Italian Consul General Danilo Guirdanella (left), cheese expert Antonio Fracciolla (centre) and Chef Samuele Crestale. — Fahim Siddiqi / White Star
Italian Consul General Danilo Guirdanella (left), cheese expert Antonio Fracciolla (centre) and Chef Samuele Crestale. — Fahim Siddiqi / White Star

KARACHI: Even though it was just water boiling, the little puffs of steam escaping out of the saucepan, whenever Chef Samuele Crestale lifted its lid, hinted at something incredibly delicious to come out of the chef’s efforts at the Italian cooking workshop, which was part the HoReCa Summit during the Italian Cuisine Week being held at a local hotel here on Wednesday.

Chef Crestale, later, got very busy, rolling dough, cutting the strips of flour into small cubes before transferring them to the saucepan to boil, warming up the sauce, adding to it red beans, pieces of stale bread and all to cook up a storm called pisarei e faso, generous helpings of which he offered his entire audience to taste. The dish is said to be a classic, originating from Emilia-Romagna, a region in northern Italy.

His next offering was a semi-frozen dessert called Semifreddo al Fondente. “It’s half cold, with a consistency between ice cream and mousse topped with chocolate and strawberry,” he explained.

While everyone crowded around Chef Crestale to watch him cook and taste his delicacies, those who gathered around his colleague, the cheese expert, Antonio Fracciolla enjoyed listening to him and what he had to tell them about the various types of cheeses he had brought with him all the way from Italy. Still, many shied away when it came to tasting the cheeses. “It’s an acquired taste,” he said while offering it to them.

‘Italian Cuisine Week is more about the people of Italy than food’

There were cheeses in the shape of bricks, balls, cylinders, etc, some still with the strings they were hung from to dry out or age. There were goat cheese known as caciotta di capra, buffalo milk cheese known as quadrello di bufala, sheep milk cheese known as capestrano puglielse, goat and sheep milk cheese that has been aged for eight months known as junco mixed, natural cheese fermented for eight months in the cave known as cacio cavallo, natural cheese fermented in a cave for 12 months known as provolone fragno quarceta, natural cheese fermented in a cave for 18 months known as provolone quarceta and blu cheese of buffalo milk with Penicillium rocqueforti.

The audience cringed at the thought of fermented or rotting cheese or cheese with fungus. But the cheese expert relished it. He briefed the audience on the history and importance of cheese making in Italian culture, which they take great pride in. He has himself earned several trophies for cheese tasting all over the world.

It was the first time for both the chef and the cheese expert to be in Pakistan. Fracciolla had flown in straight from Italy while Chef Crestale was here from Dubai, where he has been employed by a hotel chain for 12 years now. “I am very careful about halal food,” he told Dawn.

Alongside the workshop, there were also several stalls that showcased food ingredients and samples using Italian goods.

The Consul General of Italy in Karachi Danilo Guirdanella was also present. He also spoke about the benefits of a Mediterranean diet as a balanced diet model for a healthy lifestyle. About Italian Cuisine Week, he said that it is more about the people of Italy than food.

“Our food, we share with others. Sharing is caring. We care for others,” he said.

Published in Dawn, November 25th, 2021

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