It was time for the last in the summer season of our cookery masterclasses and one we were all looking forward to. Nothing quite beats homemade pasta and it’s a skill that many of our audience are keen to learn. So much is packed into our three hour masterclasses, where one of the award-winning chefs from our website gives hands-on tuition to a lucky group of food bloggers, food photographers and keen cooks.
With this fourth event not only were we treated to a fresh pasta making tutorial, but we also discovered how to make ricotta too. We were in the very capable hands of Michelin-starred chef Russell Brown, who had travelled up from Dorset to London especially to host the event. After an eclectic career, that included everything from photography to selling fishing tackle, he began cheffing at the relatively late age of 27. In April 2003, in the picture postcard town of Dorchester, Russell and his wife Elena opened Sienna. Seating just 15 diners, the tiny eatery was awarded two AA Rosettes seven months after opening; a coveted third came in 2007. Then, in January 2010, the Michelin Guide gave Sienna a star, making it Dorset’s only Michelin-starred eatery, and the Guide’s smallest featured restaurant.
To start us off at the masterclass, everyone crowded around the hob to see how Russell made the ricotta. It was a surprisingly simple process of heating up whole milk, with a little sea salt and some distilled vinegar, stirring gently until the milk separated into curds and whey. Once separated the mixture is left to cool and sit for 10 minutes before straining off the curds with a slotted spoon and letting them sit over a colander or sieve to drain further over a bowl in the fridge. Not one to waste, Russell told us that the whey could be used to make some beautiful scones, where the slightly sour flavour could replace the traditional buttermilk in these teatime treats.
Everyone took a turn at the hob and it was interesting to see how the levels of stirring and slight differences in heat made a difference to the size of curds. As with learning all new skills, practice and experimentation are all part and parcel of the process, and all the participants were eager to get home to try this in their own kitchens.