By : Debbie Rogers
Behind The Scenes
It’s lunchtime on a weekday and I’m being ushered behind the scenes into the kitchen at Ronda Locatelli for an exclusive masterclass. I love being in the kitchen at home and being in the kitchen with professional chefs is so much more exciting! This is where the magic happens, where ingredients are turned into dishes which hopefully not only satiate your appetite but leave you smiling, inspired and wanting more.
I’m here to talk about a new book which has recently been launched by Giorgio Locatelli (Made at Home – the food I cook for the people I love), and what better way to learn about the book than to have one of the chefs from Ronda Locatelli cook it for me! This is truly the stuff (my) dreams are made of.
I must admit I was slightly hesitant when talking to the PR team about the visit. “I don’t eat pasta or rice” I said and so I didn’t want to offend anyone by turning down some of the carbohydrate dishes I typically associate Italian cuisine with. Of course I know that’s not true, and there’s way more to Italian cuisine than that, but often when I point out these two major food dislikes it causes a few raised eyebrows especially with Italian Chefs. In this case my fears were completely unfounded and the PR team and Chef Salvo from Locatelli tell me this is not an issue. Reading the forward to “Made at Home” I can understand why. Giorgio Locatelli’s daughter, Margherita was born with over six hundred food allergies. “We never wanted her to feel different, so we would always find a way of making something for her that looked like what everyone else was eating, even if the ingredients varied. But for me, that should always be at the heart of all home cooking: the idea that you adapt and change according to what you buy fresh, that is in season, what you have in your cupboard and your fridge, and who you are cooking for”
And so my very personalised masterclass begun. Chef Salvo had chosen a menu for me which was based on personal preferences, seasonal produce (they follow the Italian as a lot of ingredients are imported) with a few variations to the dish to accommodate the philosophy of what’s in your fridge 0r should I say industrial kitchen.
The menu consisted of three dishes:
- Fried eggs with mushed potatoes, rainbow swiss chard and black truffle
- Pan Fried Cod with chickpeas , black mussels and spicy “N’Duja” beef salami
- Gluten Free Pizza
Hint : Click on the links for the recipes if you want to recreate these dishes at home.
First up was the Rainbow Swiss chard with eggs and mash with black truffle – a slight variation to the recipe in the book. You can see Chef cooking this over on our Facebook live feed.
Key features of the dish really focused on having the correct ingredients. Using fresh seasonal ingredients, good quality unsalted butter. good olive oil, fresh organic eggs, seasoning as you go and a liberal sprinkling of black truffle at the end all added to the provenance of the dish. As a side, it was great to see all of the Swiss chard being used, I know lots of people who don’t eat the leaves and simply discard them.
The result was somewhat sublime and I tucked into it with unashamed gusto. The eggs oozed over the buttery mash, the black truffle added flavor and a hint of decadence and the Swiss chard a soft contrast. Giorgio says you can use spinach if you can’t get hold of Swiss chard, and I can see this being a regular comfort dish to be enjoyed at home sometime soon.
The second dish was Pan Fried Cod with ChickPeas, mussels and ‘Nduja
‘Njuda is something I had never heard of before, but it really added a level of spice to the dish that I really enjoyed, but you need to watch out as it’s quite fiery and can get you at the back of the throat when you are last expecting it as my PR friend found out. The ‘njuda was heated slowly under the grill before being added to the dish. The heat transformed it from a piece of slicing sausage to a more softer version with the fat and oil being released and the texture turning softer and more crumbly. The verdict! I loved the fieriness it added to the dish, it reminded me of smoked paprika with some added heat, a lovely addition to the dish – if you can’t get njuda here I suspect you can cook it with some spicy sausage instead. The cod was cooked – panfried in ooodles of butter then slammed in the oven for eight minutes. Ever wondered how cod tastes so gorgeous? the oodles of butter may have something to do with it! The cod came with a crispy skin, held it’s shape perfectly but broke into perfect moist flakes as we ate. The chickpeas worked well with the fish, which I wasn’t expecting as it’s not a combination I would have chosen. Personally I would skip the mussels (not my favorite) and make the dish at home with some spicy sausage.
