Saturday, 7 May 2016
Tuscan Cooking with Giancarlo Caldesi : Red Letter Days
Whilst a decade ago, I may have chosen to sky dive for a Red Letter Day, now I am less of an adrenaline junkie. So when Red Letter Days asked if I would like to review one of their experiences, I decided to opt for a cookery course. Choosing one was easier said than done, as there is an array of courses to suit any foodie. I finally opted for the Tuscan Cookery Course at La Cucina Caldessi. Having only done short cookery courses in the past, I was keen to see how a half day course would compare.
About two weeks before the course I was emailed to say that due to other commitments, Giancarlo Caldessi would be unable to make the course. At this point I was able to defer to a different course or continue with the head chef Stafano Borella taking the course instead. I was happy with the latter and it appeared everyone else was too as when I arrived at 10am on the Saturday the course was full.
There was a variety of people on the course, from early twenties upwards. All sharing a love of food and cooking. Many were return customers and one couple had even traveled from Switzerland for the cookery course. Most people came with a friend so I paired up with a lovely man called Bernard. He had received vouchers as his retirement present.
If you haven't been on a cookery course before, it is worth noting that you don't cook your individual dish. You work as a team. With a menu as large as this one was, it would be impossible to do each dish yourself. Stefano went through the techniques as a group and then each pair took on their own part of one of the dishes.
Our menu was:
Black crostini (with chicken liver pate)
Deep fried sage leaves and anchovies
Fettuccine with Tuscan pesto
Tuscan roast stuffed baby chicken
Oven-baked potatoes and red onions with pancetta
Soft sienese biscuits
I have to say that I turned my nose up at the anchovies and crostini, but of course when it came to tasting them they were delicious. After the course you are e mailed all the recipes so you can recreate the menu at home. You will have to watch out for the sienese biscuits as I will have to give them a try soon.
As you can see from the menu it was extremely varied. We learned how to bone a chicken. However, in future I think I will leave that delight to the butcher! Pesto was so simple to make with fresh ingredients.
Pasta was much easier to make than I had realised and Stefano told us the key was to use Italian 00 flour. Apparently the supermarkets do a 00 flour but it doesn't work as well with British wheat. Whilst we were busy making pasta, the table was being set for lunch.
The course was packed full with tips and there was more food than I was able to eat! Stefano was a fantastic host who made you feel at ease and encouraged you. If you are able to get a lift/public transport to the course then do. There is plenty of wine to enjoy with your meal.
My biggest tip if you decide to book on this course? Do not book to go out for dinner the same evening! Thankfully I hadn't, but if you haven't done a course like this and are staying in London then you may think it is a good idea. Trust me, you wont have room. I was really impressed that we were encouraged to take our leftovers home. My husband was also pleased by this as he loves Italian and was more than happy to sample my days work. We also got to take our aprons home as a memento of the day.
If you are a foodie and love cooking then I don't think you can go wrong with this course and would certainly recommend it to others.
Red Letter Days sent me on this experience in return for this review, however, all opinions expressed here are my own.