I don’t know if you have the same problem as me, but buying presents for the man in your life is a bit of a nightmare. Ask them what they would like and you either get a shrug of the shoulders or a suggestion of something random like a new set of scewdrivers. Odds on you buy the screwdrivers only to discover that screwdrivers that they really wanted were titanium coated with diamond chiselled heads made by some obscure company that needed to be ordered months in advanced and not the first set you picked up in B&Q. In my book a screwdriver is a screwdriver but apparently this just isn’t true!
Two birthday’s back, Mr R shrugged and scratched his head when asked that loaded question, “what do you want for your birthday?” Fortunately he didn’t ask for screwdrivers (he waited until this Christmas to put them on his wish list. Needless to say Santa soon scrubbed that item out) but he did ask for a pasta machine. Bit random I thought, but as I couldn’t think of anything other than much needed but deadly dull socks, I duly obliged and bought him one.
Fast forward to one birthday back. The pasta machine’s still in it’s box despite a few mumblings about attempting to make pasta but as the machine looked a bit scary we always gave up before we had even began. Mr R’s birthday rolled around again and because it was a big one we had decided to go to Rome to celebrate it. Being a clever wife and wanting to keep the Italian birthday theme going I had a bit of a birthday present brainwave. Book the two of us onto a pasta making course and hopefully make lots of lovely pasta for evermore using the pasta machine that until now hasn’t seen the light of day. Of course there was an ulterior motive behind booking the course. It meant that I could go too. Well, I couldn’t send the poor love on his own now could I!
Fast forward to this weekend. Trying to find a pasta course that wasn’t too far away and which took place on a Saturday wasn’t as easy as I thought it might be, but thanks to a plea on Instagram I was recommended trying Vaughan’s Kitchen in Devizes as they had a Saturday pasta course coming up. Perfecto! The course sounded just what I was looking for so I booked it pronto.
Arriving at the cookery school we were warmly met by Peter Vaughan himself who was to be our tutor for the morning. Peter has a wealth of experience in the culinary world. He worked in Michelin starred restaurants both here in the uk and abroad before founding his own successful restaurant in Devizes. He is now the proud owner of Vaughan’s Kitchen which caters for events and includes the cookery school. Whilst waiting for everyone to arrive we were offered delicious homemade warm fruit punch as well as other drinks and given our aprons. I think Mr R felt a bit self-concious in his as being on the tall side it only covered his middle. There were only nine attending the course including two young lads which was just perfect. Being a small class means that not only do you have no problem seeing and hearing Peter as he demonstrates but he’s easily at hand when you need a little help.
We started off by learning what wheat is used in pasta flour. I had always thought it was flour that had been finely milled, but actually it’s a mix of bread flour and durum wheat, which thinking about it makes perfect sense as you need the elasticity of the gluten so that the dough can be rolled thinly without tearing. After a quick demonstration it was our turn to make the dough using local eggs, pasta flour and extra virgin olive oil. Once the dough had been kneaded we rolled it out by hand. Left to my own devices I would have used flour to stop the dough from sticking but apparently you should use polenta instead. To make tagliatelle we learnt to roll the pasta up into a loose swiss roll and cut into roughly 1cm pieces. Yay, we had made fresh pasta. What an achievment! Now to cook it. I found this bit the scariest bit of the whole process. Many a time I’ve overcooked pasta and ended up with a soggy mess, so it was a nail biting time peering into the simmering pan wondering if our precious pasta was cooked to perfection. Unfortunately I think we left it in just a fraction too long. It wasn’t soggy but definitely not al dente.
During the course of the morning’s session Peter demonstrated how to make simple sauces to use with the pasta. He gave us lots of great tips and talked passionately about the ingredients he used. The message I got was that Italians use seasonally available ingredients and keep it simple. Vine grown tomatoes and garlic cooked briefly in olive oil, seasoned and with fresh basil added at the last minute makes a fabulously delicious and fresh accompanient with pasta. Did you know that if you add some of the pasta cooking water along with the pasta to the tomato mix you will get a silky smooth sauce?
Using the pasta machine to roll out the dough for ravioli was really good fun although Mr R did snap at me once when I kept rolling when he was trying to control the dough coming out the other end. He tends to panic a bit when cooking and usually I try and stay away from the kitchen and just let him get on with it rather than getting my head snapped off!
At the end of the session we all sat down for a delicious pasta feast. It was a lovely way to finish what had been a fabulous morning learning new skills. We ate what we had made and drank wine. I really enjoyed the chance to chat with the other people on the course and could have spent all afternoon sat there drinking coffee and nibbling on the fabulous lemon drizzle cake.
I love to cook and attending a cooking class is so up my street. I love the chance to gain new skills and be inspired. I really enjoyed running my cooking club at school and maybe when I’m more profient I could introduce pasta making to the children. I absolutely loved the pasta course and am really pleased that Mr R did too. He’s now full of pasta enthusiasm and if he had it his way we will be eating it every day from now on. He’s also keen to attend more courses which I’m really excited about.
If you are thinking of attending a pasta, or infact any cooking course and live not too far from Devizes then I absolutely recommend Vaughan’s Kitchen cookery school. Peter was a brillant tutor. Really friendly, very experienced and obviously enthusiastic about sharing his passion of cooking with others and teaching them new skills in an informal, small class. I for one will definitely be going back!