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Thursday, 27 September 2012

Sorrento Cookery School

You can never learn enough, particularly in terms of food and cooking, so I always try to improve my skills and develop. Holidays in particular offer some great opportunities to learn so I went to Sorrento looking forward to wonderful food and maybe a chance to learn a little more.

In one of the “drains” behind the Corso Italia is Old Taverna Sorrentina, a restaurant, coffee shop and gelateria – which coincidentally offers Bed and Breakfast and self-catering apartments. We had enjoyed good meals there in the past and some of the best coffee and ice-cream in town so naturally arriving on an evening flight and wanting to eat we headed there.

As we sat to enjoy a meal I saw William Garguilo, the chef. Last year I saw William teaching some New Zealanders how to make Mozzarella in the kitchen of the coffee shop so I asked him whether he was still teaching. “Oh Yes”, he replied “and I have now opened a Cookery School in one of our buildings, come and have a look”.

Now that’s the kind of invite you can’t refuse so I crossed the narrow alley to the Old Taverna Sorrentina Cookery School. With a large demonstration/work table the school is well equipped and the ovens, when not in use for lessons turn out many of the breads and pastries available in the restaurant and coffee shop. “I’m teaching tomorrow evening, come along” said William and my plans for the next day took a new turn.

William is firmly committed to local produce; much of it comes from the family farm and local fishing boats and has been cooking all his life. As a child he watched his grandfather cook and at 14 joined his father in the restaurant kitchen. William now runs the coffee shop and cookery school whilst his sister is in charge of the restaurant. William has superb English, largely learned from his mother who in turn learned it in a Welsh Language school in Patagonia! (Her father was a railroad engineer who was extending the Argentinian railway system through Patagonia). Most of the cookery school courses are in English, though other languages are available on request.

Three menus are offered in the school, a 7 course Menu Italian Style, 4 course Menu Italian Style and a Menu of fresh fish Italian Style 7 course. The menus are pretty much mix and match dependent on the availability of fresh local ingredients, the one I would cook would be the 4 course Italian menu as that is what the other students had booked.

Bruschetta Sorrentina, Gnocchi Sorrentina, Scaloppini di Pollo and Tiramisu would be the dishes and Mrs K who likes the product rather than the process would join us for the eating that comes at the end. Water, Coffee and Wines are all included in the price and what better way to spend an early evening than cooking and eating al fresco with new friends?

Now I have cooked all of these dishes before, but I was fairly certain that I would learn new tips and techniques, and so it proved.

Now, if you have never done a cookery course, here’s a hint, you don’t start with the starter and work your way through, to deliver the meal at the right time you have to jump in and out as different elements have different cooking times so you may work on starter, dessert, mains, starter, second course, dessert, mains, etc.


First up the Tiramisu, individual plates, so started first to chill for presentation. Biscuits dipped, and drained, in coffee, whipped cream, second layer, piping and chilling. William asks lots of questions to get you really thinking about food e.g. If you didn’t want to use coffee on the ladies fingers how could you get the taste? Answers Kahlua, Tia Maria etc., and, for total coffee rejecters, why not Baileys or Cointreau, Grand Marnier? What fresh fruits could you add instead of chocolate? Strawberries, Raspberries, Kiwi. Not the traditional Italian recipe – but neither is Tiramisu having been invented in London during the 1970’s.

Then the gnocchi, 600 grams of potato mashed (with a ricer) and off to chill. Cold potato loses much of the moisture so handles and cooks better. “How do you get 600g?” was one question, “Weigh them before cooking” the obvious answer – though not to newish cooks.

While the potatoes cooled we started on the tomato sauce for the gnocchi including a masterclasses on cooking times for the various kinds of tomato available, fresh, tinned, passata and concentrate. We also learned that Italian cookery uses minimal garlic, but extracts all the flavour from it, in this case just one thin slice was fried at high heat and removed once browned.

Chicken was next, flattened and paneed before quickly frying and setting aside with some water added to make a sauce and ensure that the chicken remained moist.

On then to bruschetta and the making of the topping, tomato, olive and spring onion seasoned and lightly oiled before being set aside for the flavours to develop and the juices to flow.