Chefs Tip :
I’m a little scared of cooking fish, never knowing when it’s cooked properly and tend to shy away from it. Chef explained that the secret is portion control – each piece is 200g which they know takes a few minutes of pan frying for the crispy skin then 8 minutes in the oven before being finished back in the pan with butter for a minute or two. If scared of this – then he recommends you use a thermometer and cook the fish until it reaches 54 to 57 degrees C (130 to 135 F)
More about Njuda here from Made at Home :
“Njuda from Calabria – soft, spicy, spreading salami made with local red chillies – is one of the latest Italian ingredients to jump almost overnight from something that was little known outside the region of production to a fashionable ingredient on every menu. I have always found it a fascinating flavor and texture, which works brilliantly with chickpeas and seafood” – Giorgio Locatelli
Into the Store Cupboard
As the fish was cooking, I took a sneak peak further behind the scenes and headed to the cold room to check out the produce that the team use. Beautiful tasty Italian tomatoes, herbs, garlic, onions, eggplant all looked beautiful and fresh, and more importantly tasted great too. Fresh ingredients arrive regularly and the team make everything from scratch including fresh pasta which is made in a tiny pasta room. Here the pasta is extruded from an industrial pasta making machine with ease.
Gluten Free Pizza
The final cooking session involved making a Gluten Free Pizza which we made in the restaurant. There are three pizza ovens and separate pizza making areas. This is the only area of the restaurant where pork is served and there’s a dedicated oven and equipment for that area to ensure complete adherence with the appropriate regulations.
My base was a gluten free base which looked a little like a large tortilla in it’s uncooked stage. On top we ladled fresh tomato sauce, garlic oil (I love my garlic) and some tiny cubes of mozzarella. Stage one was complete and the pizza was expertly maneuvered into the pizza oven. In no time at all the pizza was cooked then it was piled with my toppings, thinly sliced beef, a good sprinkling of parmesan cheese and a handful of fresh peppery rocket completed the pizza.
Result : a guilt free, gluten free pizza which tasted amazing. The base had been transformed and was crisp and tasty, the topping was perfect and the pizza was devoured with further gusto – yes, writing about food and watching it being cooked, builds up an appetite.
A caffeine high …
We finished our meal with a perfectly cooked steak and I ended on a caffeine high with a strong affogato.
Culinary Month at Atlantis, The Palm
Loosen your belts, double your exercise endeavours! November is going to be busy with a month long gourmet extravaganza, including visits from celebrity chefs Gordon Ramsay, Nobu Matsuhisa and Giorgio Locatelli.
Want to Experience some of the dishes from the book?
Well, you could buy the book – the recipes look fab or alternatively visit Ronda Locatelli for their new night which takes place every Tuesday from 6pm until late. Enjoy a three-course menu for just AED195 per person, accompanied by live music.
The menu includes a selection of Ronda Locatelli’s signature starters from the Beef Carpaccio served with Rocket leaves and aged Grana Padano cheese or a creamy fresh Burrata. Followed by a choice of seven main courses, including the Pan-Fried Fillet of Cod that we cooked, Pizza baked in a wood oven, and a 12-hour slow cooked Lamb accompanied with rosemary sauce and soft Polenta. For dessert enjoy a trio of three desserts including, Tiramisu, a scoop of Gelato, and Cassata; a Ricotta Mousse served with a Pistachio Sponge. See you there?? x
And finally …
I can’t think the team highly enough for my masterclass. Ronda Locatelli is a kitchen full of passion and flavour. The team worked calmly and efficiently during the lunchtime service, they expertly dodged me when I was standing in the way, tantalized my tastebuds with the amazing aromas which were wafting around the kitchen. Finally and most importantly, they fed my body and soul with tasty dishes which I can recreate at home with Giorgio’s blessing when I dabble and change the recipes slightly depending on what ingredients I have access to. Love the concept, love the flexibility, love the food!
Masterclass inspired by recipes from ‘Made At Home” Thanks to Chef Salvo Sardo and the team xoxo Debbie
[Recipes supplied by Chef Salvo Sardo Chef at Ronda Locatelli – adapted from recipes in “Made At Home – the food I cook for the people I love” by Giorgio Locatelli. Images : Debbie Rogers]
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