I arrived in Cuddington, an archetypal small english village, complete with beamed and thatched cottages, a church, dating back to the twelfth century, that hosts the village fete in summer and a welcoming carol service in winter, a tiny village green, a lovely local school, and even a village shop. To top it off it’s played host to a few episodes of Midsummer Murders. This was the venue for my Italian cooking day.
CiCi CoCo is owned by the award winning Giuliana Cortese and run from her wonderful bright, glass backed cottage in the centre of the village. I was greeted with a cup of espresso and glorious almond ricotta cake that she’s promised to tell me the secret of making. After handing us our recipes and an assurance that we wouldn’t even notice the absence of meat (that must have been for my benefit) the preparation of our five course Italian vegetarian lunch began.
We were each given an apron chopping board and knives in two sizes. These were laid out around the central Island of the kitchen. Being a small group of just three there was plenty of room, but initially only polite chat. I tried not to be too irritating with my camera pointed at everything and every step of the recipes and soon we all relaxed and shared the tasks of making lunch. Giuliana enabled all of us to participate even though there was only one of each dish being made. We chopped beetroot, grated cheese, peeled onions, salted aubergines, rolled barlotti patties, stirred tomato sauce and bit by bit created wonderful, fragrant dishes in the oven and on the stove top.
I particularly enjoyed the pasta making, there is something about Giuliana’s kind no nonsense approach that makes learning easy, a quick demo and then we all made our own dough. The kneading and resting all explained and the resultant air in the dough demonstrated. It’s great to learn from an expert how dough should feel when it’s nearly ready and when it’s done. What it looks like when it’s slightly too wet or dry. This is years of experience conveyed in a few minutes.
Gradually the long rustic table began to fill with food, Crispy topped Malanzane alla parmigiana Di Nonna Lucia, the wafts of fragrant cheese really making our taste buds tingle. Polpette Di Barlotti con salsa piccante sweet with chilli and tomatoes. Then heaped in bowls in front of each of us was the beautiful bright pastel pink beetroot and walnut tagliatelle, rich with cream and earthy from the beetroot. To counter the cream a crisp fennel and pomegranate salad. Washed down with a choice of white or red Italian wines this was a truly delicious meal. Not quite over, the final course was a Biancomangiare. A milky set dessert flavoured with lemon zest, pistachios and cinnamon. delicious, creamy and light.
I had a wonderful Italian filled day with CiCi CoCo and absolutely recommend it to anyone who wants to learn some new Italian dishes. Giuliana takes beginners or more experienced cooks where you’ll learn about produce, cooking, loving the food and if you concentrate, a little Italian.
- 3 or 4 Beetroot (Peeled and cubed)
- 2 tablespoons Extra virgin olive oil
- 2 cloves Garlic
- 1 Lemon (Juiced)
- 200ml Single cream
- 400g Tagliatelli (fresh or dried)
- 6 Fresh basil leaves (for serving)
- 20g Walnuts (finely chopped)
- Freshly grated parmesan cheese
- Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan and add the cubed beetroot. Season and allow to cook with the lid on for 10 to 15 minutes, until soft.
- Add the garlic and lemon juice and cook briefly.
- Add the cream and let it warm through
- Cook the pasta according to the packet instructions, drain and add to the sauce. Off the heat.
- Mix until all the pasta is coated. Serve with the chopped walnuts, torn basil leaves and topped with the grated parmesan.
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