Grand Grana Padano and Perfect Prosciutto

16 May
Oh prosciutto…how I love you…let me count the ways! There’s your melty texture, your subtle tease of saltiness…the beauty of your pinky sheen in the sunlight…These are the thoughts that enter my mind whenever I go near the gorgeously delectable meat that is proscuitto…and at a recent tasting at the Italian Cultural Institute of London, I was lucky enough to get my fair share…along with a few rather large chunks of crumbly, sharp Grana Padano.

Now, given my love of a) most things Italian and 2) these two types of food, I was already going in with high expectations. And, I’m glad to say, I was not let down. These two “Gwilty Pleasures” were more than seen to…

The event marked the start of a three-year promotional campaign, meant to showcase and increase knowledge in the UK about Protected Designation of Origin (read: PDO) products, two of which were the stars of the lunch: Formaggio Grana Padano and Prosciutto di San Daniele. Not only did I, and the other attendees, taste these delightfully sexy Italian commodities, but we were also treated to a cooking demonstration with the famous Genarro Contaldo (http://gennarocontaldo.com/) – the legend taught us the different dishes that can be whipped up with both ingredients, including a gorgeous risotto with generous helpings of Grana Padano that literally melted on the tongue…

Italian cooking legend Gennaro Contaldo gives some top tips

During the demonstration, I also learned just how this tasty meat is made in comparison with its Italian colleague in coronary crime, Parma Ham. The difference, we were told, between Parma Ham and Prosciutto di San Daniele comes down to the salting: the former is only salted in certain areas and left to cure for a longer time, while the latter is completely covered in coarse sea salt and left to cure for 1.5 days per kilo of meat. Prosciutto must be aged at least 13 months, and there are also only 31 manufacturers of it, while there are more than 160 that make Parma.

There were also three types of Grana Padano on offer, my favourite being the over 16-month old cheese, that was grainy, sharp and flavourful…

A hunk of Grana Padano and the meal made from it...delicious!

After the demonstration, we sat down to a tasty meal that incorporated the ingredients once more, and included a plate of melon, fig, rocket and proscuitto…a combination I can only say makes me weak in the knees. After a large plate of those delicacies – and a glass or, ahem, two, of rather beautiful white wine – I wobbled my way out of the Institute and into the bright summer sunshine sparkling around Belgrave Square a very satisfied lady…it was, as Contaldo pronounced during cooking, all rather “fantastico”!

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