I wasn't really sure what to expect and I went along last minute. I admit it, I was hesitant to shell out €25 for a ticket when they first went on sale, but it was actually a really good experience, and well worth the squids. I even got hold of the Coeliac Society's twitter account to live tweet. On the evening, I basically just posted a huge amount of pictures of all the food we were making, thus making the world a hungrier place.
Lucio, the owner of Manifesto and Manifestino, and his chef Adriano, were the teachers for the evening. I've met Lucio before. He's quite a charismatic man and is unbelievably passionate about food, and, more to our interests, tasty gluten free food.
When I arrived, instead of going straight into class, we were all seated and coffee and brownies were provided. I don't think anyone was ashamed that we ate all the brownies as soon as they were laid out. They were freaking delicious and still slightly gooey inside. The picture above is actually the second plate that came out!
The couple of minutes together before class gave all participants a chance to get to know one another and the hum of diagnosis explanations and excited anticipation of the class manifested in the room. It was quite a comforting sound, particularly to one newly diagnosed woman who was soaking up as much information as she could. What better venue to learn about how to proceed with her life living with coeliac disease than a room full of proof that the dietary requirements are manageable?!
Lucio started by introducing himself and giving us all an insightful background into his foodie passion. He advised he uses an Italian flour in his restaurants and has been trying to lobby for better packaging for gluten free flour in Ireland. The problem here is that we allow gluten free flour to be packaged in the same paper materials as wheat flour. Unfortunately, these packets, as we all have experienced I'm sure, have a habit of leaking and spilling flour everywhere, including in transit to supermarkets and restaurants, on their shelves, and at home. I've often picked up a packet of flour in supermarkets and ended up covered in a film of white powder. It was not too long ago I actively complained to a particular supermarket about burst bags on the shelves either side of the gluten free flour, meaning I couldn't purchase the gluten free flour, because it was no longer gluten free! Anyway, I digress, this is but one issue Lucio raised.
The Miele showrooms are an amazing venue for this type of event. Everyone was set up at a long table with the necessary equipment to get our hands dirty, so to speak. Our evening was divided between sitting at the table making food and popping up to the counter to watch Lucio and Adriano both concoct wonderfully delicious food and impart their wisdom onto us.
We started by attempting to bake bread. Really simply we mixed flour, water, and live yeast in the bowl, poured it into the little trays that were oiled and left the to rise under a larger bowl. All the recipes will be available from Lucio soon. He really doesn't like exact measurements because each flour is different and works in a different way depending on its make-up. For example, rice flour will take a lot longer to cook.
I was bowled over by how well the bread turned out when it was cooked. It was light and fluffy with an actual crust. I'm a huge fan of a good crust. It can't be too tough or too soft, somewhere in the middle lies the good crust. The guys had some tomato toppings prepared, so all we had to do was cut it open and fill it. The balsamic reduction was homemade and Adriano made a pretty design for me. I was chuffed with myself.
In fact, we all were! Just look at that smile!
Next on the class agenda was the gnocchi! I would know gnocchi to be made with flour and potato, but this is not the original Italian recipe. Lucio uses ricotta cheese, flour, and egg yolks. This was a particularly sticky job. We beat our eggs and ricotto and Lucio came around with the other ingredients and checked on our progress as he passed. He was extremely attentive to everyone's bowl. The thinking seemed to be that if we were going to do this, we were going to do it right! Our dough was plopped onto the chopping boards and we began to knead the mixture with lots and lots of flour until it was quite hard. We sectioned the dough and rolled out bread stick shapes and started to dissect them into small pieces. Voilà! Ready to be boiled gnocchi! Lucio did the boiling for us and served it with a flavoursome garlic tomato sauce. We could smell that baby for ages, so tucking in was delightful!
We didn't actually make the sponge ourselves. As it was one complete piece Adriano took care of it while Lucio discussed Italy, coeliacs, his restaurants, cooking tips, good coffee, storage tips (for example, freezing surplus wine in freezer bags to use for cooking at a later time - a question we all giggled at was: what's surplus wine?!), and so much more. A font of knowledge this man was! Every so often Adriano quipped in to explain exactly what he was doing and why he was doing it.
The beautiful sponge was baked and the cream made with a kick of coffee for the tiramisu. The result was just mouthwatering. The conversation died when we got hold of the dishes and the sound of spoons clinking dominated the room. Just yum!
The evening drew to a close after 9pm. It was a long evening cooking, but thoroughly enjoyable. Everyone hung out a little longer to chat, but we soon hit the road as happy campers with a full tummy, unmeasurable gluten free tips from the class and eachother, and a doggy bag each containing sponge, our gnocchi dough, a thank you from Miele, and our second baked bread loaf.
The classes themselves will be in a series, sporting a variety of dishes. If you're thinking of heading along I'd definitely recommend you check them out. The class was a mix of seasoned, knowledgeable coeliacs, newbies, and all those inbetween. It was quite an intimate, relaxed gathering and it seemed pretty easy to ask those questions you've been yearning to ask, but never quite got around to it.
The next class in the series is on the 8th of July 2014 and you can book through the Eventbrite site.