Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Have I died and gone to heaven?!

This past weekend, I was lucky enough to have a cooking class at the very well known ‘Cucina Italiana’ cooking school by the lady herself Luciana Sampogna. 

Max and the kids had bought it for me last year for my birthday.

I turned up solo…as you do! I’m not good at doing things alone, but I was there to learn nothing more nothing less! Every single part of it was fun. First making pasta (which I’m now an old hand at), then eating, which I’m also pretty good at, followed by ravioli making and then some more eating - I almost fell asleep at the wheel driving home, I was so full!
I was the student I should have been at school, attentive and eager to learn. I soaked up every word that she spoke, careful not to forget a thing or a movement she made while cooking.
She was mesmerising, how naturally she went about her cooking and how serious and funny she was in one breath.

Luciana is how, one day I hope to be, skilled in all areas of my cooking.
I will be back for more, I promise – this was a mere taste of what I need to learn in the simplicity of the most beautiful food in the world.
Anyway she cooked for us the most exceptional food, but my favourite, by far was the ‘Cueste di Purcitin Tal Brut di Polente’ – which is slow cooked pork (done very simply - traditionally cooked slowly with a very wet Polenta almost soupy she said). But we did it with normal polenta, which was mixed at the end together with the pork – peasant food from the region of Italy called Friuli. I have no words to describe how incredible that dish was, every mouthful was savoured, my idea of comfort food full stop! 
So of course I had to go and praise the lady herself and tell her (I think I may have actually bowed down to her) that it was probably the best dish to ever hit my lips…and I’ve had a lot of good food in my 37 years. 
I did ask her permission to make this and the cake on my blog and she very kindly obliged. 
When I left the first thing I did was call my friend Rochie to tell her about it and promise her that I would cook it for her at Easter, so stay tuned.

To finish the class we were served Rocket cake.

I know what your all thinking, but I kid you not – the best cake I have ever eaten – ever!!
So what better excuse than to make it when my mother in-law is here, tea and cake is what we do best and I’m certain the kids and Max will love it to.

So Luciana’s recipe goes like this – (I would just book this lesson at her school for next year now and go along and watch her perform her magic with this same menu – so worth it!)
I hope she sees my finished product and what a good student I’ve been – it’s all in my
 head after all – no notes to follow, just this recipe.

This delicious cake will follow my pumpkin risotto with green salad made especially for Nana.

And the drink of choice will be that bottle of artisan lemonade (in the fridge) I’ve been torturing my kids with all week!

When making risotto you need to be committed to standing at that stove the whole time and not moving just stirring, so do it when kids are in bed or watching a movie – no distractions!
Saying this, I did it with Wilco running around my toes – but I did have my mother in law around to help distract him when needed.

For the risotto you will need:
This will feed 4 genoursly

Homemade chicken stock – as much as you need

Risotto rice – I used Ferron Vialone Nano rice – 1 cup

Organic preservative free white wine – 1 cup

1 onion finely chopped

4 -5 sage leaves chopped finely

butter – 75g

Grana Padano or Parmigiano Reggiano (Parmesan cheese)

Olive oil

Pumpkin – ¼ of a whole

4 garlic cloves

Lettuce  - I would usually use rocket but it wasn’t very fresh so I bought the freshest one at my local


Vinaigrette – balsamic and olive oil

How I make my risotto:

Preheat my oven to 180c

First I bake my pumpkin – I cut it up with skin on into smallish chunks, put it on a lined baking tray with the smashed garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper

Pop into the oven

Cook until they are caramelised – about 20min, just keep an eye on them

Once cooked let cool the scrap the pumpkin flesh of the skin and mash in a bowl – set aside

The garlic is a treat for the cook (the best part if you ask me)

Now melt 25g of butter in your pot and a dribble of oil and cook your onions till translucent

Add the sage and cook for a minute, then throw in your cup of rice and stir until it starts to sizzle a little a couple of minutes will do

Now pour in your wine and cook until the liquid has cooked away and the alcohol smell has gone

Season with pepper and a little salt (depending if your stock is salty or not)

Start adding your stock a couple of ladles at a time – stirring constantly
Repeat until your rice is almost ready (your rice should be cooked with a little resistance in the middle)

Then add your mashed pumpkin and stir through well, this will add a little moisture as well

Your risotto needs to be runny kind of like porridge or wet polenta, so add a little more stock if needed

Turn the heat of and add your 50g of butter and cheese (I add a lot – and I’m pretty sure the Italians add a lot too)

Mix them together with risotto

Add seasoning if necessary

Serve with more cheese and a drizzle of Italian chilli oil

With any leftovers, I make tiny risotto balls the next day for the kids, simply coat them in egg and breadcrumbs and fry till golden in olive oil - serve with raw vegies or salad.

