It’s Italian week at Trissalicious!
That’s right a whole week of tried and tested classic Italian recipes. A number of these recipes I learned while attending classes at The CIRA Cooking School in Annandale. CIRA stands for the Council of Italian Restaurants in Australia and was formed by twelve restauranteurs to promote the values of Italian food in Australia. The founding members are a who’s who in Italian cuisine and include: Armando Percuoco, Lucio Galletto; Giovanni Pilu, Marilyn Annecchini; Beppi, Norma and Marc Polese; Peter Zuzza, Vanessa Martin; Elio Cordaro; John O’Riordan; George Pompei, David Cowdrill and Danny Russo.
I love the fact that CIRA is a non-profit organization – a lot of Sydney’s best chefs donate their time and effort to promote Italian cuisine as it should be and many of them sacrifice their Saturday mornings and evenings to teach at this school.
As you know, I love cooking classes. I am constantly trying to find classes to attend as I find it very rewarding when I learn something new that I never thought to make before. When my Mom, the Blog Monster, was here, I took her to CIRA for a few classes.
One class we attended was run by Chef and TV personality Darren Simpson from La Scala on Jersey. While Irish, his food is pure Italian inspired no doubt from his stint as head chef of the iconic restaurant the River Cafe. One of the dishes we learned to make was the classic Spaghetti alle Vongole. The key ingredient for this pasta dish are the clams (make sure to clean them properly as sometimes they can be gritty from the sand) which, when cooked, release a flavour that marries well with white wine, olive oil, garlic and parsley.
There are two reasons I love this dish. First, you can make it in less than 10 minutes flat – a great dish to serve during the week when you’re pinched for time. Second, the sauce is so versatile. While this is traditionally made with clams, we loved it so much that we made it many times after class once using marinara mix, once using prawns, another time just the sauce alone (Spaghetti Aglia Olio) and on the net I’ve even seen it made with mushrooms.
A word of caution – because this is an extremely simple dish to make, it works better using the best quality ingredients you can afford.
To kick off Italian week, how would you like to join me in a class with one of my favourite CIRA chefs?
Logan Campbell, from two hatted restaurant, Lucio’s in Sydney, is teaching a Christmas class on the 6th of November and Dani, CIRA’s manager has kindly offered to give one slot to a reader. The class is hands on AND we get to enjoy what we’ve cooked at the end of the class. I promise, it will be fun! All you have to do is leave a comment below and let me know what Italian dish you have always wanted to learn and if you are so inclined, I’d love you to follow me (this is only optional) on twitter. I’ll announce the winner on the 31st of October 2010.
I’ve attended two classes at CIRA taught by Logan and I always jump at the chance to learn from him. He doesn’t spoil his students – he teaches you things that you wouldn’t think of making on your own but with his guidance these things are easily mastered. His Eggplant Ravioli with taleggio cheese has become my staple go to dish for any vegetarian that comes to my house (and carnivores love it too!). I’ve also learned how to debone a spatchcock and a stuff a duck leg in his classes.
There are a number of other classes available at CIRA so please do have a look at their website. You can also contact Dani on 0405 286067 (business hours) or email email@example.com to reserve a place in one of the classes or for further information.
Spaghetti alle Vongole
(serves 4) Recipe from Darren Simpson, La Scala on Jersey
- 400 grams spaghetti (Barilla brand, spagettini no 3 is what we used)
- 60 clams, purged
- 6 tablespoons flat leaf parsley
- 6 tablespoons chopped garlic
- 2 tablespoons red chilli
- 2 pinches dried chilli
- 300 ml dry white wine
- 200 ml best quality olive oil
- In boiling salted water cook the spaghetti until al dente
- Place the clams in a bowl with the chilli, garlic, parsley, olive oil and white wine.
- Heat a saucepan until hot and then add the clam mixture.
- Cover with the lid and cook until the clams open (around 3 to 4 minutes)
- The olive oil and white wine will form a sauce – toss the spaghetti in the sauce.
- Serve with crusty bread.