In July, I was lucky to be invited up to Clifton for a cookery class at The Devilled Egg Kitchen Academy – an evening dedicated to teaching me and three others how to get to grips with Tuscan food.
Founder, foodie, and head chef Barbora Stiess, who studied at Leith’s School of Food and Wine and subsequently trained under Michelin Starred chef Michael Caines, has recently had a brand new kitchen fitted at her Clifton home (from which she runs her cookery classes) and let’s just say I’m very jealous! Designed and built by Morley Grove Kitchens, the new space features V-ZUG ovens, dishwashers and hobs, and equipment by Kitchen Aid, and it’s BEAUTIFUL. I’d never even heard of a steam oven nor known what such a thing was used for, but after one evening in Barbora’s kitchen I’d definitely like one in the future.
We certainly managed to get through a LOT in our evening class – but it didn’t feel at all rushed. Over the course of around three hours, we learned how to make ribollita, bread, pasta (which was used in our own amazing raviolo), panzanella, and a gorgeous ricotta and orange tart (we candied our own orange peel too).
The evening began with us testing out our knife skills, chopping a variety of vegetables that would eventually become our ribollita – a famous Tuscan soup consisting of vegetables, water (no stock), beans and bread to thicken slightly and add flavour.
This test of our skills continued with peeling oranges (avoiding taking the pith with the peel) and slicing thinly to make a speedy candied peel for our dessert – and by chopping cucumber and red onions which were combined with basil, oil, vinegar, tomatoes and garlic before blitzing and combining with more stale bread to make our panzanella (bread salad).
The knife skills were just the start, though: with pasta, pastry and bread all on the evening’s menu, there was a hell of a lot of mixing and kneading that needed doing! And very useful it was too – after comparing hand mixed versus spoon mixed bread dough, I’ll definitely be sticking with the latter method from now on – my first effort ended up very sticky and didn’t rise anywhere near as much as the others. The rough puff pastry we made worked well in a warm kitchen and took far less time and effort than a “normal” puff pastry…I’ve got to admit, I tend to go for the shop bought stuff whenever I cook anything that requires puff!
Making my own pasta is something that I’ve only done a handful of times before – although I have a pasta maker at home and find it massively rewarding, I struggle to find the time to do it. I’ve always made it by hand, though, so our evening of using an electric mixer before refrigerating and then using meant that I’m more tempted to give it another go in the future!
The trickiest part of the pasta making process, we found, was keeping the long sheets of pasta intact while we fed them through the pasta maker – gradually decreasing the size of the gap through which the pasta was passed until it was thin enough to work with.
Then came the tricky part. After mixing our spinach and ricotta, we created a ring of the mixture on top of a circle of pasta: making a well into which we carefully placed a whole egg yolk. This was then topped with another circle of our pasta, air bubbles removed and the edges sealed before cooking for a few minutes just before serving.
Preparations complete, it was time to enjoy the fruits of our labours. Barbora provided us with a range of Italian antipasti to kick us off, and while we waited for our ribollita to be served.
The soup was beautiful – the liquid thickened slightly thanks to the bread, the vegetables still with a beautiful crunch to them. We were all amazed at the depth of flavour of the broth – especially considering that it was created simply from water, the bread and vegetables, fennel seeds, chilli and bay.
The panzanella was delicious too…we added quite a lot of garlic as we are all fans! I’ve only ever eaten panzanella that includes big chunks of bread and salad vegetables, so it was intriguing to try one where everything had been blitzed to a liquid before adding the bread to soak it all up.
Talking of bread, ours was pretty good too. It had been left to rise in Barbora’s steam oven before baking – a great piece of equipment of which we were all very envious!
For me, the raviolo was the star of the show. Cooked for just a couple of minutes, the egg yolk was still perfectly runny when I dug my fork in, the spinach and ricotta a classic combination that worked well with the simplicity of the tomato, pesto and basil garnish.
And finally, on to the ricotta tart. Admittedly, it ain’t the prettiest of desserts, but the pastry case enclosing a ricotta, mascarpone and candied peel-based filling was a definite winner in my eyes. I could definitely have eaten more than I did!
At the end of the night, we left The Devilled Egg with a bag of homemade biscotti from Barbora, plus the promise that all of the recipes from the evening would be sent through via email.
This was the second class that I’ve attended at The Devilled Egg, having previously won a class in a newsletter competition back in May 2011 (write up here), and I was just as impressed. Barbora is so down to earth and made us all feel immediately at ease, mistakes and minor failures were laughed off but resolved with tips on how to do things next time, and I came away from the evening feeling like I learned a lot. Many thanks to Barbora for a fantastic evening – now time to plan my next Tuscan dinner party…
Classes at The Devilled Egg Kitchen Academy range from £45 to £250, for full list of classes please visit thedevilledegg.com or contact Barbora on 0117 973 2823. The Devilled Egg Kitchen Academy is located at Latchford House, 8 Downfield Road, Clifton, Bristol, BS8 2TH.
Please note: this class was received free of charge, but in no way impacted on our opinion. We were not obliged to write a positive review, and the cookery school did not see this review before it was put up on the site.
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