A Night in Napoli

It is not always necessary to leave your home city to experience or at least get a taste for a foreign culture. I am naturally spoiled for opportunities in London but even something as simple as going for a cooking class, which you can do in most cities, can make you feel like you are leaving your daily routine and exposing yourself to new ideas, new flavours.

A dear friend of mine knows very well my love for food and Italy and gave me as a birthday gift “A night in Napoli”. No, it didn’t require cruelsome queues in airports, carrying suitcases or getting through Italian bureaucracy. It only required me to walk over to Marylebone where La Cucina Caldesi, Italian cooking school, exists. Tucked away in the mews round the back from the main restaurant emerges a wonderful Italian farmhouse where the Caldesi Family has been teaching Londoners the tricks of Italian cookings since 2005.

My worries of showing up to the class on my own vanished with the warm welcome from the cookery school’s staff and fellow students. Cooking classes do seem to be something that you do as a couple. A wife wanting her husband to take part in the kitchen duties, a shared passion for Italian food, an evening out which is different from just sitting down to a readily made table? My fellow students motivations may have been diverse but I was ready to learn how to cook!

Cooking with Stefano Borella, one of the Caldesi’s chefs, made cooking feel like the easiest thing in the world. As a contrast to my tiny, crammed kitchen at home, at Caldesi space was in abundance with all tools and ingredients laid out for us along wooden tables. For three hours we chopped, rolled, peeled, cooked and baked and managed incredibly a lot in a short space of time. Starters included mozzarella and tomato pizzas, bruschetta, deep friend mozzarella toasties and octopus salad. Main course was potato gnocchi with Neapolitan ragu with beef or classic tomato sauce and Neapolitan tart to finish off the feast. The best part – I can do these all home as well!

As cooking classes often cater for most types of cooks, from novices to slightly more experienced ones, you should not expect one evening to turn you into a Michelin start chef. The class is great entertainment, hearing stories about a new culture and increasing your repertoir of dishes. There is still an element of the chef taking care of the tricky stuff, such as knowing when the octopus is cooked or how much spices to add to the stew. I guess it is also to ensure that we are left with something edible at the end of the evening.

Walking home after the class, I was very pleased about my different Saturday night. Not only I had learned new skills in the kitchen, I had met interesting people and learned new perspectives to Italian lifestyle. I was also carrying souvenirs – a piece of Neapolitan tart for my boyfriend, all handmade by me. My smugness may have slightly diminished after an attempt to cook octopus at home, with somewhat more rubbery results. Oh well, all new capabilities take time to embed.

 

La Cucina Caldesi, 118 Marylebone Lane, London, W1U 2QF

La Cucina Caldesi, 118 Marylebone Lane, London, W1U 2QF

La Cucina Caldesi was at the back of the main restaurant, Cafe Caldesi

La Cucina Caldesi was at the back of the main restaurant, Cafe Caldesi

Caldesi's chef Stefano Borella teaching how to cook Neapolitan ragu with beef

Caldesi’s chef Stefano Borella teaching how to cook Neapolitan ragu with beef

This would be easy at home if only I had as much space and the equipment like Caldesi's

This would be easy at home if only I had as much space and the equipment like Caldesi’s

Handmade potato gnocchi ready to be cooked in a boiling waterIt was surprisingly easy to make gnocchi. You just need to make the dough which is mainly from potatoes, some flower and egg. Afterwards the dough is rolled into long sausages and chopped into same-sized small pieces. Bravo!

Handmade potato gnocchi ready to be cooked in boiling water
It was surprisingly easy to make gnocchi. You just need to make the dough from potatoes, flower and eggs. Afterwards the dough is rolled into long sausages and chopped into same-sized small pieces. Bravo!

Beef ragu cooking

Beef ragu cooking – delizioso!

Pizza MargheritaUnlike what you find in Pizza Hut or Dominos, classic pizzas are actually very thin and with scarce fillings

Pizza Margherita
What these pizzas may have lacked in thickness and fillings to ones from Pizza Hut or Dominos, they make up in flavour and freshness

Octopus salad Calamari dishes from Italy are so yummy! This one was simply with octopus, potatoes, parsley and lemon. Well, I say simply, I tried this later at home with rather more rubbery octopus and Stefano Borella taught us

Octopus salad
Calamari dishes from Italy are so yummy! This one was simply with octopus, potatoes, parsley and lemon. Well, I say simply, I tried this later at home with rather more rubbery octopus that what Stefano Borella taught us

Neapolitan tartClassic desert from Napoli with ricotta, rice and dried fruit filling

Neapolitan tart
Classic desert from Napoli with ricotta, rice and dried fruit filling

Pastiera Napoletana straight from the oven

Pastiera Napoletana straight from the oven – Mamma mia!

Buono appetito! Trust me, it was delicious!

Buono appetito! Trust me, it was delicious!

(c) Nordic Odyssey, all rights reserved

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2 responses to “A Night in Napoli

  1. I can’t believe I am just reading this article now !!
    So happy you had such a lovely time. looking forward to the next dinner invitation…

    • Thank you so much again, Anaïs, for the perfect birthday gift! I’m also proud to report that my octopus cooking skills have improved during the past year, so please, you’re welcome at any time for dinner at ours! X

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