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Dining with the Masterchefs

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There are evenings when you just don’t fancy going out, it’s been a long week, a bit of a journey and the allure of a glass of something and a box set of Game of Thrones is pretty tempting.

Oh come on, said Mr FT – it will be great!! By the way, there will be all things Italian there – well, what more does a girl need to hear, particularly when one of said Italians is Danilo Cortellini, the darling of Masterchef the Professionals.  And just when you get excited about one Masterchef, Mr FT, with the panache of a magician, then produces another Masterchef,  the wonderful Nick Bennett of Restaurant 56.

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Arriving at Venturi’s Table in South London, with a professional kitchen to die for, we were welcomed by the glorious Gaia with a glass of bubbles and a dazzling smile.  Saying hello to both Danilo and Nick, we had a few minutes to catch up before they had to go and do that thing they do so incredibly well – creating gorgeous food!!

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Of course, the food is the star of these shows, but we were also lucky with our charming dining guests, including Connor and Nita, Francisco, Matteo, Christian and Bernadette,  A lively discussion about Italian and English eating habits proved highly entertaining and educational!! I am definitely moving to an even more seasonable approach to eating.

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Nick started the evening with a succulent piece of Salmon mi-cuit, with a violet potato mousse (don’t forget Nick, you promised me the recipe)!  It was divine, visually delightful, the table just stared and admired before, as one, we tasted each delicious element, oohing and aahing,….sadly it did not last long – it was meltingly perfect.   Danilo had a lot to live up to after that and he matched it with an asparagus risotto that was sublime. Creamy without cream, the risotto perfectly al dente, with slivers of tiny asparagus and a crown of sicilian red prawns, it was simply beautiful.

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The main course, another Danilo production of simplicity and flavour, Veal Cheeks Pizzaiola.  We were told that this is a particular favourite of the Italian Ambassador and I could see and taste why!  A circle of soft meat, with a deeply flavoured tomato sauce with a black olive powder, some olive oil mash and spinach. The table, strangely silent, just savoured the amazing taste of this gorgeous food.  I was also taught the use of the ‘scarpetta’  – thank you Christian! It is a way of honoring the chef by leaving your plate clean using a piece of bread – scarpetta – to wipe the sauce from your plate.

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It was left to Nick to round the evening off and, dear readers, he did not disappoint!! I would have kidnapped him and held him ransom until he taught me to make the cherry sorbet with the same depth, colour and flavour that he married with a cherry and pistachio cheesecake and a cookie crumb.  Truly delicious – we were very lucky diners this evening!

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So, there will be no second thoughts the next time an offer like this comes along – not even for Games of Thrones!!

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