Monday, July 4, 2016

spicing up Piedmont cuisine

On June 23 at 3pm the Turin Epicurean Capital cooking class taught by Patrizia Nobile of Tastinglife and Chef Lamberto Guerrer, started at the Associazione Cuochi Torino.
Patrizia and Lamberto decided to put together their know-how and offer a class about the best of the Piedmontese cuisine and a couple of ingredients ordinary in other world's cuisines but yet totally unknown in Italy.

Chef Lamberto Guerrer, ACT presdent and Patrizia Nobile of Tastinglife

Given her education in herbal medicines, Patrizia selected the spices and seeds to be added to the classic Piedmontese recipes taught in this cooking class. Lamberto picked the regional specialties: tajarin and grissini breadsticks. As for the dessert, easily they came up with it together: decadent chocolate and strawberries.

All over Italy it is common to buy freshly baked bread, focaccias, pizzas and breadsticks (grissini) but due to the rising time, the average Italian isn't a baker; nonetheless, all Italian bakery products are very easy to make at home. As Lamberto explained "all you need is 00 flour, water and yeast". A Kitchen Aid isn't really necessary provided you are strong enough to knead the dough yourself. This is actually the hardest part as focaccias, bread and grissini do the rest of the work on their own.

While Lamberto was showing us how to prepare the dough, Patrizia selected different kinds of seeds: sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and 3 different kinds of sesame seeds. Needless to tell you that seeds are an exceptional addition to any dish and have amazing health benefits too.

The participants had the chance to pull by hand the thin Piedmontese grissini and roll them in the trays with the seeds. Once in the oven, it was tajarin time!

Turin Epicuren Capital 2016 guests: Liana Campanella of Italiana Travel Design

Tajarin are the Piedmont handmade spaghetti-like pasta, usually made with 40 yolks to sport a bright yellow color.
In reality though, the amount of the yolks can vary just like the amount of flour, especially if you add other ingredients like spices, herbs or even cocoa powder.

Turin Epicurean Capital 2016 guest: Sue Hepburn of Naked Tartufi

Yes, you read well, in fact during this cooking class, the participants got to mix flour and egg yolks with either tumeric or cocoa powder. Then they kneaded the dough by hand and learned how to use the pasta machine to reach the right level of thinness. 
Ideally, the tajarin and agnolotti pasta sheet should be elastic, firm and thin, hand cut at any desired width. Usually in Piedmont you'll find them fairly small.

As the tajarin were boiling, Patrizia gave us a couple information about tumeric. Many people are aware of its health benefits but few people know that in order for our bodies to absorb it, we need to cook it with pepper and some fat, or we'll just flush it out.

Turin Epicurean Capital 2016 guests cutting cocoa tajarin: Sucheta Rawal and Liana Campanella 

This is how we could compare classic tajarin with bright yellow tumeric served with lemon zest, pepper and heavy cream - ho boy!! so good!! - and with the out-of-the-ordinary ones made with cocoa powder - brown and yet mild, seasoned with rosemary and melted butter.

Turin Epicurean Capital 2016 guest: Sucheta Rawal of Go Eat Give

Finally, it was dessert time! Patrizia and Lamberto showed us all the tricks of the trade to make the most perfect lava cakes served with sautées strawberries in Calvados and paired with a chlorophyll and mint jelly made with agar agar, a vegetable thickener!

Giuliana Nobile of Tasting Life cutting the jelly four-leaf clovers

To be fair, yes, traditional Piedmontese cuisine is royal and poor at the same time by definition thanks to the grandeur of its royal past and the simplicity of the country life in the Alps and the on the hills, but the flavor of these traditional recipes twisted with spices and seeds were dramatically enhanced! 
All the practical tips and tricks we were given contributed to make of a regular cooking class an even more interesting one... too bad we can't go back and start it over but keep it in mind for next year! 

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