Perfect Pasta! with Ursula Ferrigno, 21st January 2018
What could be nicer on a snowy winter morning than a trip to sunnier climes and a smart kitchen full of friendly people? The Jericho Kitchen Cookery School regularly transport groups all over the world, culinarily speaking, with classes covering an astonishing number of cuisines across the globe.
The beautiful kitchen is in Warborough, and because it belongs to Warborough B&B you can admire it on their website. It felt like a kitchen in a real house, being large and well-equipped without feeling industrial.
Jericho Kitchen is run by Emma Collen, and she and Lizzie do all the invisible jobs, so that the teacher and students have everything to hand exactly when they need it, clean and sparkling. Everything was waiting, weighed out and ready for us to dive straight in to the fun bit!
The class I went to was all about Pasta Making, and our teacher was Ursula Ferrigno, an experienced, knowledgeable, kind, friendly person. She grew up in South Italy, learning traditional cooking techniques from her Nonna, and her cooking was seasoned with anecdotes and wisdom. She is tremendously enthusiastic, not just about pasta but many key Italian techniques and ingredients. She's written a book about olive oil, and pointed out that when you think of it as the juice of a fruit then you look at it differently. She was such a good storyteller that it was easy to get so wrapped up I forgot I was meant to be watching her hands and how she was shaping the pasta!
Fortunately she was equally enthusiastic about teaching, happy to answer questions, and brilliant at appearing beside us just as we were wondering if we were doing it right. She seemed genuinely interested in our progress. She was also very positive, not trying to make anyone feel guilty about using dried pasta, just showing us it was so quick to make you might as well eat fresh. The only things she was hardline about were making sure we had enough space to work and getting to try out the equipment and recipes we wanted, and encouraging us to ask more questions. Oh, and waste: Ursula was very keen nothing be wasted, even showing us how to use up scraps from the pasta-making process in our Minestrone soups.
We covered a lot! We all made ordinary egg pasta, then Ursula made spinach, squid ink, and flour-water pastas for people to try shaping. We made all sorts of classic forms, including filled pastas (tortellini and ravioli) and others that were good for different sorts of sauces, including tagliatelle, gnocchi di Sarda, trofie, farfalle, orecchiette, and cappelletti. The format of the day worked really well, alternating teaching and us all having a go, with Ursula's pasta resting in the fridge while we worked, and vice versa.
And then Ursula, Emma and Lizzie cooked what we'd all made in water salty as the sea, invented sauces on the spot, put it all in beautiful pottery bowls, and we all feasted. My fellow students were a good bunch, and though we didn't get much time to talk until lunch, by the time we sat down together we felt like a group. Everyone made things they were proud of, and proved to have different particular strengths. Some people asked lots of questions, others kept quiet. Lots of people had got gift vouchers to attend, which sounded like a good hint from their loved ones!
I was especially grateful to the team, since I have food allergies and can't eat wheat or milk, and I would not have thought it was possible to make a workshop like that possible despite such restrictions. But it was no problem - Ursula recommends chickpea flour as authentic and better flavoured than rice flour. The resulting pasta behaved very well, especially in the pasta machine and made into trofie, and I was able to try everything that everyone else was doing. If people can't eat eggs, that's no problem for the team either - they use chia seeds as an egg substitute. All sauces and fillings were modified so I could have them. A word of warning - with a class like this where everyone is sharing equipment, cross-contamination is possible, so if you are acutely allergic I would raise this as a question at the time of booking. As a rule of thumb, if you take the "may contain" advice seriously then you'll need to be careful, but if you're more gung-ho about it (as I tend to be) then you should be fine. I was fine, and I would give the team ten out of ten for their facilitation and their sense that everything is possible!
Food can mean a lot more than just sustenance. To try someone else's food is to taste their culture, and to be allowed to try making it really feels like being invited inside. It really did feel like a morning's holiday in South Italy. If you're inspired to try making your own pasta, this workshop will be repeated at intervals, next on 6th May, though Ursula will be back before that to teach breadmaking in April. The pasta workshop is £80. Check out the Jericho Kitchen website for a full list of classes, from Scandinavian to Sushi.