friends and visitors to London there. It’s a lovely and different afternoon in London. In particular, I want to try the macaron classes! Watch this space.

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