With cooled potato we made the gnocchi, adding 00 flour and eggs before bringing into a dough, cutting into strips, rolling out to cylinders and quickly cutting with a pastry cutter. “Don’t worry if they are different sizes, this is peasant or artisan food so variations are fine” we were told.

Debate about the suitable addition of herbs was important, Basil and Oregano for tomato based sauces, always Parsley for white ones.

As the various elements came together the pace in the kitchen warmed up as the gnocchi were quickly poached and added to the tomato sauce before Mozzarella and Parmesan were added and tossed. The chicken was reheated gently before freshly sliced Mozzarella was laid on top of the escallops and a lid placed over them to melt.

Toasted bread was dressed with the bruschetta, one tip being tilt the bowl to the side and always serve from the bottom so each slice gets anointed with the juice.

Finally we retired outside to the alfresco tables to enjoy our meal with wines to accompany each course and a Limoncello to finish.

A good way to spend three hours or so - learning, making and eating. Mrs K who had arrived just in time to eat pronounced it extremely YUM, and my fellow students had enjoyed both the session and the food.

If you are in Sorrento and want a good experience head off to the Old Taverna and talk to William about a course. He is generally there from 6am to 1am and will fill you with confidence and damn fine coffee!
Foodies100 Index of UK Food Blogs
Morphy Richards

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Monday, 24 September 2012

Newport Food Festival Teen Chefs

One of the things that makes the Newport Food Festival stand out is the Community based approach, nowhere is this more evident  than in the Teen Chef competition.

Since May teams of chefs from the Youth Centres around Newport will have been designing and practicing dishes, all aiming to win the competition which will have its Final at the Festival.

It is really good to see youngsters learning about food and gaining skills that will last a lifetime, especially as food is being increasingly pushed off the curriculum in schools, and at a time when fast and convenience food is causing the Obesity Crisis in the UK and, indeed, the Western World.

The ability to take fresh ingredients and produce a nourishing meal is important and the competition showcases the best of this with teams having a budget of £7.50 to produce perfect plates of food.

A local boy turned Michelin Starred chef, Hywel Jones of Lucknam Park, is the Head Judge and I am delighted that a man who has held a Michelin Star since 2006 and heads up a brigade of over 30 gives up time to get involved. Hywel not only spends time judging but also mentors the teams and last year took the winners and their families to Lucknam Park for the day. The winners spent time in the kitchen with him before having a meal.

But to get to enjoy the reward the teams will have had to work hard at developing recipes, practicing and cooking under pressure conditions in heats and then a semi- final open to the public and then the final itself.

The Semi held in the Market Hall saw three heats, covering the three areas of the Newport Youth Service and 45 young cooks in action, whittled down from 150 who started the competition.

Dishes in the semis included Leek and Parmesan Risotto, Herby Salmon Burgers and Chips, Cefn Wood Pie and Potatoes, Cordon Bleu Chicken with a Tomato twist, Stuffed Peppers with a Blue Cheese Sauce and Lamb Cutlets on a bed of leek and garlic mashed potato, Whole Grain Mustard and Red Currant Gravy and Baby Carrots so wide ranging and none of them easy.

Judging was on four criteria, Fresh and Seasonal Ingredients, Taste, Presentation and Teamwork so not only did it have to look and taste good but the young people had to work together to produce the dish and also think about seasonality.

In a nice touch many of the ingredients were purchased from stalls in the Market and the stallholders were given small cards stating, for example, “Our Peppers are in Teen Chef”.

It’s these small but important links to the community that make Newport Food Festival what it is.

Anyway down to some serious cooking, and as someone who has cooked in front of audiences on a range of equipment from Calor Gas burners to Professional ranges and often suffered the consequences, it is not easy to cook on strange equipment and under full public gaze. The Teen Chefs, however coped really well, ignoring the audience and coping with ovens that worked at different rates to those they practiced on and used their 45 minutes to turn out some very good dishes.

I liked the attention to detail, such as the young girl taking each and every stalk of the Rocket, Courgettes being stuffed with Carrot and the lad who had made his own “hats” for the end of the Lamb cutlets. Even more impressive was the teamwork, each having their own task but also asking if anyone needed help, were they on track etc.

