Masterclass | An interactive Italian cooking class with Chef Maurizio Raselli, Hyatt Regency, New Delhi … & a green bean potato salad

“You create something with your own hands, add a dash of your heart and when you see a satisfied diner relishing it, the feeling goes to your soul,”
Maurizio Raselli

Hyatt Chef Maurizio Masterclass It’s the passion, the energy, the enthusiasm, the free spirited and relaxed young chef who greets you. The emotions are infectious and before you know it, the charismatic Maurizio Raselli casts a spell over you. From there he effortlessly leads you into his chamber {read private kitchen, with a large glass window, well lit and fully equipped} for a therapeutic, unwinding, endlessly entertaining and interactive Italian cooking class. That’s what Camp Charmaine was about!

With poster boy good looks , a charm that can instantly disable, and a smile that can light a room, this young man is passionate about what he does. Hailing from the Piedmont region of Italy, Chef Maurizio Raselli is happy to be in India.

Hyatt Chef Maurizio Masterclass He thinks food, he celebrates food and believes in simple, good cooking. His mantra is clear. Use the best ingredients, keep it simple, do it from scratch, cook from the heart, use your head … discover the soul of a good dish! Every dish he created was gold standard! Effortlessly conversing with us, with his ingredients, with himself too, hands flying all over the place, he enjoyed every single moment!

Hyatt Chef Maurizio Masterclass We loved it too! Tremendously. It was a treat being invited to the camp held at the beautiful Hyatt Regency, New Delhi. A little bit about the concept. It’s the brainchild of young, enthusiastic and affable Vidhi Jatia {extreme right below}, the CEO & Director of Charmaine. Charmaine means ‘Charm’ and you can see the concept taking life right from the word go!

Hyatt Chef Maurizio Masterclass

Charmaine is aimed at young girls and ladies who are wanting to learn about etiquette – social and communication skills, table manners and dining etiquette, grooming, hair and make up, fashion and styling as well as image consulting, nutrition, wine and wine glasses, wine and cheeses, cooking and plating dishes, cocktail making etc…. the list goes on! They do customised classes for beginners right up to advanced camps.

Hyatt Chef Maurizio Masterclass The interactive cooking session was stellar. Simple, unfussy,  good quality ingredients and a load of elbow grease is the secret to Italian cuisine. “Read a recipe, then forget it“, he says! A diehard Italian cuisine fan, he learnt the tricks of the trade watching his grandmother cook.

Hyatt Chef Maurizio Masterclass Lavished generously with small handy tips, some amazingly simple yet so effective. It was a well set menu. We did 4 dishes, each one special, with flavours that pleased. Beginning with a simple, moorish green bean and potato salad, it was surprising how much flavour he incorporated into the almost humble salad. {catch the recipe at the bottom}.

Hyatt Chef Maurizio Masterclass Every ingredient was treated lovingly, right from handling the beans to chopping the spuds, he ENJOYED the process. Expertly tossing the dressing, not distracted by us talking nineteen to a dozen, Maurizio seems born to do this. The salad was outstanding in flavour, everyday ingredients beautifully paired.

Hyatt Chef Maurizio Masterclass Onto the risotto and I was ‘iffy‘. Shrimp, calamari and asparagus sounded exotic good, but I’m not a ‘seafood’ person and was apprehensive. The risotto used Maurizio’s rice of choice, Riso Scotti Carnaroli. He prefers carnaroli over arborio as it has a higher starch content. The risotto was simmering very soon…. Hyatt Chef Maurizio Masterclass This class was beginning to be really good. With 2 dishes to go, Maurizzio decided to show us his muscle power and within 1 few minutes was happily kneading pasta dough. Keep it simple he said. Too many egg yolks do not a tasty pasta make! With perfect eyeballing, he tossed flour, eggs, salt and olive oil …dashes of water, some serious {and well appreciated} kneading later, he left the dough to rest.

Hyatt Chef Maurizio Masterclass While the dough rested, the risotto was done. A nice generous helping of mature parmesan and butter later, it was plated to perfection, with another generous drizzle of EVOO!

