Learning from the masters: Italian Cooking Lessons

I recently went to the Italian Chamber of Commerce and Industry WA’s cooking demonstration with Burswood’s Modo Mio head chef Gianpaolo Maffini.  It was held in the beautiful Scavolini kitchen showroom in Claremont.

Gianpaolo generously shared his tips for cooking a lovely three course meal.

Entree was Involtini de melanzane reieni di ricotta e pomodorini essicati con salsa did basilico, Eggplant rolls filled with ricotta cheese and sun dried tomato in basil sauce.

Eggplant rolls stuffed with ricotta. OMG YUM!

Gianpaolo sliced the eggplant in 1cm thick slices, explained salting the eggplant and let it sit for an hour or so, then he lightly fry it in olive oil until it was partially cooked and still firm.

The ricotta was drained and mixed to a smooth paste with the addition of egg, grated parmesan cheese, and seasoning.  Using a disposable piping bag, he piped the ricotta mix on one end of the eggplant slice, added sun dried tomatoes, and rocket.

Gianpaolo with the thermometer checking the temperature to make sure the lamb is perfectly cooked

He rolled them into logs, placed them in a tray and into a moderate / hot oven for 5 -10 mins.  They were served stacked on a bed of basic Italian tomato sauce, topped with rocket, parmesan, and sun dried tomatoes.

It was really delicious and way too much for an entree! I loved this dish.

For main course, Gianpaolo demonstrated sous vide method of cooking meat with aromatics in a sealed plastic bag in a water bath. For commercial catering, this works really well.  At home, most people don’t have a water bath, so we would cook meat on the stove or in the oven. The dish he demonstrated was Rack of lamb with a macadamia crust.

When the lamb was almost done in the water bath, Gianpaolo checked the temperature of it, brushed the lamb with Dijon mustard and pressed on the macadamia nut crumb (macadamias, thyme, breadcrumbs and hazelnut oil).  The lamb was finished off in the oven until it reached the right temperature, about 10 minutes.

The lamb was served with brocolini, mashed potatoes and a beautiful veal jus sauce.

We were taught that when lamb is cooked to medium, the internal thermometer reading is 55 degrees, 45 degrees is for medium rare, 65 degrees for medium well, and 70 degrees or more is  well done or cardboard.  To me, meat tastes best at medium rare and lamb should be pink.

The lamb was really tender and tasty.  It was quite pink which a few people around the room commented about. I wasn’t complaining, I enjoyed it.

Dessert was vanilla panna cotta with strawberries. This is where I get excited. I love desserts and panna cotta is one of my all time favourites.

The trick to making panna cotta is to soak the gelatine sheets in iced water. If you soak them in tepid or warm water, the gelatine dissolves and you end up with less grams of gelatine than you need to set the ricotta. Gianpaolo explained that it was a science.

Gianpaolo did two things that I’ve never seen or heard of before; he added a sprinkling of crushed fresh green peppercorns and some baby basil leaves. It sounds unusual, but let me tell you, it was a heavenly combination with the panna cotta and the strawberries.

The panna cotta was silky and soft – just perfect.  Despite feeling like I was busting at the seams after the first two courses, I ate it all. The panna cotta was too good to resist.

It was a fantastic night where we learned a few new culinary tricks of the trade, mingled with like minded food lovers, and enjoyed a delicious meal.  Oh, and there was an endless supply of San Pelligrino sparking water and wine.  Not bad for $90, about the same price as eating out in Perth.

The Italian Chamber of Commerce and Industry WA organised a series of six cooking demonstrations by chefs that have been certified with the Ospitalita Italiana by the Italian Government.  It plans to organise some more cooking demonstrations in the future.


Italian Chamber of Commerce and Industry
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