Husband and wife team Katie and Giancarlo Caldesi are well known for their eponymous Italian restaurant and caffe in London, their second restaurant in Bray and their London cookery school, La Cucina Caldesi, at which Katie is the principal. The couple also starred in a BBC series called Return to Tuscany, about the cookery school they ran in Italy until 2009 and have appeared on many other food shows since then.

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The Amalfi Coast is their second joint book, following The Italian Mama’s Kitchen (2008). Whereas Katie’s solo book, The Italian Cookery Course (released at about the same time as The Amalfi Coast) covers recipes from across the entire country, The Amalfi Coast focuses on the food of the sunshine-drenched Italian Riviera. Full of sumptuous images of local scenery and food, it’s an evocative cookery book following the route of their exploration, between Positano and Ravello.

Flicking through it takes me back to a long ago holiday… winding and rather exhilarating coastal roads… tiny villages clinging to vertiginous cliffs… views down to sparkling seas with bobbing boats tied at the marina… groves of lemon trees, bright and colourful like the limoncello served in every restaurant and cafe… smartly dressed locals enjoying a pre-dinner stroll to see and be seen… and long and leisurely lunches that last so long they morph into dinner…

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We decided to make the Caldesis’ Gnocchi Ripieni (smoked cheese gnocchi) recipe mainly because we already had smoked cheddar in the fridge after making Gastrogeek’s (Amazing) Roasted Aubergine Macaroni Cheese recipe. We loved the gnocchi so much we have made it more than once and no doubt it will become a regular. (Same goes for the macaroni cheese recipe too!)

The gnocchi are so incredibly soft and light that they melt as soon as you pop them into your mouth; it’s a wonder they don’t disintegrate before you can eat them! The recipe introduction explains that the way the centres melt is what gives the impression they are stuffed with cheese, hence the Italian name – ripieni means “stuffed”. They are quite unlike potato gnocchi, by the way.

The flavour is beautifully balanced and not too strong; they match superbly with a simple tomato sauce. We’ve used posh ready-made and made fresh using another recipe in the book.

And best of all, they’re very easy to make. A winner all round!

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Giancarlo & Katie Caldesi’s Smoked Cheese Gnocchi

Serves 4 (makes 12-20 gnocchi)

Ingredients
250 grams ricotta drained
1 egg
35 grams plain flour
50 grams parmesan finely grated
25 grams smoked cheese finely grated
salt and freshly ground pepper
basil leaves (to serve)
parmesan shavings (to serve)
tomato sauce of your choice (to serve)

Note: The recipe also includes 50 grams semolina, used to coat the gnocchi, which we omitted.

Method

  • Mix the gnocchi ingredients together in a bowl, using an electric whisk or mixer to achieve a smooth texture.

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  • To shape the gnocchi use two spoons and make quenelles – take a spoonful of mixture and use the second spoon to shape it, squeezing and transferring it between the two spoons one or more times to finish the shape.

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  • The recipe calls for rolling the finished shapes in semolina before cooking. However, we decided to drop each gnocchi into a pan of boiling water as soon as it was shaped, without the semolina.

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  • The gnocchi are cooked when they float to the surface, having dropped down to the bottom of the pan initially. Remove them carefully from the pan using a slotted spoon and transfer them to the pan of pre-heated tomato sauce to stay warm until the rest are ready. Ideally, this needs two people working together, one to shape and drop the gnocchi and the other to scoop them from the water as soon as they are cooked.

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  • Very gently mix the cooked gnocchi into the sauce, taking care not to break them.
  • Garnish with fresh basil and shavings of parmesan to serve.

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The book contains little you wouldn’t find in many Italian cookery books, and most of the dishes are familiar, but for me that’s much of the appeal. Recipes such as paccheri alla Genovese (pasta tubes with sweet onion and beef sauce), polpettine di carne al sugo di pomodore (meatballs in tomato sauce), pollo al limone (lemon chicken), zucchine scapece (fried courgettes with mint and vinegar), torta di ricotta & pere (pear and ricotta tart) and sorbetto o granita al limone (limoncello sorbet or granita) are the kind of food that fit my kind of cooking.

