Gluten free cooking in Abu Dhabi

Italian cooking lessons at Frankie’s in Abu Dhabi Discuss this article

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Cooking classes in the capital are getting more and more popular lately. And now the Fairmont Bab Al Bahr’s Frankie’s has also rolled up its sleeves. Frankie’s will be running five weeks of classes that will teach us the art of la cucina Italiana in four courses. They’ve dedicated one lesson per course, and will round off the series with a final extended lesson that brings together all the previously featured courses, for those who are up for some intensive learning.

Fair enough, we thought when we first got a whiff of this bit of news. But being the mischievous bunch that we are, we set Frankie’s a challenge.

‘So, you can teach us how to cook Italian. But can you teach us how to cook gluten-free Italian?’

Gluten intolerants mostly have a love/hate relationship with Italian cuisine. They’ll pine for pasta and pizza with the deepest longing, but actually avoid the stuff like the plague. And if you’re fortunate enough to get your hands on gluten-free pasta, rarely will it taste as good as pasta ought to. It’s clear then, this is no easy task. And yet, chef Andrea Biccini has risen to the challenge. And overseeing his brave attempt (and operations in general) will be general manager of Frankie’s, Giorgio Cingolani.

To demonstrate that it can be done, the two invited us to Frankie’s for a taster (figuratively and literally) of the pasta class scheduled for week two. They’ve got gnocchi planned for the menu, and an alternative of gluten-free ravioli for those who want to wow their food-sensitive loved ones. Chef Andrea said he’d done some research before he found Schaer (available at Carrefour), the gluten-free flour we’d be using. Now it’s not impossible, but it is difficult to find a good gluten-free flour mix that will come close enough to giving you the consistency you’ll need for pasta dough because, as chef Andrea explained, ‘gluten is what gives the dough its elasticity’. He dumped a mound of the flour onto our work surface and made a little well into which he began cracking eggs.

‘And even with this I will use more eggs. Usually for ravioli I use five eggs, but with this flour we’ll use seven or eight,’ he explained.

We mixed the dough, wrapped it up in plastic wrap and left it to wait in the fridge while we prepared the ricotta and spinach filling. Spiced up with fresh nutmeg, pepper and parmesan it tasted like simplicity at its most delicious. When the dough came back out, chef Andrea showed us his electronic pastry roller, which we used to roll the dough out into thin sheets. These were laid out onto the surface, and we got stuck into the task of stuffing and cutting out the little raviolis with a cutter.

We tell you, when it comes to cooking, there’s little more rewarding than making it all from scratch. And though making the actual pasta might sound like a laborious feat, it’s in fact quite fun and not as time consuming as you’d imagine. And for those of who are familiar with how long it takes to boil gluten-free pasta (very long), boiling these little dough parcels took only a minute or two on very high heat.

Putting the sauce together also merely took a minute, since chef Andrea doesn’t believe in overcooking. No sooner was the garlic in the hot olive oil, he gave it one stir and added the fresh tomatoes and basil. We tossed those about for a moment. Seasoned it, and off came the pan from the stove. The ingredients were mostly left to preserve their own individual flavours, which complement each other, instead of being overcooked into a steaming vat of something that could have come from a jar. When the sauce was ready, the cooked ravioli could go straight into the sauce, sprinkled with parmesan and then dished out into serving plates. Finnito.

For those who sign up for Italian cooking classes at Frankie’s, you’ll be sent home with your very own Frankie’s apron and your culinary creation all packed and ready to share with your family. For us though, we couldn’t wait to get home with our food, so we stayed and enjoyed it there. It proved to be the finest ravioli we’ve eaten, even since before the days of settling for gluten-free pasta.
Single classes are Dhs390 and guests who book the first will be able to book subsequent classes at a discounted price of Dhs290. There will be five classes in total, every Tuesday from March 27-April 24, and will follow the sequence of a full Italian menu. Frankies, Fairmont Bab al Bahr (02 654 3333).

Frankie’s scheduled lessons

Lesson 1 – Appetizer: crab cakes
Lesson 2 – Pasta: gnocchi and ravioli (glutton free class)
Lesson 3 – Main: sea bass encrusted in rock salt
Lesson 4 – Dessert: panacotta
Lesson 5 – A culmination of each course for a complete meal

By Elest Ali
Time Out Abu Dhabi,

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