Hyatt Chef Maurizio Masterclass With Ruchira quickly doing a taste test, she confirmed that it wasn’t ‘fishy’ at all. I was convinced and then couldn’t stop devouring spoonful after spoonful. Excellent! Creamy, fab texture, good bite, all the flavours just right. One of the best risottos we’ve had. Almost wiped the platter clean, even though we were yet be served lunch.Hyatt Chef Maurizio Masterclass By which time the pasta sauce was being expertly panned! It was very simple and yet very delicious. While the sauce gently cooked {begun with all ingredients in a cold pan so as to not give it a thermal shock}, the efficient chef turned his attention to rolling out the pasta. He spoke about tortini, tortellini and ravioli, dispelling several misnomers we had.

Hyatt Chef Maurizio Masterclass It was a treat watching him create the filling for ravioli. Simply blanch the spinach. Dunk into cold water and then press. Yes, he showed off his muscle power yet again, much the the glee of the ladies. All the liquid must be squeezed out, ALL of it! Then came some expert chopping. You would not like to get a leaf in your mouth he questioned? Would you? Make sure you don’t overstuff them, he warned. We need the bite of pasta as well as the filling.Hyatt Chef Maurizio Masterclass The sauce was as simple as it was delicious. Just enough to add some beautiful moistness to the pasta, some mature parmesan to give it the added luxury, some EVOO…and it was soon gone! He certainly created magic! Bravo!!

Hyatt Chef Maurizio Masterclass Soon it was time for tiramisu. In a matter of seconds he grabbed a HUGE bowl, separate the yolks and white and got down to whipping manually. He was now beginning to enjoy showing off his muscle power to the awed women! The yolks are the easy part he said, eyeballing some sugar into the bowl with the yolks. What unbelievably followed next were the whites. I have never seen egg whites come to stiff peaks whipped by hand in a matter of minutes. We all stared …

Hyatt Chef Maurizio Masterclass 18What a tiramisu that was. Maybe the best ever. Not too sweet, full of deep coffee flavour, no liqueur as was his choice, the zabaglione mousse and light. Creamy but sans cream, it was excellent.

Hyatt Chef Maurizio Masterclass We soon shifted to the table set at the beautiful Hyatt Club, a private seating and lounging arrangement. With newly done and refurbished interiors, it’s chic, relaxed, well lit and spacious. We devoured a lot fresh and delicious bread with our meal. Chef Bungla who heads the bakery at the Hyatt is one of the most unassuming and humble chefs around. He was sweet enough to part with some sourdough starter. And Maurizio presented us each with a jar of bruschetta topping he made.

Sourdough bread with Maurizio's bruschetta topping Well I baked bread soon after. That with the topping was addictive good! Will share the recipe sometime soon! Until then, here’s the simple bean and potato salad that we loved!

Recipe: Green beans and potato salad, aged parmesan flakes, rocket leaves, mint and shallot dressing 

Summary: Recipe courtesy Chef Maurizio Raselli, Hyatt Regency, New Delhi

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Ingredients:

  • 80g diced beans
  • 80g diced potatoes
  • 5g shallot
  • 10g EVOO
  • white vinegar
  • 20g aged parmesan
  • rocket leaves
  • mint
  • parsley
  • almond flakes

Method:

  1. Cook the beans in boiling water for about 5 minutes.
  2. Trim the beans, and open them into two follwoing the natural line.
  3. Cook the potatoes diced in water till soft.
  4. In a bowl mix the beans and slightly mashed potatoes
  5. Add the grated parmesan, EVOO< shallot brunoise with vinegar, mint leaves and chopped parsley.
  6. Plate it nicely with some rocket leaves underneath and fresh grated parmesan on top as garnish.
  7. Serve warm

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Baking | Roasted Garlic Foccacia … & a salute to the ‘Fukushima 50’!

