I met Enrica Rocca in the nineties when she owned a restaurant in Wynberg Village and we used to go there all the time. She also gave Italian cooking classes there, and I remember taking these and feeling so inspired.
Enrica now lives and operates a cooking school from her villa near Venice, and I was very excited to hear that she had opened a branch of it in Cape Town recently. She has entrusted this to her friend and past student Emma Freddi who runs it out of her lovely Constantia home. Emma and her ex husband used to own Pasta Freddi, so you couldn’t find a better fit.
I was invited to a class a couple of week ago and just had the most fabulous time.
The classes are informal with no more than 6 – 8 students gathered around Emma’s large kitchen island cooking station. You sit around, watch her cook and talk in great depth about the ingredients and how important they are. As Italian cuisine is fairly uncomplicated, the integrity of the ingredients is of the utmost priority for a dish to be successful. Emma knows exactly where to find everything you will need in Cape Town.
If you are an advanced cook and concerned that you might not learn that much from the class, Emma’s enthusiasm knowledge seeps out from every pore, and you will pick up interesting nuances and new ideas through the way she cooks. Italian food is about so much more than the cooking, its about the passion. The classes are also totally suited to less advanced cooks, beginners even. They are suitable for anyone who loves food and cooking.
Emma prepared 4 dishes in the afternoon we were there, and we nibbled on these while sipping delicious wine and having fabulous chats. It really is a perfect thing to do with a group of friends. On the day I went it was just myself and a lovely Australian couple who were living in Cape Town for a short time whilst on a big travelling adventure. The shared love of food was the common denominator and the special ingredient of the day.
I was also pleased that the recipes Emma taught us were a bit different, like these crostoni. Her recipe is for Crostoni di Salciccia e stracchino, but was modified as we don’t get the best Italian sausages here, nor do we get stracchino cheese, so Emma used a good quality beef and pork boerewors, and a mix of brie and buffalo mozzarella.
This is seriously one of the most delicious hot snacks I have had in a while. Sausage and cheese blended together with spice and baked like a pizza in a hot oven = scrumptious.
I adapted the recipe and used pork sausages as I’m rather a fan, and it worked very well. The boerewors with its coriander flavours was also delicious, so use whatever you prefer.
Recipe | serves 4- 6 people as a snack
- 200g sausage (pork and beef boerewors of pork sausage)
- 200g Stracchino cheese or 125g Brie (what we used)
- 125g buffalo mozzarella (with all the liquid squeezed out) – 1 ball
- 1 T aged balsamic vinegar (using a good quality one is important)
- a few fennel seeds (about 1/2 t)
- 1 medium rustic loaf without holes (ciabatta or baguette)
- black pepper
Pre heat the oven to 220C.
Remove the meat from the sausage skin and blend in a food processor with the cheese, fennel seeds and balsamic vinegar. You essentially make a thick paste.
Cut the bread into slices (not too thick – I went a little too thick here) – and spread the salciccia over each slice.
Place them on a baking tray and bake for about 15 – 20 minutes until cooked through and golden brown.
Grind black pepper over and serve these delectable morsels with drinks.
*To any foreign reader who is not sure of what boerewors is, its a traditional South African sausage made from coarsely ground beef and pork, and flavoured with coriander and other spices.
For the rest of the class Emma showed us how to make Riso e bisi (like risotto, but more saucy with pancetta and fresh peas), involtini meat rolls (veal wrapped around parma ham with sage and cooked in a tomato based sauce) and Sbrisolona (a lemony crumble cake) which I found both utterly delicious and unique.
Emma will generally cook with the seasons and has a beautiful and highly enviable vegetable garden from which to pick the best ingredients. She can also structure the class around particular requests, and as a self confessed risotto maestro, that is a class I wouldn’t want to miss.
This is a little about what our afternoon class looked like:
Penny Haw who writes for Business Day took a class and you can read her lovely review on her exereince with Emma.
To find out more info and book a class, visit www.enricarocca.com.