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Italian Christmas Class and Meal with Salvatore

Natale in famiglia!

Christmas is the crowning jewel of the Italian feast of Natale, a three day festive celebration held over Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day. Italians are well known for their love of feasting and the festive period is no exception, with Italian home cooks displaying their culinary prowess across a number of sumptuous courses.

Parma Ham Parcels with Aspargus and Truffle Paste

Ingredients – Serves 2:

  • 50g of asparagus
  • 50g of truffle paste
  • 75g of ricotta, you could also use stracchino, or squacquerone cheese
  • 20g of pecorino, grated
  • 3 slices of Parma ham

Method:

  1. Using a potato peeler, cut twelve long thin ribbons of asparagus and set aside for later.
  2. Blanch the rest of the asparagus in boiling water for five minutes. Drain and leave to cool.
  3. Finely chop the asparagus with a knife or in a food processor.
  4. Gently combine the ricotta and pecorino in a bowl using a spatula. Work slowly to retain a stiff consistency.
  5. Add the asparagus and truffle paste to the cheese mixture and mix thoroughly until combined.
  6. Using a teaspoon, place a dollop of the mixture in the centre of each slice of Parma Ham.
  7. Gather the Parma Ham up around the filling to make a parcel.
  8. Tie the neck of the parcel up with a strip of asparagus and serve

Griddled sea bass with white asparagus stuffed courgettes, tomatoes, olives and basil

Ingredients Serves 4

BASIL OIL

  • 20g of¬†basil, leaves¬†picked
  • 100ml of olive oil

SLOW-ROASTED PLUM TOMATOES

  • 2 plum¬†tomato
  • salt
  • icing sugar
  • olive oil
  • basil, 2 sprigs

TOMATO SAUCE

  • 100ml of olive oil
  • 1¬†shallot, thinly¬†sliced
  • 1¬†garlic clove,¬†crushed
  • 4 plum¬†tomatoes, ripe, peeled and¬†chopped
  • salt
  • cayenne pepper
  • basil

BLACK OLIVE CROUTE

  • black olives, pitted and marinated (not in brine)
  • ¬Ĺ¬†baguette, small

WHITE ASPARAGUS

  • 2 white asparagus¬†prepared, cooked and¬†halved
  • olive oil

AUBERGINE AND COURGETTE FARCE

  • olive oil
  • 1¬†shallot, finely¬†chopped
  • 1¬†garlic clove,¬†crushed
  • 1/2 tsp¬†mix herbs
  • salt
  • ¬Ĺ¬†¬†courgette, small
  • 1/2¬†aubergine, small
  • 1¬†flat mushroom, medium
  • 2¬†spinach leaves, washed and cut into very thin¬†strips
  • 2¬†tomatoes,¬†diced
  • ¬Ĺ¬†handful of breadcrumbs, small
  • 1¬†round courgettes, cut in half lengthways with centre scooped¬†out

SEA BASS

  • 1¬†sea bass fillets, skin¬†scored
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1¬†lemon

