Celebrated Chef Agostino D'Angelo from Belmond Villa Sant'Andrea hosted a special soiree at The Oberoi, Mumbai which proved to be a true gastronomic experience. Guided by the Chef himself, we whipped up some authentic pasta followed by a fabulous Sicilian feast
By: Niyoshi Shah
Posted on: March 27, 2019
Getting involved in local cuisines and learning how to whip up those mouth-watering dishes is a great experience, especially in Italy where food plays such a fundamental role. I recently had a bona fide gourmet experience that took me straight to the heart of the Italian food labyrinth – Sicily.
From cannoli to arancini, Sicilian food is world-famous and full of surprises. It is a place where the Middle-Eastern couscous is eaten with Italian pasta and gelato is eaten for breakfast, but thankfully stuffed in a brioche bun. The island’s culinary traditions are influenced by the cultures of the ancient Greeks, Arabs and Normans, while getting inspired by the tastes of Spain, Greece, North Africa and the Middle East. I had the exceptional experience of learning the fine art of pasta-making, and getting acclimated with some of these incredible cuisine secrets, from acclaimed Chef Agostino D’Angelo.
With over 25 years of experience at several restaurants, the mastermind behind Ristorante Oliviero at the Belmond Villa, Chef Agostino D’Angelo feels the time is now right to share his trade secrets. A masterclass was held at The Oberoi hotel in Mumbai to bring together food lovers for a special soiree and lunch experience.
We explored some traditional Sicilian cooking methods which included making authentic ravioli, Cannelloni, Cavatelli, Fettuccine and Linguini – a la Agostino. The dough was freshly prepared using flour, salt, extra virgin oil, whole eggs and yolk. The kneading of the dough required a bit of work, it is best done with your hands to effectively develop and ripen the flour and make the pasta springy and al dente.
The dough was then cut into rectangular pieces and strips were rubbed against a wooden block which made lines and curled the pasta for the Cavatelli. Linguini and Fettuccine were flattened with a rolling pin and cut in the pasta-maker itself, but elliptical in section rather than flat. For the ravioli, we cut the rolled dough into 2-inch-wide strips. Brushed the strips lightly with an egg mixture and placed about 1 teaspoon of filling at every 1-inch interval. We laid the second strip of dough on it and lightly cut the joint strips between each filling to make individual raviolis.
When it comes to rolling, the difficulty lies in getting the pasta thin enough to work with, and you need a very long rolling pin to do the job effectively. Pasta dries much quicker than you would think, so you cannot leave it out for more than a few minutes before cutting or shaping it. An arduous task for novices, the labour that goes into traditionally following these age-old recipes was a cherished experience for all of us.
The indulgent meal prepared by the chef himself commenced with the Caponata, one of the most renowned and well known centenarian vegetarian dishes of Sicily. The caponata is essentially an eggplant dish consisting of a variety of cooked vegetables made from chopped fried eggplant and celery seasoned with sweetened vinegar. It was a simple yet flavourful preparation.
This was followed by marinated sea bass with shaved fennel and orange segments, and a portion of Burrata cheese, which was sourced from a local priest in Mumbai. The delicious gooeyness of the cheese instantly sent me down a rabbit hole.
A generous portion of basil cream with grilled fruit came in next (interestingly, the fruit is marinated with modern techniques then vacuum packed to remove the internal oxygen - giving the fruit a more intense flavour and hue). The grilled fruit paired beautifully with the basil dressing, forming a unique pairing in turn with the burrata cheese.
This was followed by a scrumptious portion of the Corn-fed chicken breast with confit lemon, grilled spring onion and mashed potatoes and we concluded the feast with a charming preparation of the traditional Sicilian style "Cannolo". A cannolo is a tube-shaped shell of fried pastry dough, filled with a sweet, creamy filling containing ricotta cheese and orange preserve. All of which was exceptionally delicious and succulent.
Sicilian cooking essentially embraces contrasts and the dishes are as bold and baroque as their flamboyant architecture. The preparation was fresh, varied and appetising and the masterclass was enjoyable as well as enlightening. In matters of both magic and pasta, the cheerful Chef Agostina delivers plenty, and my taste buds couldn’t agree more.
Coordinates: Vetro, Trident Nariman Point, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India