Thursday, 11 July 2013

Grana Padano week at L'Anima

Sometimes in life, things happen, and it's tempting to spend valuable time wondering why. Not just bad things, but good things too.

I am so over that. You just have to go with what you get and make the best of it - usually no point dwelling on the whys and wherefores

And I am particularly not going to spend time wondering how on earth I was lucky enough to be invited to spend an afternoon/evening at L'Anima London, in the company of 2 brilliant chefs and a handful of food writers and other bloggers on a gloriously hot Tuesday in July. I'll leave you to ponder that one, as you surely will.

So the occasion was a cookery demonstration in honour of national Grana Padano Week 2013 which runs until tomorrow. The chefs were Francesco Mazzei, of L'Anima itself, and Davide Oldani, of D'O restaurant near Milan, cooking to showcase the 3 ages of Grana Padano cheese.

Francesco and Davide

We crammed into the kitchen, donned aprons and watched as Davide first produced a souffled gnocchi dish of such sublime lightness that I thought I was going to swoon (it was very hot in there and I was standing next to a lit grill). Gorgeous little gnocchi bearing no resemblance whatsoever to my previous attempts. So dainty he piped them into the water...  

The gnocchi were then fried off, and served with a Grana Padano sauce, some raisins soaked in syrup spiked with chilli, some fried lettuce, and some crispy fregola (like couscous). Having allowed us to sample the dish, Davide explained the philosophy behind his cooking which is to satisfy each section of the tongue - the bit which tastes sweet, those tasting salty, bitter etc, hence the dish satisfying all those areas

May from Eat Cook Explore tastes the raisins

Well, I had to take a picture of the cheese!

After a short break for a glass of prosecco (well, it would have been rude not to) and a taste of some delicious grana padano scopped out of a glorious wheel of cheese it was time to move on to Francesco's demo.

I don't think there can be many more divine dishes than the scallops he prepared with a salsa verde made with N'duja, a kind of spreadable salami which I had never heard of or come across before, but was completely heavenly. I have never really aspired to work in a professional kitchen, and the experience didn't change that but what I really appreciated more than ever was how skilled these chefs are at the top of their game. 
Watching Francesco pulping garlic cloves with the blade of a knife, chopping and smoothing, was truly a sight to behold.

I tried to make a note of everything that went in the sauce - garlic, gherkins, capers, anchovies, some bread soaked in white wine vinegar, egg white that had been cooked as an omelette, finely grated grana Padano - may be some marjoram? all chopped so finely, then mixed with some N'duja (that's the bad boy there at the back of this picture - a gorgeous spicy slab of the stuff...)

The scallops - beautiful. fresh, meaty, were pan fried on one side, then the salsa verde was spread over the top and finished off under a grill while Francesco deep fried (flash fried, really) some Senise peppers and sage leaves .

The finishing touches

I cannot tell you how utterly wonderful the dish tasted, and I got to have a second shot at it because it was one of the courses at the dinner that followed. But more about that later.

After the demo, there was time to chat to the other people there, 

drink some more prosecco, and try not to over consume some gorgeous and appropriately cheesey (I mean flavour) nibbles, all made with Grana Padano

Beautiful buns stuffed with Grana Padano and caramelised red onion....


Perect pastries filled with Grana Padano and spinach...

...and these heavenly things which came with the rather unheavenly name of 'cheese puffs', but which are so, so much more.

(and if you want the recipe for those, you can find it on Eat Like a Girl, because Niamh has helpfully posted it...)

I think I've probably used up all the superlatives I can think of already in this post. I mean, I know I don't get out much, but this really was an extraordinarily brilliant meal, and others I was with who are better qualified than me to say such things agreed that it was fabulous. From my point of view, it would be definitely in my top 5 meals of all time - a subject we discussed at the table, while we tucked in...

Home cured Hake with candied figs tomato emulsion, Grana Padano Riserva crisps & tarragon 

M'pigliati with Grano Padano Riserva & figs mosto cotto 

The special Grana Padano menu is available at L'Anima until tomorrow (12th July) so if you have a the opportunity to go and experience the 3 ages of Grana Padano cooked this beautifully, grab it while you can. I was lucky enough to dine as a guest of Grana Padano, but I would certainly have paid and have promised my (very foodie) brother that when I bag a regular food column in a national publication, I will take him there for a meal. So there's a challenge for anyone reading...


  1. RJ I was invited to this but couldn't attend! Looks like a fab day :)

    1. :-( foiled again - one day we will meet. Still working on Bombay Sapphire...

    2. I know! And I thought that you might be at this one too. We had visitors for the week and I thought it might be rude to disappear for the day! Next time... :) Keep working on the BS folk.. X

  2. It sounds fabulous! Amazing food - great photos! x

  3. We've just published an exclusive video interview with Lello, L’Anima’s Head Chef at">London Let us know what you think!


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