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I went on the Cici-Coco pasta-making cookery course on the weekend – just half a day, so easy enough to flick the kids onto Mr Muddy with a humble thank you, but not long enough to give him a day pass the following day on the mountain bike.
Anyone who reads Muddy regularly will know that I’m a slightly anxious cook, so going on a cookery course fills me with a strange mixture of hope and dread. Which is why the Cici-Coco course in Cuddington, mid Bucks was perfectly pitched – very relaxed and chatty, with practical demonstration from Giuliana (whose award-winning food can be found in Selfridges) and then a chance for those on the course to have a go at various things ourselves.
Here’s the most amazing thing I learnt on the course. Cooking is quite easy! I know that sounds a bit daft, but Giuliana made the most incredible venison and pork ragu using simple ingredients, one pot, and a European’s more-is-more attitude to salt and pepper and herbs. Even more remarkably, all my children ate it when I came home, just proving the fact that we need to be less scared of offering little people strong flavours.
We made the ragu to go with tagliatelle, a two fillings for ravioli – a pork, apple and quince and a ricotta and smoked cheese. Both were relatively simple, none of the fuss you’d expect from making a ravioli filling. The ricotta filling in particular took just minutes, it really was incredibly simple.
Then it was onto the pasta making, which was so much fun and something kids will absolutely love too – flour mountains, eggs into the volcano, kneeding the dough (and, um, making silly faces in it – soooo infantile)…
And then there’s all the winding it through, cutting, pressing… Really it’s so therapeutic and when you’ve made the pasta you can totally tell the difference. The tagliatelle was like velvet, it was absolutely delicious.
This was one of Giuliana’s first pasta courses and it ran on for an extra hour (lucky us!) so I’m sure it will hit its timings more precisely next time round. I’d absolutely recommend that course, for beginners but also more experienced cooks – there was a guy on my course from Oxford who had previously made his own pasta and a lady from Thame who’d just bought her own pasta machine, so it caters for all levels, and in fact it’s quite fun to be a mixy-matchy group, we all chatted and giggled through it together.
But I’d definitely be interested in doing some other Cici-Coco courses too. Giuliana is a cook rather than a chef, and I think it’s a useful distinction. Her skill has been passed down her family (half from the North, half from the South), and she cooks with the warmth and informality of a home meal with friends in mind.
Obviously she’s brilliant at it, but there were a couple of times when things didn’t quite go to plan – pasta that had been floured on both sides and wouldn’t stick for the ravioli for example – where you saw her think like a ‘normal’ cook and work out what to do and pass on that information to the rest of us. I found that quite inspiring and grounding – that realisation that it’s OK to make mistakes, and this is what to do when it happens.
If you want to check out upcoming Cici-Coco courses, click here. I think they also do vouchers if you’re interested in buying a course as a Christmas pressy. Mr Muddy – hint.