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I’ve just eaten one of the best meals I’ve had in Brixton. And I cooked it myself – sort of. “Sort of” because I cooked it under the guidance of chef Dario Bellantoni, at one of the courses he runs at his restaurant in Brixton Village. His aim is to help you to create the pleasures of Italian home cooking by teaching you how to make and roll by hand pasta dishes, to use seasoning, to cook sauces and to improve food presentation.
Dario comes from Liguria in northern Italy, so this is his style of cooking; simple with the accent on flavour. He told me that much of his approach to cooking was handed down by his grandmother; so now it’s been passed onto me.
One thing he emphasises is the integrity of the ingredients that he uses. Some come direct from his own sources in Italy but he also buys locally, such as the fish from Brixton Market. It’s also noteworthy, from the point of view of the amateur cook, that everything he does can be done at home. I was amazed to find that all his cooking is done in a space smaller than that of most home kitchens, with just a domestic oven and a four ring hob.
The course lasted around three hours but in that time we prepared four dishes, totally from scratch.
Insalata di calamari (Baby octopus salad)
Ravioli di scamorza, spinaci e mascarpone con salsa alla zucca (Ravioli stuffed with scamoza cheese, mascarpone and spinach with pumpkin sauce)
Filetto di branzino al verde (Fillet of sea bass with green sauce)
Charlotte di mele a miele (apple charlotte with honey)
As well as learning the cooking techniques you learn how to get the timetable right. Dario has a relaxed approach to cooking; it never felt hurried but it all came together at the end when we shared the meal we have just prepared. A glass or two of wine along the way increases the pleasure. And you get to keep what’s left over, so those back home can enjoy your new found skills.
I’ve had a few cookery courses and this is easily one of the best. It is has a hands on approach and the results speak for themselves.
It’s not that cheap, £75 for the session, but I had a great time, while learning some valuable lessons about how to cook and present authentic Italian cuisine. It cannot be too strongly recommended for those who are interested in trying to get to another level in their cooking.