Willow and I have a mutual love for food, so when the opportunity arose to take part in our first cookery class, we were very excited! Enrica Rocca Cookery School was founded in 2002, and has since gained lots of recognition for being an authentic Italian experience. The founder, Enrica Rocca, is from Venice, and brought her daughters Charlotte and Claire up on Italian cuisine. Charlotte and Claire took over the London school in 2014, while Enrica set up a second school in Venice.
Italian is undoubtedly my favourite style of cuisine, and my friends have even nicknamed me Penny due to my obsession with penne pasta! My eyes are always looking for pasta on the menu, so I was ready to embrace new recipes, and explore new areas of Italian cooking. Our experience began with a train ride to Ladbroke Grove Station, which was the meeting point for the class. As we walked out of the station, Charlotte and Claire gave us a hug and welcomed us to the Enrica Rocca cooking experience! The other group members were already there and after some introductions, we made our way to the village butcher. This is where we were given a choice between Carbonara, Pasta Amatriciana, or Risotto. As a group, we loved the sound of Pasta Amatriciana, and went inside to purchase some pancetta, parma ham, and lamb shoulder pieces for our future dishes. We went on to follow Charlotte, Claire and their brown wicker basket into Mr Chrisitan’s to buy some dried mozzarella, which is meant to be better for cooking. Next, it was time to explore Portobello Road!
Portobello Market is world famous for its street market and selection of antiques, fashion and food, with history going back 150 years! As we arrived, we were taken by the quirky, colourful buildings of Notting Hill. The sunny streets were filled with people, and I loved the hustle and bustle of the crowds. Charlotte and Claire had obviously shopped at Portobello Market a hundred times, and they knew exactly where to find fresh, organic fruit and veg. The abundance of colours made the photographer inside me want to capture the scenes on camera. We were asked if there were any vegetables we would like to cook with and learn more about, and at this point someone in our group suggested fennel. There was a large selection of cheeses at the neighbouring stand, and we decided on goats’ cheese for our beetroot salad. Our last stop was Golborne Fisheries, where we decided to try our hand at cooking squid and seabass.
With our basket full and our stomachs beginning to rumble at the sight of all this food, we headed to the cookery school. The school, which we found out was also their family home, was in a prime location in the heart of Notting Hill. The kitchen was homely, and featured a large island with lots of barstools for our group of 7 to sit on. We were all given a welcome glass of prosecco, and with music playing in the background, the cooking commenced. Charlotte and Claire gave everyone jobs, and took turns teaching the group as our ingredients came together. Our first dishes were marinated cauliflower with lemon and dill, bread-crumbed lamb, and Jerusalem artichoke dip with red pepper salsa. We all sat round and tucked into the superb-looking starters. I especially loved the lamb fritters, which were made used the most tender part of the lamb: the shoulder. These were seasoned with salt, pepper and lemon. They were delicious, and so quick and easy to make! I will definitely be making these for my family and friends. Another favourite of mine from the whole day was the marinated cauliflower. Before the lesson, I would never have bought cauliflower, as I found it plain and tasteless. However, this recipe brings it to life, and it smelled incredible.
Next it was onto making the aubergine rolls with Parma ham, mozzarella and a cherry tomato sauce. Aubergine is another vegetable I wouldn’t have thought of cooking with before, but that is why this experience is so rewarding: it encourages you to be more experimental with your everyday cooking. We also made seabass with sliced potato, cherry tomato and spring onions, a beetroot salad, stuffed squid with chickpeas, garlic and parsley, caramelized fennel with goats’ cheese, and finally, Pork Saltimbocca. They were laid on the table, and we all helped ourselves, enjoying the exquisite flavours and textures the selection of food created. Red and white wine was offered around to compliment the dishes. This was a great opportunity to get to know each other, and find out what inspired everyone to do a cookery class with Enrica Rocca. The atmosphere was relaxed and happy, which I think was helped by the informal set up of the island and barstools.
We were feeling full and content, and Charlotte announced it was time to make pasta. As you can imagine, I eagerly sat up in my chair! Everyone created their own ball of dough, which they had kneaded from flour and an egg. In pairs, we then used a pasta machine to roll out our dough, beginning with the widest setting. By the end of the process, we had a lot of tagliatelle pasta, combined with a cherry tomato, parmesan and pancetta sauce. We tucked into our Italian dish, then it was onto dessert. We had prepared it earlier, and it was tiramisu! The traditional coffee-based dessert was light and delicious, and the perfect dish to end the day.
As the day drew to a close, we said our goodbyes, and were helped with our transport routes home. We had a wonderful day with Enrica Rocca, and learned so much. Willow and I are very excited to recreate the dishes at home, having received all the recipes via email after the experience. Thank you to Charlotte and Claire for being amazing hosts and teachers! I will be recommending the Portobello Market Tour and Cookery Class to anyone who wants a fun, creative, informative day out filled with plenty of cooking and even more eating!