“All sorrows are  less with bread.”
Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra

Roasted Garlic FocacciaIs it just me, or does time really seem to crawl when you want life to get back to normal? Japan is still battling its worse ever crisis, the world looks on with fingers crossed, living in hope that things will get better. Hope rests on unlikely heroes, a band of brothers who work tirelessly round the clock with strength and resilience, reflecting the true spirit of the nation they belong to. The Fukushima 50, the bravest of the brave, put their lives on hold while they battle radiation risks to save impending disaster. The world salutes your spirit!Roasted Garlic FoccaciaAs my mind is overtaken by thoughts of Japan, the bread I post today is simple yet comforting,  a good classic bread with deep taste.  A few days ago, I had this obsessive desire to bake bread. The weather here is changing, warming up rather quickly, an indication that bread baking days are back again.Roasted Garlic FoccaciaOften I forget to begin the bread process the previous evening; just don’t plan right. It’s such a bother! I’d had focaccia on my mind for a few days. That morning, leafing through my cookbooks and recipes {including Ottolenghi & Peter Reinhart}, figured I was late for the poolish again. Poolish is like a starter, a mother dough, and is also referred to as a pre-ferment or biga. Roasted Garlic FoccaciaYet, bread I HAD to bake! The insane idea didn’t want to leave my head, so it was back to the net,  proving for the  infinite time that net dependency is something that isn’t easy to shake off! One of the first matches for ‘same day focaccia ‘ led me to Pease-Pudding! What’s not to love about the name? One step into the delicious blog and it was time to bookmark. Pease-Pudding is hosted by a North English lass who lives in New Zealand. She loves peas and she loves pudding, has a passion for desserts, hence the name.Roasted Garlic FoccaciaOf the bread she said on her post, “I have made the bread three times now and each time it turns out perfect. The difference with this dough is that it is more like a wet poolishand not one you knead.”  We absolutely loved the focaccia. The crust and texture of both the inside and the outside were addictive. It was obvious why she had made it thrice in a week. I would too!!Roasted Garlic Foccacia A handsome splash of extra virgin olive oil, a couple of heads of roasted garlic in the dough, a sprinkling of fresh oregano, sea salt & more garlic on top. I couldn’t have asked for better, more  comforting bread! It’s simple, is ready to bake in a couple of hours, and the olive oil lavished on top gives it a beautiful crust. Not sure if the addition of vital gluten had anything to do with it, but the insides were airy, light and delightfully chewy. 

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Italian Food Event| Sapori de lombardia – Menu Sampling at Italia

Life is too short, and I’m Italian. I’d much rather eat pasta and drink wine than be a size 0.
Sophia Bush

Lombardian promotion at ItaliaLombardy seems to be in the news for all the wrong reasons recently, with Nicolle Minetti and Silvio Berlusconi keeping the news hot with the  bunga bunga investigations. Meanwhile, Lombardy is doing the foodie rounds here in New Delhi with a unique Lombardian promotion at Italia,  the celebrated award winning Italian restaurant from The Park, which offers a variety of authentic Italian cuisine.

Lombardy which lies in the North of Italy is very famous for its food, culture, fashion, joy for life and football. Culinary delights from this part of  Italy are very rich and mainly consist of rice, cheese and meats. Butter and cream are used much more liberally than the traditional olive oil base for sauces. Famous Italian cheese like Gorgonzola, Parmigiano reggiano, Taleggio and Provolone are produced in this region. Beef, lamb and pork are in abundance in the recipes of Lombardian food. Signature dishes include risotto milanese, veal ossobucco, cotoletta alla milanese, cassoeula, baked polenta gnocchi, pasta norma, tortellini bolognaise to name some.

I was recently invited to sample the Lombardian menu at Italia for a food event held to celebrate the cuisine from the region. The restaurant manager, Vikas did everything to make us feel at home, and Chef Sumopriyo came to talk us through every course. There were surprisingly very few patrons at the restaurant that afternoon, it being a public holiday; maybe a late lunch was the call for the day.Lombardian promotion at ItaliaThe restaurant offers a fine dining experience, is well laid out and offers seating both indoors and outdoors, both casual and semi-formal. We chose to sit indoors as the winter sun was very hot outdoors. Interestingly, Italia also offers the option of ‘Private Dining‘, a separate room you can reserve for a private party, which offers seating capacity for up to 12 people. My plebeian tastes however make me feel happy sitting amongst the crowds… Lombardian promotion at Italia 26th January, Republic Day, meant a ‘dry day‘ in India, so there was no wine with the meal, but I have to say it wasn’t missed. An array of dazzling mocktails made way for starters. Polenta frita or pan fried polenta cakes, which I had sans pancetta, with mozarella was a perfect beginning to the meal.  The texture was wonderful, mildly crisp, and the flavours outstanding. {Didn’t get a picture here as the platter was far too inviting!}. The  focaccia was sadly dry and tasteless,  nothing to write home about.