Nearly every recipe has a photograph, and there are more in between of the landscapes and people of the region. It’s an attractive book, a pleasure to look at.

The Amalfi Coast is currently available from Amazon.co.uk for £16 (RRP £25).

 

Kavey Eats received a review copy of The Amalfi Coast from publisher Hardie Grant.

Oct 072012
 

Carluccio’s first ready made meals for supermarkets were launched in July. I was sent a selection to review.

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The Pappardelle con Ragù di Cinghiale (RRP £4) was good. The wild boar ragu was rich and generous in ratio to the pasta. I’m not sure if this is meant to serve 1 or 2; it’s on the small side for the latter. We had ours with a Pane all’Aglio (RRP £1.50). It was saturated in caramelised garlic and parsley butter, and delicious, though again, a little small for the price against much larger supermarket garlic bread baguettes.

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The Lasagne al Forno (RRP £6) was the right size for 2 and we really liked the meaty beef and pork ragu and egg pasta. We could taste the chianti clearly. We might possibly buy this again, but probably only if it was on special offer; it’s the same price as the Charlie Bigham’s lasagne, which we really like, and the Waitrose own brand is also very good and significantly cheaper.

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Where the range really fell down for us was the fresh pasta sauces, neither of which we liked much at all. These are priced at £2 each, plus the pasta, which is £1.80. I definitely prefer the Waitrose range of fresh pastas and sauces. One of them was unpleasant enough that I didn’t even finish it, and plugged the gap with a raid of the fruit bowl instead.

A mixed bag, then with some hits and some misses and even the best items are entering a market that’s already saturated with other brands and supermarket own. Whether or not they’ll find a following based on recognition of the existing Carluccio’s brand, I don’t know.

Kavey Eats received complimentary samples of the Carluccio’s ready meals range.

 

A couple of years ago I was invited to a brand PR event hosted in a beautiful cookery school called Food at 52.

Classes were run in the family home of John and Emily, located in a residential neighbourhood of Clerkenwell. The classic Georgian exterior masked an absolutely striking modern interior, decorated in a wonderfully idiosyncratic style, full to the brim of beautiful, strange and random bits and bobs collected on travels around the world and closer to home. The kitchen was large and homely, with an enormous 9 ring cooker, a large kitchen table, lots of pots and pans on open shelves and lots of light streaming in from huge windows and doors to the outside. There was a beautiful glass-walled courtyard living room and an outdoor garden area in which students could enjoy lunch and coffee breaks. I absolutely adored the house, and felt very much at ease with John and Emily, though the event I attended that day was taught by a guest celebrity chef employed by the brand.

I stayed in touch and a few months ago, John and Emily shared their news that they had moved the school to a dedicated new premises, now located between Angel and Old Street tube stations. They invited me to attend a class and check out the new school.

I was apprehensive about whether the new school could provide the same genuine charm and warmth of the original family home but needn’t have worried. John used to work in the film industry, running a set building company, which gave him the skills, experience and creativity to do the refurbishment of the new property himself and he’s created a teaching kitchen that manages to feel like a home.

Upstairs is a living room break out area. Privacy from passers by peering through the windows is provided by beautiful hand-crafted stained glass panels featuring photographic images of London printed onto the glass. Glass drop chandeliers, carried home from Morocco, throw patterns of light across the ceiling. And a full size suit of armour stands guard in the corner – do ask Emily the story of how he joined the family!

Although it’s in the basement, part of the ground floor has been cut away and a clever angled mirror bounces lots of natural light straight down and into the kitchen. That light falls onto an enormous sturdy wooden and Yorkshire stone table, made specifically for the space. It’s big enough to seat an army, so gives our class of 6 plenty of space to work.

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A large range cooker and ovens sit under custom-made hoods that have Foodat52 cut into the metal. Against the walls are dressers and shelves holding huge jars of ingredients. Quirky art work adorns the walls as does an enormous mirror onto which the day’s menu is scribbled by Emily. Yellow roses sit in an old metal milk jug and a cuckoo clock keeps time.

Our class is taught by John, with a second member of staff assisting with measuring and getting out ingredients, cleaning chopping boards, knives and equipment and keeping us in caffeine throughout the day.

