Italian cooking - a master class
It's not every day you have fun during class, but when lessons are being taught by Italian chef Giovanni Ciresa, it's a whole different story. Luxury resort Half Moon, in Montego Bay, St James, recently hosted Ciresa for a three-day food adventure that included a master class.
Eager students who signed up for the exclusive event, piled into the magnificent kitchen at Half Moon's Sugar Mill Restaurant, ready to learn at the feet of the master. Ciresa, after all, is no slouch. He is a well-regarded lecturer and consultant on gastronomy who has taught at the world famous Alma in Italy. He has more than 30 years experience as a chef. "Cooking means experimenting, research, imagination, and I have based my philosophy on their harmony," he said.
Students in the master class were tasked with making their own lunch - from scratch - the traditional Italian way. The first lesson was garganelli- an egg-based pasta formed by rolling flat, square sheets of pasta dough into a tubular shape. There's a lot of kneading involved in making home-made pasta, so be prepared to lend some elbow grease to the effort if you ever intend to try it at home. The garganelli board, used to shape the pasta, was a novel revelation for many of the students. Most had never worked with one before and enjoyed the introduction, giving them a bit of knowledge to brag about next time they are in the company of friends.
The class also learnt how to craft guitar spaghetti. This too was a treat to learn. The guitar spaghetti is so named because of the instrument used to make it - the pasta guitar. They say you aren't supposed to play with your food, but this should be an exception. A pasta guitar is a frame strung with music wire, used to cut the fresh pasta intro strands. All you have to do is roll out sheets of pasta dough on to the wires and press the sheet through the wires with a rolling pin. If there are bits that get left behind, you pluck the string just as you would if you were playing a guitar, to get them loose. The students might have had too much fun on this one.
Ciresa also prepared risotto - a rice dish cooked in a broth - as his attentive students watched. By now the aroma in the kitchen was mouth-watering. When it was time for lunch, the group of students (now eager diners) fell silent as they devoured the authentic Italian meal with glee. The fruits of their labour had never tasted so sweet.
Ciresa has now departed our shores, leaving behind him a class-full of students who will from now on grapple with the idea of ever eating store-bought pasta again.
Here are his recipes below for you to try at home.
Guitar spaghetti pasta with butter and anchovy sauce
300 g durum wheat semolina flour/all purpose flour
20 ml olive oil
For the anchovy sauce
150 g butter
30 g anchovy fillet
60 g minced onion
1 clove garlic
1 bunch fresh parsley cut coarsely the leaves save some of the best for garnish
10 ml olive oil
1. Mix 250 g of durum wheat semolina flour with 150 gramme all purpose flour (or 400 g all purpose flour) with the eggs, olive oil and kneed adding cold water little at a time until a very firm and homogenous dough is formed.
2. Wrap with cellophane and let rest for at least 30 minutes in the refrigerator. The result will be a soft very pliable dough.
3. Roll very thing long sheets with a pasta machine/rolling pin, dusting as you go along.
4. Place sheet on pasta guitar and roll smoothly with slight pressure dusting as you go along. If some are still stuck, pluck the strings just like you were playing a guitar to dislodge.
5. Let spaghetti pasta dry for while.
6. In a hot sauce pan brown onion and garlic with some olive oil, add the anchovies fillet and the butter and simmer over a low flame for about five minutes, remove the garlic
7. Cook guitar spaghetti in salted boiling water, drain (keep some of the spaghetti boiling water if necessary, and saute in anchovies and butter sauce until very creamy. Add parsley and black pepper, garnish with the parsley leaves and serve.
Garganelli (egg fresh pasta with tomato, garlic and basil sauce)
For dough: 200 g durum wheat semolina flour (or all 450 g all purpose flour)
250 g all purpose four
4 egg yolk
20 ml olive oil
For the tomato sauce
200 g cherry tomatoes cut into small pieces
150 g can tomatoes
20 g tomato paste
60 g minced shallots
1 glove garlic
1 bunch fresh basil (cut coarsely)
Extra virgin oil
1 chilly pepper
1. Mix flour, egg, egg yolk, olive oil and kneed until a very homogenous dough is formed that is hard to the touch. Let rest for about 30 minutes in a plastic bag. Then with a pasta machine or rolling pin, roll very thin sheets of pasta flouring as you go along.
2. Cut sheets in to small squares (about 3 cm/3 cm). Make sure they are perfect squares and not rectangle or they will not give you the desired tubular shape of the garganelli. Roll diagonally using the garganelli board with floured side down for ends to hold. Let dry for a while.
3. In a hot sauce pan, brown shallots and garlic with some olive oil. Add cherry tomatoes, canned tomato, tomato paste and chilly pepper. Add the basil and simmer over a low flame for about 30 minutes.
4. Cook the Garanelli in salted boiling water, drain and saute with the tomato sauce, add Parmesan and extra virgin olive oil, garnish with baby basil leaves and serve.
NB: Never add salt to the dough that will make your pasta dark.