Monday, April 14, 2014

Italian Regional Cooking and Matching Wine

Sunday 06-April-2014

Demonstration Class with Valentina Harris

I must confess I had not heard of Valentina Harris but she is a prolific writer of cookbooks with over 40 titles to her name. Mary signed us up for this class held at Divertimenti in Marylebone High Street.

It was demonstration rather than hands-on so we watched while Valentina prepared and chatted. She gave us an insight into her background (Italian mother, English father), her introduction to Risotto (her signature dish), and about each of the dishes and wines.

The theme being regional cooking every dish and every wine was from a different area. Not a dish and a wine from the same area but wherever produced a wine that would suit.

We were pleased to see a couple of our favourite wines on the list: Greco di Tufo and Salice Salentino.

It started at 12:30 and, given the lead time for preparation and cooking of several of the dishes, it was gone 14:00 by the time we were served the starter and I was starving.

Bocconcini di Sogliola
Parcels of Sole and Rocket
Greco di Tufo, Vesevo, Campania 2013

The parcels were wrapped in speck and were light and delicate as was the wine. I normally think of Greco di Tufo as being a little more full bodied and unctuous but maybe they chose a lighter one deliberately.
Risotto con le Cipolline e la Lattuga
Risotto with Lettuce and Spring Onion
Morellino di Scansano, Le Pupille, Tuscany 2012

I wouldn't normally have thought of cooking lettuce but why not, you cook other green leaves. Since Valentina is nicknamed "The Queen of Risotto" you would expect this to be good and it was very tasty.
Coniglio ai Pepperoni alia Calabrese
Calabrian Rabbit with Red Peppers

Served with

Polenta con Pomodori alia Friulana
Baked Polenta with Tomatoes

Fagiolini alia Fiorentina
Florentine Green Beans

'I Muri' Salice Salentino, Vigneti del Salento, Puglia 2012

This dish may be Calabrian but is also very Pugliese-like as it comes from just around the corner, Puglia is the heel of Italy and Calabria is the toe, and you would expect them to have a lot in common culinary-wise. It would be the perfect dish to prepare in our big terracotta casserole dish. Valentina was very unkind about the "boring" green bean and was of the opinion they needed jazzing up. The stew itself was excellent, very tender rabbit.
Torta di Paparele alia Veronese
Veronese Chocolate Pasta Cake
Moscato d'Asti di Strevi DOCG, Contero, Piemonte 2013

It is a good job this wasn't a TV cookery competition. She, or her assistant, took their eye off the ball and the pasta stuck together - the torta was assembled in clumps rather than layers. Then, when baked, one of the cakes stuck to the tin and came out in several pieces. So she did what sensible cooks do, she reassembled it on the serving dish and covered it in chocolate so you couldn't see the disaster! And it tastes just the same.

Of course we had to buy a cook book so we bought "The Food and Cooking of Sicily: 65 Classic Dishes from Sicily, Calabria, Basilicata and Puglia" (available on Amazon) signed by the lady herself.
 The Food and Cooking of Sicily

An excellent Sunday lunch and some recipes to try when we are next out in Puglia.

Trullo Azzurro logoTrullo Azzurro: beautifully restored trullo in delightful, secluded valley near Locorotondo, Puglia, Italy. Available to rent on a per week basis, sleeps 8-10. For more information visit


Anonymous said...

Not heard of VH! Where have you been? Can thoroughly recommend her "4 seasons" recipe book: cooked her risotto with asaparagus and peas last night: molto bene! And the duck is pretty good too, or the mushroom I'm getting peckish. Ciao.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

She's always been one of my favourite Italian cooks but I've never managed to go to one of her classes. How exciting! Happy Easter to you.