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John is not a chef, but has always loved food and cooking. In fact, the school came about after family and friends asked for informal cookery lessons, which eventually lead John and Emily to launch the school in their home.

Today, we have gathered together to learn some Italian dishes.

I’m joined by a young lady with the most beautiful red hair, heavily pregnant and making the most of her free time before giving birth to her first child; a recently graduated engineer (or was it physics?) whose girlfriend bought him the course as a birthday present; a mother and daughter enjoying a weekend break from Scotland and a food writer / video-blogger, also reviewing the school.

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I’m impressed by the agenda for the day. We work our way through cantuccini (biscotti), home made pasta which we use to make tagliatelle pesto and butternut and amaretti ravioli, parmigiana di melanzane, chicken sofrito and amaretti semifreddo.

Everything is hands on so we properly learn how to do each step of the recipes. The only thing that’s been done ahead of time is to prep and bake the butternut squash for the ravioli filling. Everything else we do during the day. It’s absolutely the best way of learning and hugely enjoyable to get stuck in.

We stop for a quick bite of our freshly made tagliatelle pesto as a prelude to lunch but enjoy the rest of the courses as a late lunch at the end of the course. I love everything we make, so much so that I’m struggling to pick my favourite dish. I’m keen to make all of the dishes again at home, and better still, I have the confidence that I’ll be able to do so.

As well as covering the recipes themselves, John throws in basic knife skills for chopping vegetables and gives us plenty of helpful tips throughout the course.

His recipes are broadly classics, but his parmigiana di melanzane is a little different to any I’ve seen before; attractively stacked and the flavours are lifted more than I would have imagined possible by the inclusion of lemon zest.

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The Flavours of Italy (10 am to 3 pm weekday) class I attended retails for £115 and at first glance, that seems a lot.

However, I’ve spent a fair bit of time comparing the offerings of different cookery schools over the last few years, and many of the less expensive classes are much shorter and cover significantly less. And some that are described as hands on run all the complicated bits as demonstration only, with the hands on experience covering only a fraction of the menu. Other classes have so much prepped for you that they are little more than an assembly job, or a case of stirring this into that. So, actually, the classes at Food at 52 are very good value because you get to do it all yourself and hence, you learn better.

Two hour classes over lunch or towards the end of the afternoon are available for £65. Of course, these cover less than the day class I attended, but John still packs in at least three recipes. On Saturdays, the all day classes are £135.

I’ve attended a lot of cookery classes in the last few years, and I would rate this amongst the top two or three.

 

COMPETITION

John and Emily are generously offering a fantastic prize for readers of Kavey Eats.

Win 1 place on your choice of any of their classes running in August, September or October (subject to availability).

 

HOW TO ENTER

Blog Comment
Visit the Food at 52 website and look at the courses on offer. Then simply leave a blog comment below telling us which class appeals to you most and why you’d like to win a place on it.

 

RULES & DETAILS

  • The deadline for entries is midnight GMT Friday 20th July 2012.
  • The prize is 1 place on a Food at 52 cookery class of the winner’s choice running in August, September or October 2012, subject to availability.
  • The prize cannot be redeemed for cash.
  • The prize is offered directly by Food at 52.
  • One blog entry per person only.
  • Entries must include an email address for contacting the winner.
  • The winners will be selected from all valid entries using a random number generator.
  • The winners will be notified by email. If no response is received within 7 days of notification, the prize will be forfeit and a new winner will be picked and contacted.

 

50% Discount

Even if you don’t win, you can bag yourself a bargain if you’re quick. Food at 52 are offering up to 50% off all classes in July and August if you book by the 13th July 2012.

 

Facebook & Twitter

Follow @foodat52 on Twitter or Like the Food at 52 Facebook page for the latest offers, new classes and cooking tips.

 

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Cantuccini — Making pasta dough

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Tagliatelle — Ravioli

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Chicken Sofrito —
Amaretti semi-freddo

Kavey Eats attended the Flavours of Italy cookery class as a guest of Food at 52.

This competition is now closed. The winner is thelittleloaf. Congratulations!

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