Richard Bertinet is famed for his unconventional bread cookery techniques, which involve incorporating air into the dough, rather than whacking it out at every opportunity. The cookery school is based on two floors, and Richard runs a number of bread courses on one level, while a variety of guest chefs teach on the first floor.
Our course was led by Silvanna de Soissans, who's a very cheerful and colourful Italian, with her own blog and catering business. Before we began the business of making lunch, like all good foodies, we started with coffee, and toast for those who wanted it.
Silvanna had brought the most amazing array of herbs from her garden, which given the weather we've had to date was no mean feat - there were amazing bunches of parsley, basil and mint. After admiring her gardening prowess, we learnt briefly about the historical influences on Sardinian cookery... Where Sicily was invaded by many different cultures, and chose to embrace these culinary influences into their own cuisine - apparently Sardinian's sought refuge inland, and kept their culinary history intact. I'm not entirely sure why they did - most of the books I have since acquired on Sardinian cookery reflect what Silvanna taught - that the food is born out of poverty, and uses ingredients generally considered 'poor' by other regions.
Our course taught four meals: a gnocchi dish (made from durum wheat, rather than potato), a prawn dish cooked with peas and pancetta, a slow cooked lamb dish, and the most delicious orange and potenta cake (the thought of which still makes me salivate weeks later).
The gnocchi, known as Malloreddus (little bulls), uses saffron to add colour and flavour. Malloreddus are ribbed using a fork, are small in size, and generally served with a sauce. ours was made with pancetta and tomatoes, reduced to a fairly thick consistency. It's as salty as you'd imagine.
After assembling the Malloreddus we took a quick coffee break - Silvanna had brought in the most magnificent array of biscuits for all of us, and one basket quickly disappeared down the the grateful students in the bread course.
The orange and polenta cake was an absolute revelation - the process can be quite laborious - you need to assemble different elements of the cake in different bowls, before finally combining. However the end result is the most scented, moist and delicious flour free cake you're likely to eat. (I will e-mail Silvanna and see if she'll let me post the recipe).
Will I be cooking Sardinian food any time soon? Probably not, although I expect that orange cake will make a regular appearance at my table.
Will I return to the Bertinet Kitchen - absolutely - we had great fun. I already had some experience of the team as I buy my yeast direct from the BK's website... The staff were all friendly, charming and helpful, and we were able to purloin some of the most delicious foccaccia from the course going on downstairs. I'm going to attend the week long bread course as soon as I can fit it into my diary :0)
The Bertinet Kitchen http://www.thebertinetkitchen.co.uk
Silvana de Soissans http://silvanadesoissons.com/about-silvana/