Method

  1. First make the basil oil. Place the picked basil in a liquidiser with the olive oil and blitz into a purée with a pinch of salt. Set aside in the fridge until required
  2. Preheat the oven to 80¬įC, or the lowest setting on a gas mark¬†oven
  3. Blanch the plum tomatoes briefly in water and remove the skins, then cut into wedges and place onto a non-stick baking tray. Season with salt, sprinkle over a little icing sugar and drizzle with some olive oil
  4. Place a couple of sprigs of basil over the tomatoes and cook in the low oven for approximately 10 minutes. Open the door at regular intervals to let any moisture out of the oven
  5. For the tomato sauce, warm the olive oil in a wide, shallow, non-stick pan and add the shallot and garlic. Cook slowly until soft and sweet but not coloured. Add the chopped tomatoes and season with a little salt and cayenne pepper
  6. Cook slowly until the tomato sauce starts to thicken Рyou will need to stir it quite often to prevent it from burning. Once it has become thick, add the basil and leave it to infuse for 10 minutes before passing through a sieve to remove the seeds. Set aside in a warm place
  7. For the olive en croute, add the olives to a blender and blitz to make a paste Рyou may need to add a little olive oil to help the process
  8. Slice the baguette very thinly to create a croute, then toast it slowly until nice and crispy. Set aside until ready to serve
  9. For the aubergine and courgette farce (for stuffing the round courgettes), place some olive oil into a small pan and add the shallot, garlic, herbs  and a pinch of salt. Cook until soft and sweet but not coloured
  10. Preheat the oven to 170¬įC/gas mark¬†3
  11. Add the diced courgette and aubergine and cook until soft, then add the chopped mushroom and cook until the moisture has evaporated. Add the spinach and cook until dry again
  12. Add the diced tomato cook for 1 minute, then add some breadcrumbs just to stiffen the mix up. Set aside
  13. Blanch the round courgettes in boiling salted water until tender, but still firm and holding their shape. Refresh in iced water and drain. Stuff with some of the farce and sprinkle with a few more breadcrumbs. Place into oven for 10-15 minutes, then remove and keep warm
  14. Reduce the oven temperature to 150¬įC/gas mark¬†2
  15. To prepare the fish, add some olive oil to a hot pan and season the fish. Place in the pan skin-side down and fry for thirty seconds, then place the fish in the oven for 5-6 minutes to cook through
  16. Meanwhile, quickly sauté the white aspargus in a small pan with a dash of oil
  17. Arrange the courgettes neatly onto plates, then spread on a little of the tomato sauce. Place the slow-cooked tomatoes and the white asparagus on top of the sauce
  18. Remove the sea bass from the oven and season with some salt and lemon. Place the fish on top of the vegetables and trickle some basil oil around the vegetables. Spread some black olive paste onto the croute and arrange on top of the fish. Serve immediately

Panettone, cocoa cream with Amaretto Cookie Crumble and Zabaione

Ingredients – Serves 2:

CRUMBLE

  • 100g of amaretto biscuit
  • 3 tbsp of Amaretto

COCOA CREAM

  • 2 egg yolks
  • 100g of sugar
  • 500ml of milk
  • 50g of flour
  • 4 tbsp of cocoa powder, unsweetened
  • 1 tbsp of Amaretto

ZABAIONE

  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 tbsp of sugar
  • 2 tbsp of Marsala wine

Method

  1. To make the crumble, place the Amaretto cookies in a sealable plastic bag and crush using a rolling pin or meat tenderiser until you have a uniform, medium-fine crumble. Transfer to a bowl, add the Amaretto liqueur, and combine well. Set aside
  2. To make the cocoa cream, heat the milk in a saucepan on low until it just simmers
  3. Beat the sugar and egg yolks in a bowl until smooth and frothy. Add the flour to the egg mixture a little at a time while continuously beating
  4. Add spoonfuls of the warming milk as needed if the mixture becomes too dry
  5. Add the cocoa powder in the same manner and beat until you have a thick, smooth cream. Add the hot milk a little at a time to the cream mixture, beating continuously on low. The mixture will be very liquid
  6. Return the mixture to the saucepan. Stir gently and constantly over low heat with a whisk for several minutes. Remove from the heat when the cream is very thick but still liquid
  7. Stir in 1 tablespoon of the Amaretto liqueur. Pour the cream into 4 dessert glasses and allow to rest at room temperature
  8. To make the zabaione, start by preparing a bain marie. Bring a few inches of water to a simmer in a pot that can hold a heatproof bowl, making sure the bottom of the bowl will not touch the hot water
  9. Beat the egg yolks with the sugar in the heatproof bowl until smooth and frothy
  10. Stir in the Marsala and transfer the bowl to the bain marie. Continue beating over the hot water for about 5 minutes, until you have a thick, silky cream. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly
  11. Sprinkle an even layer of the cookie crumble over each portion of cocoa cream. Spoon the zabaione over the crumble. Leave to rest for a few minutes to settle before serving
  12. Serve at room temperature or slightly warm with a slice of panettone. Dust the zabaione with cocoa powder and add a decorative cookie to each dish if desired.

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