Wednesday, 21 May 2014

CiCi-CoCo Cookery School

Location: Cuddington, Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire HP18, UK

One wet Wednesday a couple of months ago, I arrived at a gorgeous little stone cottage, in a village on the outskirts of Aylesbury. The cottage itself turned out to be quite the tardis - opening out into a modern glass and steel kitchen extension, overlooking beautifully manicured lawns. Greeting me on a homely wooden table was a delicious ricotta and almond cake, flanked on either side by a bottle of San Pellegrino and a big bunch of Tulips - not the toughest of days then!

So what was the reason for this escape from my usual chaos of nappies and play groups? A cookery class at CiCi-CoCo Cookery School, to which I had kindly been invited by Giuliana - the lady behind CiCi-CoCo and its wonderful lasagne!

If you've visited Vale Harvest Market in the past, or ventured to Selfridges Food Hall, then you may be familiar with CiCi-CoCo already. Residing in Cuddington in Buckinghamshire, Giuliana originates from much sunnier climes, specifically Friuli Venezia Giulia in the north of Italy. Having built a business selling Italian meals and pasta, picking up a few awards along the way, Giuliana branched out into cookery classes - lucky for me, as it meant I got to spend a few pleasant hours with good people and good food.

Over the course of the next three hours I, along with three other students (one young couple whose places were purchased as a gift, plus a returning student), assisted in the preparation of a two course Italian meal, centred around the 'Flavours of the Italian Alps' - a  sumptuous polenta starter of Toc' in Braide (the farmer sauce), followed by an Oxford wild venison, pork, mushroom and Sud Tirol speck ragu baked with Socchievina mountain style polenta. Not quite diet food, but then when is diet food ever this good?

A slice of cake and a cuppa was the perfect ice breaker and start to the course, then pinnies on, hands washed and on with the cooking. Baked polenta and the ragu to start with, wonderfully high quality ingredients all laid out awaiting our attention. We chopped, we chatted, we tasted, we drank more coffee; I even picked up a few tips along the way (add some milk to your ragu - sounds a bit odd but leads to a wonderfully rich and creamy).

Once the ragu was simmering and the polenta was in the oven, we moved on to our wickedly naughty starter - think full fat milk, polenta, butter, cream and cheese, topped of with sautéed mushrooms - absolutely delicious. Rich, smooth, silky... bordering on sensual, this would be well received at any dinner party or restaurant. Once we'd all ooh'd and ahh'd over the soft polenta it was time to move on to the baked version, this time with that wonderful rich ragu. Served up with braised cabbage and bacon, the ragu and mountain style polenta was earthy, heart-hugging, home cooking; great for a large family gathering or meal with friends.

With the cookery class done, I was somewhat hesitant to leave the cool calm of Giuliana's kitchen; she'd been a warm host, a patient teacher and an oasis of calm amidst a sea of life's usual to-do lists, chores and toddler negotiations. I'd met some great people, talked a lot about food, eaten well and added a few extra dishes to my personal repertoire - not a bad way to spend a morning!

If you've previously purchased some of Giuliana's fab lasagne (count me in, I loved the venison & chestnut version), then you'll be sad to hear she is no longer selling them. But, if you're interested in attending one of her cookery classes then you'll be very happy to hear Giuliana will be focussing her efforts here, with a selection of interesting classes coming up. And, if you're a home-leaving student in need a repertoire of meals to cook yourself, or the parent or grandparent of one, then Giuliana's 'Cooking for College' classes will definitely be of interest.

Here's a list of CiCi-CoCo's upcoming classes (do check the website for further events):

06/06/2014 – Friday 10-3
Tyringham Hall: £95
Italian lunch 2. 
Summer in Tuscany: family lunch al fresco. Traditional recipes form the Tuscan hills using local and seasonal ingredients to taste for lunch. Perfect with a good bottle of Chianti in the wonderful setting of Tyringham hall.

17/06/2014 Tuesday 10-3
Beam Cottage: £65
Quattro pasta 3: Summer feast!
Summer’s here. Enjoy making pasta for lunches, in salads with the best local seasonal produce, meats and cheeses.

29/06/2014 Sunday 10-3
Sandy Lane Farm: £95
Italian lunch 3. 
A Sicilian family feast! 
Using all the beautiful ingredients from the farm you will cook and eat a three courses Sicilian style lunch with a refreshing glass of wine. 

A series of fun, hands-on courses to equip first-time home-leavers with the knowledge and skills to cook simple, delicious and nutritious meals on a student budget
Session 1: The Famous Five. The five classic pasta sauces: Authentic Ragu’ alla Bolognese, Carbonara, Spicy Sausage & Chilli, Puttanesca and Neopolitan Meatball Ragu’.
Session 2: Kitchen Parties
Session 3: Quick Street Food.
Aug 6th, 12th & 14th. 10-2pm (ish) inc lunch.
£75 per session; 2 for £135; or 3 part course for £200

CiCi CoCo
Twitter: @cicicocokitchen
Facebook: @CiCiCoCoKitchen

I was invited as a guest of CiCi CoCo Cookery School

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