After 20 years of working in the world's top restaurant kitchens you could expect chef Theo Randall to have quite a few tips he could pass on to the novice or enthusiastic home cook.
We persuaded him to pass on just a handful of the things he teaches folk at his masterclasses he holds in his restaurant at the Intercontinental London Park Lane. So if you're entertaining Italian-style over the holidays, here's Theo's advice on doing it right.
1. Start with the shopping
"When making pasta it is essential you have the best ingredients because this will ultimately be the reason the dish tastes good. So for fresh pasta always use Tipo 00 flour and good eggs like Clarence Court Burfood brown eggs.
I use 350g tipo 00 flour, 25g fine semolina flour, 2 whole eggs and 4 egg yolks. If it's a bit dry, add a tablespoon of water or two as the dough might appear to be a little dry."
2. Getting the dough right
"The dough recipe is essential. If the dough is too wet then it will get stuck in the rollers, which makes it very difficult to get good results. Keep it simple - the first pasta you should make is tagliatelle. If you want to make ravioli, always have a damp tea towel at hand because if you place that on top of the pasta it will stop your pasta from drying out."
3. Don't use the wrong sauce
"When making pasta sauces or choosing which one, make sure the sauce and the pasta go together. If you have sauce in the bottom of your plate after you have eaten all the pasta then you had the wrong pasta for the sauce.
For example; a good meat sauce should be served with fresh pappardelle or tagliatelle because the large surface area helps the sauce cling on. Dry pasta like penne rigate is an all-rounder, rigate means ridges so that holds the sauce onto the pasta"
4. It's all a matter of timing...
"The cooking time comes from being organised. If you have all your ingredients prepared you can concentrate on finishing off the dish. With pasta or risotto, it's the last few minutes that are crucial for the success of the dish. I always say cook the pasta three minutes less than the packet says and finish the cooking off in the pan with some of the pasta water. This way you are in control and serve the pasta a perfect al dente.
With risotto, keep the risotto wet and when almost cooked, cover for a minute or two so the rice can carry on cooking in the residual heat. This will give you a perfect creamy risotto."
5. For every dish there's a perfect wine
"Matching food with wines is not as difficult as people think. If you have a dish that has strong flavours like say smoked fish, a dry white wine will work. If you have fried fish, then something like Prosecco works because it is light. Freshwater fish goes well with a light red like a Pinot noir because the fish has an earthy taste.
With meat, there is a similar process. Lightly flavoured chicken or veal goes well with a big rich Chardonnay and beef, lamb and game go with big red wines like Cabernet Sauvignon, Chianti or a Bordeaux. But the best all-rounder is always a Pinot Noir for meat."
How to book a Theo Randall Italian masterclass
Theo holds regular masterclasses throughout the year at the restaurant in London (which would make a top Christmas present for a foodie). Each one includes:
- Glass of Prosecco on arrival
- One hour masterclass demonstration with Theo Randall
- Four-course dinner with matching wine
- Coffee / Water
- A special gift from Theo
Next masterclass: Tuesday 7th January - 6pm
Price: £159 per person (inclusive of VAT & service)
Where: InterContinental London Park Lane, 1 Hamilton Pl, London W1J 7QY
How to book: Via telephone on 0207 318 8747 or by via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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