As well as Hywel Jones a second judge decided the outcome, two of the Cabinet Members from Newport City Council and the Mayor, and looking at the dishes I did not envy them, standards were very high and choices would be hard.

In the end though the winning dishes were Cefn Wood Pie for the West, Lamb Cutlets for Central and Rack of Lamb for the East and the teams will battle out the final in the Riverside at 1o’clock on 6th October.

Though there will be great chefs demonstrating and holding Masterclasses on the day, and they don’t come much better than James Summerin, Bryn Williams and Anand George, the real stars of the show will be the Teen Chefs fighting for the title and a day out at Lucknam Park. The runners up will not be forgotten either winning a “Kitchen Experience” in two of Newport’s best Restaurants The Waterloo Hotel and Vittorios.

Cooking is an essential skill and for some such as Hywel Jones it will lead to a career and recognition, all children and young people should have a chance to cook and another important element of the Newport Food Festival is the chance to learn as S4C’s Lisa Fearn who runs Pumpkin Patch Cookery School will hold two sessions to get kids involved.

If the standard of cooking shown by the Teen Chefs is anything to go by Newport has a secure place in the foodiverse, get along to the Food Festival on 6th Oct
Foodies100 Index of UK Food Blogs
Morphy Richards
ober and see for yourself.

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Friday, 21 September 2012

Pizarro and Fragata

When it comes to Spanish food Jose Pizarro is the master, so when Fragata UK offered food bloggers the opportunity to cook two dishes with him I was hooked.

To be in with a chance you had to come up with a couple of recipes using their range of Spanish ingredients and include olives in each dish, Jose would pick the ones he personally liked and the successful recipes would be cooked with him. A similar competition for non-bloggers is running on the Fragata UK Facebook page.

Though I am a huge advocate of local foods Wales, bounteous though she is, does not yet have Olive groves so I have long used Fragata Olives and Peppers whenever cooking Spanish food. Of course if I am visiting my brother-in-law who lives in Orba I will hit the markets for local produce, but Fragata are my go to brand in the UK.

A main course should be fairly straightforward especially as we are at the peak of the tomato season and I live very near Trealy Farm whose award winning charcuterie includes chorizo,  and a spicy version. Combining this with olives should give a nice rounded dish, and one that combines  Local and Great. This main course will serve two but could be a starter for four people.

An olive element in a dessert might be a little trickier, but a brainstorming session with James Swift from Trealy during chorizo discussions gave me some ideas.

So off to the kitchen to test the recipes!

First up use the glut of tomatoes to make a thick sauce, 4lbs of tomatoes simmered slowly in their own juices with a splash of olive oil and some sweet smoked paprika and a little Halen Mon smoked sea salt.

Then a tin of Fragata Pitted Black Olives is called into action as olives are combined with Fragata Capers, Anchovies, Garlic, Lemon Juice, Olive oil, Black Pepper and Parsley to make a Tapenade.

The tapenade will fill a boned out chicken thigh which will be wrapped in Jamon Serrano and poached before being quickly fried and served with a rich smoky tomato and chorizo sauce. A spicier version could well use Fragata Piri Piri for a chili hit.

Mains done it’s time to turn attention to dessert.

With the amazing oranges and lemons that Spain produces a citrus theme seems obvious, but what to make and how to involve olives in the dessert?

For a while, I have made an Orange Ice Cream. As Orange juice, Milk, Cream and Eggs do not emulsify well, only the zest of the orange is used, infused in the milk and strained out once it has given its rich citrus flavour and also coloured the milk.

To add more citrus flavour a little Lemon Marmalade is added to the custard before chilling. Next whipped cream goes in and the ice-cream maker does its magic for 15-20 minutes.

An Olive, Almond Lemon Praline will accompany the dish with a fudge sauce providing some extra flavour and texture.

So to the recipes:



  • 1garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 lemon, juice only
  • 3 tbsp. capers, chopped
  • 6 anchovy fillets, chopped
  • 250g/9oz black olives, pitted
  • small bunch fresh parsley, chopped
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2-4 tbsp.extra virgin olive oil

Preparation method

  1. To make a rough textured tapenade, simply mix all the ingredients together, adding enough olive oil to form a paste.
  2. For a smoother texture, tip the garlic, lemon juice, capers and anchovy into a food processor and process for about 10 seconds. Add the olives and parsley and enough olive oil to make a paste.
  3. Season to taste if necessary.



