Cookout sessions are always interesting, one for the fact that your culinary databank is showered with knowledge and two, because it’s always informal. So, you get to interact with the chef, throw questions at him/her (At times, silly questions too which the chef answers with immense patience) and taste the food right from the kitchen.
The working environment in a Hotel Kitchen has always fascinated me, like the utensils they use, the equipments they have, the hands working at their highest speed, the team management, the cleanliness and above all, the plating. A cookout session lets you take a glimpse in all of this and that’s exactly what we got to experience at out latest Italian Master class with Executive sous chef – Luca Digirolamo and Masterchef Australia Ex-contestant Sarah Todd at the Mansion’s Oval room, Hyatt Regency Delhi.
As they say, success is drawn out of arrogance, but greatness comes from humility…Sarah Todd defines this greatness in her personality. Though being a celebrity and a culinary expert herself, she didn’t fail this opportunity to learn more from Chef Luca bombarding him with questions/suggestions every now and then. It was great fun to see two of them putting hands together to show us their culinary expertise and make us drool over some authentic Italian flavours. Looking gorgeous as always, Sarah enthusiastically chit-chatted with us all, wanting to know more about our culture and cuisine since it was her first visit to India. She mentioned that she enjoys cooking at home and always experiments with new things which her son loves. When asked, what she wants to take back from India, Tamarind is what she has on her mind, since her Punjabi husband loves sour flavours in his meal.
We started off the session after a shot of espresso and some cookies (much needed for that lazy morning) and it was a delight to see Chef Luca multitasking. He made four dishes for us:
The middle age fritters (basically made with flour, salt and water) with pan fried parma ham glazed with balsamic vinegar was relished by Maneesh. Served with rocket salad, the pale pink thin sliced ham had a little sweet flavour, velvety texture and blended perfect with the crispy fritters.
|The middle age fritters|
Prawn and lemon ravioli with Italian bisque – Right from showing us how to make fresh pasta to making different shapes of ravioli, this dish was the first one served. Maneesh felt the prawn filling was overcooked, but I loved the vegetarian one served to me when we had lunch at the La Piazza after the cooking session. The pasta was Al-dente, and the Italian Tomato bisque complemented it very well.
|Prawn and lemon ravioli with Italian bisque|
Vegetarian sausages with braised lentils and Taleggio cream – The whole idea of making vegetarian sausage with bread and chickpea sounded new and though the the lentils added to the flavour, I would have a loved a little spiciness in the sausage. The olives did complete justice in adding the distinct sour flavour, but maybe the Indian palate that we are used to, we all felt it lacked that zing.
|Vegetarian sausages with braised lentils and Taleggio cream|
Melting chocolate with Rosemary icecream – Blending rosemary in the ice cream sounded perfect and it tasted so too. Adding immense aroma and taste to the ice cream, this was the star dish of the day. Not that we are biased towards desserts, but seeing the chocolate melt from the choco lava cake which was baked in woodfire oven was a visual treat too.
|Melting chocolate with Rosemary icecream|
We thoroughly enjoyed this cooking session and having shared some space with the jovial, humble Chef Luca. Stressing on the fact that he uses (and everyone must use) extra virgin olive oil for cooking, he joked that he should promote Italian economy when we all complained of it being super expensive here in India. He gained a wealth of experience running his own homestyle restaurant Refectorium in Italy and having come from the Umbria region of Central Italy, he is keen on adding some Tuscan-Umbrian delicacies to the menu at La Piazza. We came back home tantalizing our taste buds with some excellent Italian flavours and some good moments of conversations with the two stars of the day.