Back in August I visited La Cucina Caldesi to try Giancarlo Caldesi’s Italian Butcher Cookery Course. I was promised meat, meat and more meat and it sounded great! I hadn’t ever been to a cookery lesson or course before, so I was really excited and unsure what to expect from the day.
I arrived early at their Marylebone cookery school, and was greeted with coffee and biscotti by the very friendly, and very Italian, cookery assistants. Giancarlo then appeared, unfortunately with a limp after falling from a ladder, with a cheeky smile on his face despite his obvious discomfort. He is one of the most enthusiastic, charming and funny men I have ever met and it was a pleasure to watch him teach and share his passion for food.
So, we were to both watch and participate in preparing the following meaty feast:
Rabbit sofrito (a seasonal surprise)
Rolled lamb with pecorino and mint
Slow-roasted pork belly with fennel seeds
Steak tagliata with rocket, parmesan and balsamic dressing
Calf’s liver with butter and sage
Oven-baked potatoes and red onions with pancetta
sautéed broccoli with chilli and garlic
Green beans in tomato sauce
Giancarlo began by preparing the pork belly, simply covering in salt and fennel seeds. This was then slowly cooked in the oven, within another baking tray of water to keep the meat nicely moist. He then showed us how to bone a leg of lamb, leaving a cavity to stuff with chopped pecorino and fresh mint.
He then showed us how to joint a skinned rabbit – his top tip was to never buy a rabbit without its head due to its similarity, once skinned and headless, to a cat. Disturbing but useful advice! He added the joints to finely chopped onion and carrots, browned them off and then added white wine and stock.
At this point, as you can imagine, the kitchen smelt amazing. We all then took to our own stations, with our very own little poussins to bone. Giancarlo took us through the boning process, step by step, helping those that needed it (including me).
Into our floppy, boneless poussins we stuffed garlic cloves, rosemary and chilli, shaped them into little cushions and nestled them all into one baking tray together. Giancarlo drizzled with olive oil, seasoned and put them into the oven.
We each then made our own veal saltimbocca, bashing the veal with mallets into super thin steaks, and then topping with sage leaves and parma ham, covering with cling film and then bashing out again to flatten the meat together. After dipping in seasoned flour and frying, the veal was ready to serve.
All the dishes were set out on a long table for us all to help ourselves. It was a wonderful meat feast, washed down with an ice-cold glass of white wine.
It was a lovely chance to get to know the other students, talk about what we had learnt and of course devour the delicious food.
After lunch we turned our attention to a huge rib of beef that Giancarlo cut down into both sirloin and fillet steaks. He offered some great advice about choosing steaks and what to ask for from your butcher.
He then took a whole calf’s liver (much, much bigger than I thought it would be) and showed us how it must be prepared. It is very time-consuming, and made me realise that I had probably not enjoyed it before as a result of it not being properly prepared.
He cooked the steaks rare, sliced and placed on top of rocket with shaved parmesan and balsamic vinegar.
I was very interested in the way the calf’s liver was cooked and, as I have never enjoyed the flavour before, took notes:
Season and flour the liver and shake off excess. Heat oil and garlic in a frying pan and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add liver to the pan and cook for 40 seconds on each side, quickly remove from the pan. Add butter and sage leaves and remove from heat once melted. Plate up and pour butter over the liver.
After the huge lunch I hardly had room for the steak and liver but both were so delicious. I will be certainly be using some of the recipes I came away with, especially the liver, stuffed lamb and pork belly. I would definitely recommend the Italian Butcher course for anyone that loves their meat. You don’t have to be a good cook and is a great way to learn and pick up general cooking tips too – it’s a really fun day and Giancarlo is a great teacher, chef and host.