Sunday, 20 May 2012

Italian Cooking Class with Rosario at Locanda De Gusti

Last week, hubby and I attended an Italian Cooking Class at Locanda de Gusti on East London Street.  We had been to the restaurant in it's previous incarnation as Bella Mbriana so we were looking forward to another visit.

We were welcomed to our group of fellow cookery students with a nice glass of Prosecco - and took our places at the long table.  Head Chef, Rosario, introduced himself and gave us an overview of what we'd be cooking.  His ethos is very much around comfort food, and by that he means quick, tasty and healthy food that can be thrown together with a few ingredients and some basic cooking skills.  Here was our menu:

Grilled aubergine sandwiched with goats cheese and 'peppery' rockette served with stewed sweet and sour Sicilian way cherry tomatoes.

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Fillet of sea bass pan seared and served on a light broth of kale and borlotti beans, with grilled polenta and crispy Parma ham crisps.

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Shortcrust pastry tart filled with vanilla infused mascarpone, topped with raspberries and finished off with a drizzle of Strega syrup


First up, was the sweet shortcrust pastry for the dessert.  For those of you who read my blog regularly, you will know that I've been making a LOT of pastry recently, so I let hubby have a go.  And he did an excellent job!


Next up was the grilled aubergine which was grilled with just olive oil (no salt), then sandwiched with goats cheese and rocket and popped in the oven.  Rosario then took us into the kitchen (which was boiling!) and showed us a couple of dishes we could whip up with some cherry tomatoes.  He made an amazing Sicilian sauce with tinned cherry tomatoes, some sugar, white wine vinegar, onion and some basil.  This was to accompany the aubergine, but would have made a perfect pasta sauce.  We then sat down to enjoy our starter, which was just delicious.  So simple, healthy and tasty - just as promised.  A big hit with hubby too who isn't a big aubergine fan!




Then onto the main course.  And I have to admit, I wasn't looking forward to it.  You see, I do not like fish.  And I was hoping fish wouldn't feature on the menu.  So I faced my fear and got stuck in with the sea bass!  Rosario showed us how to present it nicely, and a big tray of it went off to the kitchen to be cooked. 




And the students went back into the kitchen to see how to make the broth, kale and polenta.  The end result was surprisingly good, and I will definitely be buying some sea bass to cook at home. It was really nice to be pushed out my comfort zone a little.




So finally, we got to see how our little tarts cases turned out, and hubby had done me proud.  Out came a huge bowl of chocolate sauce, mascarpone infused with vanilla and sugar and big bowl of berries.  We were given a free rein so we dug in like kids in a sweetie shop!  Here is what we came up with...



And hubby's...



Such a simple dessert, and again, delicious.  It was safe to say by the end, we were stuffed.  We both had a great time, met some lovely people and picked up some really great tips from Rosario.  The nice thing was, he let us all ask lots of questions and the cooking class wasn't about following a recipe, it was showing how some basic methods can be used with lots of simple ingredient combinations.  We will definitely be visiting again, but will opt to have Rosario cook next time!  A brilliant birthday gift from hubby, thank you. x

Monday, 7 May 2012

Tealicious - Retro Sweets Theme

When the tickets went on sale for May's Tealicious Retro Sweets event, I was one of the lucky few to snap one up.  They sold out in about 10 minutes flat on Twitter, so I knew I was in for a treat.  So what is Tealicious?  They describe themselves as: "A secret pop-up afternoon tea experience by The Shore in Leith. Expect sophisticated sweets in a quirky vintage style. With booze." 

I was a little apprehensive about turning up on my own as I wasn't sure who was going to be there.  I arrived at Sofi's Bar for 2.30pm as instructed and was directed through to the back room by a friendly bar tender when I mentioned the magic word "Tealicious." To my delight, the tiny room, adorned with vintage bunting and local photographs, was filled with some familiar faces in the form of the Edinburgh Cake Ladies; Alison (@EdinburghCake), Wendy (@insideoutchef), Lisa (@Harbourhussy - all the way from Aberdeen!) and Sophia (@pleasebringcake).  It was also filled with cake



I took my seat and was soon joined by the lovely Melissa (@melbise) who I'd met briefly before at the Edinburgh Cake Ladies 'Getting Tarty' event.  The room was small enough for us all to chat together which was nice.  I was soon offered a choice of tea - chai or cherry blossom.  I opted for the chai which I've never had before and was pleasantly surprised, being an avid coffee drinker, that it reminded me of Christmas spices and mulled wine.




In front of me, were bite-sized morsels of cakey loveliness.  We were offered some savouries to start which included a tasty onion bread, cheesy puff (which was to die for) and a pumpkin scone.  All were full of flavour and got me ready for the main event.  The first to catch my attention was an individual chocolate eclair, with a surprise honeycomb topping.  It was delicious!  As was the buttermilk scone which, naturally, I smothered in the homemade jam and clotted cream.  On to the rhubarb and custard tart which was light, crisp and beautifully sweet.  I was starting to get a bit full, when a huge slab of chocolate mint cake, resembling and old school Vianetta, was popped on my plate.  I made my way through that and decided I needed a break. 


After about 5 minutes of my 'break' it was on the lemon polenta cake.  Again, it was delightfully light and tangy with a perfect balance of lemon.

Next were were offered a raspberry cheese cake which I just couldn't fit in, however, I managed to taste a bit of Melissa's and it was just devine - genuinely the best cheesecake I've ever tasted.  If only I'd had room for a slice of my own! 



Lots more tea drinking and chatter ensued and then, just when you thought we couldn't possibly eat anymore, these beauties were brought out.  Homemade marshmallows flavoured with raspberry and orange and macaroons.  Again all bite-size so easy to try them all!  Well it would be rude not to, wouldn't it?!


The experience was completely complimented by the lovely Tealicious girls, who looked after us all afternoon, ensuring we all had an endless supply of tea and cake, whilst at the same time sharing their recipes and tips with us.  As if that wasn't enough, we were all given a box of goodies to take home. 

Now I know why the tickets sold out so quickly...