4 chicken thighs skinned and boned out.

4 slices of Jamon Serrano

4 Dsp. Tapenade

Place the tapenade in the middle of the chicken thigh and roll it over to seal, Wrap the chicken in a slice of ham then wrap in Clingfilm to make a sausage shape. Double wrap and then refrigerate.

Before using poach the thighs in the Clingfilm at a gentle simmer for 25 minutes to cook through then unwrap and crisp the ham by frying in a little olive oil or butter.


Tomato Sauce with Chorizo



400 mils Tomato Sauce

100grams cooking Chorizo skinned and cut into ½ inch slices

1 clove of Garlic sliced

1 small Onion diced to ¼ inch

4 Pimiento Piquillo

1 tsp. Smoked Paprika

Smoked Sea Salt

2 Piri Piri chilis (optional)

1tbsp Olive Oil


Heat the Olive Oil then add the Chorizo, Onion and Garlic, cook on a medium heat for 5 minutes before adding the Pimiento Piquillo, fry for a further 2 minutes before adding the Paprika stirring well to ensure that it is well distributed. Add the Tomato Sauce (and Piri Piri if wished) and bring to simmer for 10 minutes.


Put onto a plate and add the Chicken, ensuring that a little sauce has been reserved to drizzle over the chicken. Serve.

I would serve this with a good rustic bread to soak up the rich sauce at the end. Patatas Bravas would be another option,

Orange Ice Cream


130g Sugar

5 Egg Yolks

200ml Milk

240ml Double Cream

Zest of an Orange

50ml Marmalade (I use Lemon)

Put the Orange Zest in the Milk to infuse then bring to a gentle simmer and take off the heat.

Whisk the Yolks and Sugar till well combined.

Slowly pour the milk into the egg/sugar mix whisking all the time, and return to the saucepan, .over a low heat.  Stir continuously as it heats to around 72c. Much hotter and you will have Orange Scrambled Eggs so use a thermometer. When thickened to coating consistency remove from heat, add the Marmalade and stir to dissolve then cool and chill in the fridge to 5c.

Whip the cream to double the volume but do not over whip then fold in to the chilled custard. Place in Ice Cream Maker or straight into freezer. If using a machine once set freeze, if using the freezer remove after an hour, stir and return. Stirring prevents the build-up of ice crystals. The ice cream should be soft enough to serve straight from the freezer but if not let it stand at room temperature for 10 minutes or so.


Olive, Almond and Lemon Praline


4 or 5 Pitted Green Olives

7or 8 Whole Almonds

Zest of a Lemon

4oz (110g) Caster Sugar

Roughly chop the almonds and Olives and combine with the Lemon Zest.

Put the Sugar into a saucepan and add the Olive, Almond Lemon mix. Heat gently until the sugar melts and turns golden. DO NOT STIR. When the syrup has taken on the colour you like swirl to make sure that the solid ingredients are all coated in syrup and turn on to a Silpat Mat or oiled baking tray to set. When set break into small pieces or put through a food processor for a finer finish.

If possible save a little caramel and mix in double cream to make a Fudge Sauce.

To serve, I also made a few Lemon Tuille Biscuits


10oz Self Raising Flour (Sifted)

8oz Butter

4oz Sugar

Zest of a Lemon

Cream the butter and sugar then stir in the flour and add the zest. Bring the ingredients into a ball.

Break off small lumps the size of a Walnut and place them on an oiled or papered baking tray leaving lots of space as they will expand!!!

Bake at 180c for about 8 minutes then remove and allow to cool on the tray, they are thin and delicate and would break. Once cooled, place in an airtight container.


This dough will stay fresh for a week in the fridge or can be frozen so no need to make hundreds at once!



This blog post was for a Fragata UK competition and I used a hamper of Fragata products provided by them.
Foodies100 Index of UK Food Blogs
Morphy Richards

Visit UK Food Bloggers Association