When Filippo Berio invited me to join them at their Sardinian Spring Feast how could I refuse?
The evening was a heady mix for me of brilliant produce, fabulous food and a warmth that I always feel when in the company of a couple of italians! As we arrived at La Cucina Caldesi it was aprons on, fizz in hand and time to admire the tables scattered with fresh produce from king prawns to basil, tomatoes, and of course olive oil, and a chance to chat to some of the other guests.
We were welcomed by Managing Director of Filippo Berio UK, Walter Zanre, who handed over to Mario to introduce his mouth-watering menu:
Home-made Yorkshire pudding with prosciutto and fresh ricotta
Cannellini beans on bruschetta with prawns, chilli and garlic
Gnochetti Sardi with cherry tomatoes
Salt crusted sea bass with baked potato and zucchini
Baked olive oil cheesecake served with fruit salad
Before we even began this feast we got to enjoy fabulous antipasti from Rutland Charcuterie which included the tastiest fennel salami I’ve had, prosciutto encrusted with black pepper, and cheeses made by Mario, Yorkshire Pecorino and Ricotta – both of which were divine.
Time to cook
It was time to cook, we all picked a station and Mario talked us through the dishes and what we’d all be doing. I was stationed with the veg to accompany the sea bass, we quartered the courgettes and diced the potatoes, then drizzled with Filippo Berio olive oil and seasoned ready for it to be roasted.
Next up was the dough for gnochetti sardi – using semolina and warm water Mario made the dough and kneaded it until it was springy and elastic, then the rest of us joined in to make the gnochetti. Rolling pieces into thin sausage like rolls of pasta and breaking them off into thumb-sized pieces with a knife, we then rolled them on the back of a cheese grater (a very clever way of getting the shape and the pattern!). I always find making pasta therapeutic and this was no exception.
Mario then talked us through the primi piatti and how to make the sauce for the pasta – for all of these dishes simplicity is key, but the real show stopper was the sea bass. Mario talked passionately about how he’d learnt to fish in Sardinia as his grandfather and father were fisherman, and this dish was one of his grandfather’s. As Mario talked about his memories of learning how to gut and cook fish his emotions were clear, his father had taught him everything and these were naturally fond memories; and now his sons love to fish too when they return to Sardinia. Mario encased the sea bass in salt to trap the flavour inside before cooking in the oven and later dousing in a little vodka!
Whilst this was going on, the kitchen was being transformed into our dining room and soon it was time to eat. Mario and Stefano continued to finish off the dishes and serve them for us all to enjoy.
We began with the Yorkshire pudding with prosciutto and ricotta, not your usual combination but Mario swore by it, the fusion of his Yorkshire life and italian roots – served on a bed of rocket leaves, these were a delicious start to the meal. As Mario said they would make fantastic canapes or starters when you’re hosting.
This was swiftly followed by Cannellini beans on bruschetta with prawns, chilli and garlic – I am a huge fan of bruschetta and I loved this, transport yourself to a sunny spot in Sardinia and imagine this as your lunch.
Both primi piatti were served with Prosecco DOC Cuvee 1821 from Zonin wines which was light and refreshing to accompany the two dishes.
Gnochetti Sardi with cherry tomatoes, you can not beat a simple italian tomato sauce for pasta and this didn’t disappoint. This sauce always immediately reminds me of Italian holidays, and I’m yet to recreate it in quite the same way, but perhaps now I will be able to!
Now for show stopper, if you’ve tasted fish in the Med you know these dishes are some of the cleanest, tastiest meals you can enjoy, you can’t beat the simplicity of flavoursome fish and roasted veg with olive oil. Stefano served us up our portions of sea bass, delicate and delicious; the room was in awe of how brilliant this dish was. It was paired with a stunning Vermentino (Calasole Vermentino Rocca di Montemassi) that complemented the sea bass perfectly.
It didn’t stop there, Mario and Stefano plated us up portions of Baked olive oil cheesecake with raspberries and strawberries on the side – a refreshing and light end to the feast we had enjoyed, coupled with a glass of Asti DOCG Castello del Poggio.
Of course a Sardinian Feast wouldn’t be complete without ending on a glass of Mirto, a Sardinian liqueur made from myrtle berries that Mario had bought with him.
Spirits were high by the end of the night, we had dined in true Italian style – with everyone helping prepare the food, using quality produce and enjoying a long and leisurely dinner with one another.
For me, the highlight of the evening was seeing the passion and care Mario, Stefano and the team put into every last detail of the evening; their love of food and their Italian heritage shone through.
The Filippo Berio team also deserve a mention, firstly for organising such a fabulous event and secondly for being so involved in the evening itself – bravo!
If you love to cook, are a foodie, lover of Italy or just enjoy new experiences then I couldn’t recommend the night more; Tickets are brilliant value at £75, with all food and drink included, plus you leave with a well stocked goody bag! Look out for Filippo Berio’s next event on Saturday 16th June.
Filippo Berio invited me to join them at Sardinian Spring Feast to write a review of the evening.