Originally from Milan, veteran Italian Chef Mario Caramella (pictured below) has cooked in many prestigious kitchens around the world before setting up his casual, fine-dining restaurant inITALY Bar Ristorante along Singapore's Craig Road.
It was an enjoyable evening filled with laughter as Chef Mario shared his culinary experiences and offered cooking tips stemming from his wealth of experience. What I took away from the evening is that the best cooking is not about following a recipe strictly but done from the heart based on your instinct.
Chef Mario demonstrated three dishes which were all wonderful. The one I liked best was the Risotto Al Dente with Lobster, Tomatoes and Marjoram (recipe below). You'll notice from the recipe that Chef Mario did not give exact amount of ingredients. That's because he would instinctively adjust the amount while cooking through observing and tasting the food.
Coming up close to an Italian chef has led me to understand why so Italian chefs are among the finest cooks in the culinary world - not only do they only use the very best ingredients, they are truly passionate in their pursuit of culinary excellence and proud of their traditions. For more information on DBS Masterclasses, please go to AFC's website.
Here's a run down of the evening:
We started off with the Crudo di pesce - a platter which combines several types of fresh raw seafood such as red prawns, Mediterranean sea bass, oysters, Sicilian tuna and scallops. The seafood is marinated in extra virgin olive oil, oregano and passion fruit coulis and served with toast.
I don't eat raw food normally but the sauce made of passionfruit juice, dry oregano, fresh coriander, lemon juice and cayenne pepper provided such a refreshing and aromatic touch to the seafood that I cleaned up the plate.
The second course of the evening was the Risotto Al Dente with Lobster, Tomatoes and Marjoram. Here is a perfectly cooked risotto where you can taste the delightful fragrance of marjoram, tangy tomatoes and spicy chilli in every bite. The risotto derives it creaminess from the rice starch that is broken down during the cooking process which explains why its important to choose a good quality rice with a high start content. The chef's advice: risotto is meant to be eaten with a fork from the outside in so that the heat is retained even at the last bite. I saved the succulent pieces of lobster for my very last bite.
Chef Mario and his assistant chef Felix in action at the AFC Studio.
The evening's dessert was Zabaglione with Moscato - a feather light custard made of whisked egg yolks and Moscato mixture is served over a scoop of Peach Sorbet along with a cherry compote and orange zest.
In celebration of International Day of Italian Cuisine, Italian chefs around the world were serving Tiramisu to their guests and Chef Mario surprised us with his version of the dessert. I've had too many Tiramisus which were either too heavily laden with alcohol and coffee or too soggy. This Tiramisu was perfect - the cream was light and it had just the right amount of everything without being overpowering. Chef Mario's advise is that Tiramisu is meant to taste good and not look good, so we shouldn't worry too much about how its plated when we serve it at home.
We rounded up the meal with a lovely glass of Moscato wine specially selected by and bottled for Chef Mario and only available at his restaurant.
Thank you Asian Food Channel for a lovely evening!
Risotto Al Dente with Lobster, Tomatoes and Marjoram (Serves 4)
- 1 piece of Live Lobster*
- 160 g of Carnaroli Rice
- Chopped Onion (A handful)
- 1 Garlic Clove
- White Wine (Use good quality Chardonnay)
- Tomato Concasse, chopped (Or best quality tomatoes you can find)
- Tomato Sauce, a couple of laddles
- Majoram (A handful)
- Chicken Stock (Good quality, low sodium)
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil (Italian)
- Fresh chilli, chopped
- Pan sear the lobster meat till it can be removed from the shell easily. Remove from the shell, and cut into small pieces.
- Place onion and garlic with some olive oil in a thick base casserole.
- Slowly cook until translucent and add in the rice.
- Toast the rice at low flame and pour in some wine and cook till its dry.
- Add in a laddle of hot, boiling chicken stock and stir continuously with a wooden spoon. When the stock is almost gone, add in another laddle of chicken stock. Add in more stock till the risotto is creamy and Al Dente (firm to the bite but not hard - you'll need to keep testing it).
- Add 2 laddles of tomato sauce, a handful of chopped tomatoes and some chopped chilli in between the laddles of chicken stock.
- When the risotto is Al Dente, add the lobster pieces and remove from the fire.
- Add the majoram and season to taste.
- Finish with a sprinkle of olive oil.
- Place on hot plates and serve.