Insalata di barbabietole e formaggio caprinoNext came Insalata di barbabietole e formaggio caprino, an oven roasted beet and goat cheese salad with balsamic and argula. That had us scraping the platters clean. Excellent in every way, a fabulous blend of flavours and an endearing drizzle of balsamic over the salad! This salad had a winning touch to it … the colours, the textures, the creaminess of the goat cheese. This was my most favourite part of the meal, well almost {dessert always wins in the end}! The inclusion of arugula, a pungent, peppery salad green, continued throughout the meal, as the leaf is widely found in the Lombardy region.

nsalata di barbabietole e formaggio caprinoTime for the minestrone al risso, a classic minestrone soup with Parmesan and risotto. Risotto in the soup gives it regional character, arborio used quite a bit in the region as per the chef. There was plenty of vegetarian option in the menu put together by the chef, welcome for me as I prefer a vegetarian spread, even though I eat both. I found the higher use of polenta instead of flour in the cuisine strangely comforting and welcome.Lombardian promotion at ItaliaThe soup was followed by pizza con patate, pollo e gorgonzola, or pizza with potatoes, chicken and gorgonzola cheese. Took me right back to my one and only visit to Milan in the late 1980’s where we tasted our first authentic Italian pizza, and were totally blown away. The one at Italia was sans a pizza sauce, very light {almost too light for a main meal I would say}, a paper thin crust, almost like a popaddum, yet pleasantly satisfying. It had more a starter like feel to it.Lombardian promotion at ItaliaThe next 3 items came in small portions on a single platter {on special request to the chef} as the meal was now beginning to get filling already.  Even though the portions were small, after a while eating and tasting so much becomes laborious, and I wanted to do justice to the menu. We had risotto alla milanese, a classic saffron risotto, which I found a tad disappointing. No deep or outstanding saffron flavours in it. The tortellini alla bolognese, mince meat dumplings with Parmesan which I left for Mr PAB to do the honours as I was too full. The dumplings he said were very good, the sauce was just a regular creamy tomato one. I did sample the 3rd dish, ravioli de zucca, pumpkin ravioli in a butter walnut sauce, which offered a gentle mingling of flavours. This was one course I could have gladly skipped for the next.Lombardian promotion at ItaliaCotoletta alla milanese, breaded veal escalopes served with a spaghetti tomato basil sauce followed. This was excellent. The escalopes done just perfectly, with a great flavour combination. Very very enjoyable. On the platter too was pangasio al farno, or baked river sole with salsa verde and mustard potatoes. I am not much the fishy person, but Mr PAB enjoyed the flavour on the sole a lot. The third sampling on this platter was the malfatti ricotta e spinaci, ricotta cheese and spinach malfatti, which was very passable. I found it far too dense and low on taste. A good malfatti is amazing and addictive, even though the name might mean ‘poorly-made‘!Lombardian promotion at ItaliaThe chef had put together a selection of the menu, a total of 13 items and I do wish I had seen some mushroom on my selection;  I sorely missed that. The meal was lavish, course after course. Each course had a good selection on offer though the pressure of tasting so much was soon bearing down on me. In my humble opinion, I think the tasting menu might do better if it is trimmed down to a fewer items, and a lower cost perhaps. There is no way I could do justice to the huge selection on offer without feeling full.Lombardian promotion at ItaliaWe finished the meal with an indulgent dessert, one that was fabulous – panna cotta alla vaniglia e lamponi … an sublime & satisfying  vanilla bean panna cotta with raspberry sauce. Yes, it was wonderfully creamy {as heavy cream panna cottas always are}, not overbearingly sweet, perfectly complimented by the raspberry sauce. Thank you Italia and the Park Hotel Group for having me over to sample the menu.  I do wish I had a much larger appetite and could have sampled each item.

The event is on until the 6th of February 2011 at Italia, DLF Promenade, so do hurry over if you are in the New Delhi region.
Make sure you go with a big appetite!

Date: 21st Jan – 6th Feb 2011
Venue: ItALIa, 2nd floor, DLF Promenade
Timings: Lunch and Dinner
Average price for meal for two: Rs.2500+taxes (without alcohol)

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