Returning to Theo Randall with great anticipation. Have not been here in a couple of years. I had a terrific meal there the last time with a truly memorable roast pheasant.
On this occassion, the people from Parmigiano Reggiano were hosting a dinner with a masterclass by Theo Randall who runs one of the best Italian Restaurants in London.
The star ingedient of the evening is of course the Italian Cheese Parmigiano Reggiano. I especially love the more mature Parmigiano, aged 36 months or so, that I first discovered in Milan many years ago. That was the first time I had Parmigiano on a cheese course, with the distinctive crystals in the texture that results from the aging process. Now I constantly have a stock of aged Parmigiano in the fridge to snack on.
7 things you didn’t know about Parmigiano Reggiano:
- It takes 16 litres of milk to 1 kg of Parmiggiano Reggiano
- Parmigiano is made with 2 types of milk. The first lot that was milked the evening before, left to sit, the cream is skimmed off to make butter, then they add the product of the next morning’s milking, full cream.
- Parmigiano is aged between 12 months minimum to 100 months.
- The cheeses are made by individual dairies in the region and each produces its own with small differences. A truly artisanal product.
- Made in only 5 provinces of production, Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena and parts of the provinces of Mantua and Bologna
- Not all Parmesan is Parmigiano Reggiano – typically a cheese labelled Parmesan was not made in Italy ( we are not even going to talk about the nasty stuff that comes in green cardboard tubes). These are cheeses made to a similar recipe but not in the D.O.C. rules. In Italy, other similar cheeses are called Grana like Grana Padano.
- The cattle is fed only with locally grown forage and no silage or fermented seeds are allowed, making this a healthy grass fed product.
How Parmigiano Reggiano is different from Grana Padano
Where Parmigiano is a natural product with no additives, Grana Padano is made with milk from cows that have been fed silage from silos which can contain bacteria. They need to add additives to milk when they make the cheese.
Grana Padano is ready after 9 months ( to a max of 20 months) whereas Parmigiano is a minumum of 12 months.
Pasta and Risotto Masterclass With Theo Randall
Firstly, must emphasise that they ship in all their ingredients from Italy including the fresh herbs. This allows them to make authentic Italian dishes using the proper ingredients rather than the approximations that you would get in UK.
Pasta Cooking tips:
- When adding garlic, crush the garlic with salt. This cooks immediately and there is no raw garlic flavour.
- They make their own pasta using 20 egg yolks to 1 kg of pasta, very rich.
- Never drain pasta into a colander in the sink as the steam will over cook it and you lose the cooking liquid that you need to add to the sauce.
- After adding the pasta to the sauce in the pan, toss the pasta to release starch and this makes the sauce thicker. There is then no need to add anything else.
Here are some tips on cooking risotto:
- Buy Risotto rice that has been stored in a paper bag as paper allows the rice to breathe. Vacuum packed rice can sometimes be bad, because if there are some bad grains in the rice it makes it the whole bag smell stale.
- Before adding the rice just fry it to warm the rice so that it is hot on inside. This will then cool evenly when hot stock is added.
- Risotto stirred after adding liquid releases starch and you get the creaminess.
- Slowly stir or it will dry up and not cook evenly.
- Don’t add cream, it will be creamy when stirred.
- Never add raw ingredients into the rice. It won’t cook properly.
- Precook the vegetables like grilled and skinned peppers
- To make pesto, add water to get perfume of basil out, add light oil to finish
- Stir a lot at the end to bring out the starch. Add butter for creaminess.
- Then add Parmesan
- The Risotto should be soupy.The rice should be chewy not too thick.
We got little tasters of these dishes and they were rich and creamy and how I would like to be able to cook at home. Learnt a few new things to try at home. On to the main event.
For Primi or the Starter Capeletti di Zucca, fresh pasta stuffed with squash,Parmigiano Reggiano and sage butter.
Rich pasta coated with perfumed sage butter and the delicate squash flavour rounded with the Parmigiano filling.
For the Secondi or Main Course – Filleto di Manzo – Chargrilled Long Horn Beef with Roseval Potatoes, Parmigiano Reggiano, Florence Fennel al forno with salsa verde.
This is the dish that beats all dishes. The Long Horn Scotch Beef comes from a 2 year old beast that has been hung for 4 weeks. The meat was meltingly tender, cooked medium rare, coated in a delicious sauce and this by itself was stunning enough. To be accompanied by roasted fennel and potatoes that were smothered in melted Parmigiano coated every taste bud with the delightful layers of umami flavours, simple heavenly. The man can cook.
By now, we were all on the verge of being defeated but after a short break, pudding was served.
Dolci or Pudding was an Amalfi Lemon Tart with lemons shipped over from Southern Italy and served with a glass of Moscato d’asti.
No need for any cheese on this dish. The lemon tart with tangy lemon topping on a thin but crispy pastry base. A perfect finish to a fabulous evening.
I think this is one of the better Italian Restaurants in London and they well deserve their Michelin Star. Elegant cooking using the best ingredients and you definitely get quality here. I will definitely not leave it so long to visit again. (They do a great deal at lunchtime too).