And a salad dressed very simply with balsamic vinegar and the best extra virgin olive oil you’ve got and salt and pepper

My favourite comfort food and one Max used to cook for me – until one day I made it myself.  I learnt my lesson that day, to pretend always that I wasn’t capable of cooking Max’s repertoire.

Now to dessert

I can’t believe I made this cake! Only 2 mistakes – not enough rocket (only because my local organic store ran out) and I forgot to brush the cake with egg at the end.
Not bad for my first go.
And yes Luciana the pastry was very tricky, (and I did swear quite a lot) but I did it and quite well I think?
With Luciana’s permission I show you with her recipe how to make this most delicious cake.
And by the way I followed this recipe step by step – first time ever, and it felt good!

Rocket Cake:

Preheat oven to 180c

What you’ll need:

For the shortcrust pastry:

450g ‘00’ flour

300g unsalted butter - cold

150g of caster sugar

3 egg yolks

2 tbsp of water – you may need a little more depending how humid the weather is
cake tin 28cm or flan tin (mine was a little smaller – that’s why my pastry looks a little thicker

To make:

Put your flour and unsalted butter in a food processor and mix until it forms fine crumbs

Then add you sugar and yolks

Check the consistency then add a tbsp at a time of water – whizz

When it comes together it’s ready (see my photo –click to enlarge and see the crumbs)

Take your dough out, put a little flour on it and flatten it out a little bit and wrap in cling wrap

Pop in the fridge for a least ½ hour

Once it’s rested cut the dough in half and roll it out to fit your tin – you’ll need flour and patience for this.

Press it into the tin and blind bake for 10 min (this wasn’t in her recipe but I saw her do it)

(Blind bake means to line your pastry with greaseproof paper and fill with cooking beads or rice or pasta)

 While this is happening get your filling ready

You’ll need:
250g of ricotta – fresh – not from the supermarket in a tub (saying that mine was in a tub, but it is fresh and a really good biodynamic one)
150g of rocket (it can be wilted) blanched in salted boiling water, then drained and dried

Drain your ricotta of any excess water and remember to squeeze out your rocket - which will be as small as this after blanching!

150g caster sugar

2 eggs

1tsp of vanilla extract

100g blanched almonds – chopped finely

So easy might as well do them yourself!

100ml of dessert wine or liqueur
1 egg to brush the cake and icing sugar for decoration (I forgot both of these)
Pop that all into a food processor and blitz till well combined

Blind baked - Filled
Now pour into your pastry shell, which will have cooled slightly
Roll out your remaining dough again with flour – this was my hardest moment by far – but with the extra hands of my mother In-law, I did it

As Luciana said it wont look perfect, but that’s OK because the leftover scraps of dough you kind of place them around the top to cover any ugly bits (see my photo)

Cook for 40min on 180c

Serve warm with lightly whipped cream and a dusting of icing sugar
Recipe by Luciana Sampogna her cooking school is called ‘Cucina Italiana’ email – info@cucinaitaliana.com.au website – www.cucinaitaliana.com.au

 Super full after our delicious dinner the next day we went to the Zoo and had a picnic with Chicken sandwiches (made with the chicken from my stock) followed by more cake!

When we got home we ate cake too!

My babies at the Zoo

Down the coast we go for a small holiday and my baby's 2nd Birthday….ahhh I’m already relaxed! 
See you in a week. x

©Michelle Schoeps 2013
All photos taken by Michelle Schoeps

1 comment:

  1. I just made the risotto for dinner...YUM!!!! Going to try the cake next week when I have a play date for the school hols :)