Dialogue had the pleasure of welcoming Silvana, an extremely talented Italian housewife, to our kitchens at Brand Exchange to cook up an extravaganza of Italian recipes. We also had our own Phoebe Double complementing Silvana by adapting some very traditional British recipes to include Parmigiano Reggiano. There was no challenge between the two, but a partnership where both taught each other their different skills in the kitchen.
On the day of Silvanas arrival, Dialogue took her to Borough Market, to experience the fruit and veg and cheese stalls in full action. Back at Brand Exchange we did a practice run before the big days ahead. Silvana produced a mouth-watering sausage and leek risotto and nothing tastes as good as a homemade risotto that’s made by an Italian right in front of you!
9am the next day, to the kitchen, aprons on and ovens heated. Although there was much to be done/cooked, a constant flow of chatter filled the kitchen with a mixture of Italian and English. Despite both Phoebe and Silvana being unable to speak each others language, they managed to understand through gestures. John, our talented photographer got to work straight away with Phoebes Parmigiano Reggiano Shepherds pie. It was incredible that John managed to capture the very flavour of the dish in his photos. We moved onto Silvanas Potato and Leek Gratin and then to the scrumptious Polenta Bramata.
To give Silvana a break, Phoebe took over with her flavoursome fish pie and exquisite Welsh Rarebit. Silvana came back with even more force to prepare her final dish of the day: Aubergine and Pepper Parmigiano Reggiano Gratin. Come 6pm tiredness hit, but with palettes satisfied, we called it a day.
It was hard to believe that on Wednesday morning we would be surrounded, yet again, by even more homemade Italian food, but we couldn’t have been happier! On the menu: Salami and Parmigiano Reggiano Lasagna, Pesto Courgetti, Rolled Pizza, Parmigiano Reggiano crusted chicken, freshly made tagliatelle… and the list goes on.
Dialogue had arranged for Rupert Parker, a freelance journalist from the British Guild of Travel Writers, to come and experience this Italian bonanza and what a feast Silvana cooked up. Before Ruperts arrival, Silvana prepared her pasta with a technique most would take for granted. The whole process was much longer than just popping shop bought pasta into boiling water. Here, using the pasta machine, she made fine sheets of lasagne and then strips of tagliatelle. This was paired with a mouth-watering sausage and porcini sauce.
Finally after all the Parmigiano Reggiano recipes were complete, a cup of tea was in order at Brand Exchange. However, Silvana wanted to go home leaving us with something sweet to taste. So you can just imagine what was to come. She chose a recipe from her memory and surprised us with her Rose Cake. We too thought, Rosewater flavour, but it was much better than that. A lemon and vanilla flavoured brioche in the shape of a rose. After settling down to a truly British afternoon tea, we said our ‘arrivederci’ and wished Silvana a safe trip back to Parma. If only she could have stayed here and cooked with us every day!