I was invited yet again to volunteer for Action Against Hunger at Taste London this year; initially I accepted but then I found out that MasterChef the Professional finalist and all around nice guy Danilo Cortellini was hosting cooking masterclasses with Grana Padano, which, in all honesty, was a much more attractive way to spend a Sunday afternoon.
Before the masterclass (we had booked the afternoon session) myself and my friend Camilla browsed the festival, happy that the weather seemed to hold and avoid the downpour of the days before. Many of the regulars were there, both sponsors and restaurants and a few new comers.
The first couple of days I had already missed a few familiar and friendly chefs (including Sabrina Ghayour and Ping Coombes, both doing demos and book signing), which was a shame.
We paid a visit to one of my absolute favorite places in London, the Duck & Waffle, and said hello to chef Tom Cenci as well as trying one of their festival specials, a delicious Sloppy Joe (sadly missing out on the caramel soft serve which was sold out). We made our way towards Sartoria hoping to catch chef Mazzei (he had just left) and we left drooling after watching one of their dishes being served right before our eyes, in a massive Grana Padano wheel.. fettuccine with Grana Padano, broad beans, peas and truffle.
We tried a lot of products; in fact, we felt this year for some reason there was more ‘to try’ for free! Nomadic yogurt (nice), Pots & co puds (too rich), Green & Black’s chocolate (nothing new), Lindt (palm oil, I did not try it), Portlebay Popcorn (unusual flavours, I bought a few bags), the Coconut Collective frozen yogurt (I really did not like this), the London Tea Company (great packaging and graphics, good teas).
Grana Padano and Prosecco stand
Finally it was time to get to the Grana Padano stand, a substantial space cobranded by Consorzio del Prosecco as well as Grana, a good match for two of Italy’s flagship products. Danilo’s session was introduced by Neil Phillips who did a great job not only with the audience but also introducing the prosecco we had the pleasure to try (three producers, including Ca di Rajo which was our favourite) and in fact, gave us a lot of information on the drink which we, Italians, did not know at all. For example, 70% of production is for export (why don’t we drink enough back home?) and that only the real prosecco has the ‘fascetta di stato’ (government seal) across the bottle’s top. Plus, prosecco is never, ever sold on tap.
The 3 variety we tried were all really good, and our favorite was the very first one, and they were paired to two types of Grana, the PDO which aged between 9 and 16 months and is slightly paler and creamier in texture than the Riserva, which is aged for over 20 months and has a richer aroma and harder texture, both are fantastic of course and I am familiar with Grana having participated in a cooking class recently too.
Of course I did not write down the names of the prosecco we drank, so taken I was by the whole session and by observing Danilo’s preparation of the first dish we tried: Pan fried Turbot, cauliflower and Grana puree, shaved truffle. This was so simple yet absolutely delicious, a perfect combination of ingredients.
We were then served a ‘bonus’ dish which was a Grana version of the classic, rustic cacio & pepe pasta, where the cacio (which is an aged, strong cheese from the south) is replaced by the Grana itself. The ‘mantecatura’ (where the pasta gets the creamy texture at the end of the cooking) was done by Danilo and two guests straight into the Grana wheel.
We had a great time at the masterclass, tasted some fantastic products and overall enjoyed Taste as always.
Thank you cohn&wolfe for offering our complimentary tickets to the event. I was not asked to write this post, opinions are my own.