Puglia (Apulia), often referred to as the heel of Italy’s boot, is a lovely region.
It‘s a region of fascinating ancient towns, some with stunning churches, curious pointed-roof houses called trulli, fabulous beaches and enchanting fishing villages and a countryside studded with olive groves and farms. It has lots going for it.
And it was also where Raffaele Lauriola was born.
Head Chef at Brunello, London
Raffaele Lauriola moved to London in 2016 and now works as Head Chef at the Brunello Bar and Restaurant in the luxurious Baglioni hotel in High Street Kensington, close to the Royal Albert Hall and opposite Kensington Gardens.
Though born in Puglia, Raffaele grew up in the magical city of Verona, the city chosen by Shakespeare as the setting for his play Romeo and Juliet, and which is also renowned for its summer operas held in the vast Roman amphitheatre.
Cooking for world famous celebrities
Ever since he was a teenager Raffaele has been fascinated by cooking and when he was 20 years old decided that he wanted to become a chef.
Following his culinary training at a college close to Verona, his career has taken him to restaurants and hotels in Italy, Switzerland, Morocco, the USA and Monte Carlo – where he created and cooked dishes for many world famous celebrities.
His talents do not just lie in creating delicious food and experimenting with different ingredients however. He quietly told me that earlier in his career he had enjoyed ice carving and had won international ice carving contests.
Raffaele loves making soup as well as pasta, and his reputation for creating fabulous desserts and pastries is renowned.
I asked him what his favourite meal would be. His answer – pasta with vegetables, and probably a crostata (a tart) preferably fruit. He loves the Mediterranean diet, one incorporating lots of colourful veg.
I wanted to know what wine he would want on his desert island should he ever be cast away – the answer, an emphatic – Prosecco!
Tips for trainee chefs and the home cook
Raffaele is a natural teacher and likes to encourage anybody eager to learn. When asked what makes a good chef and what advice he would give somebody starting in the catering industry he replied that the most important thing is to learn by heart the basic methods necessary for the different types of cooking.
And his tip for the home-cook is the one that he pursues in his own career – buy fresh produce and especially from local farms – ‘that is always the best’.
Days off and holidays
In his days off he loves discovering the different faces of London, but Raffaele confesses to missing the Mediterranean countryside, the sea, and the farms etc. Consequently most of his holidays are spent back in the family home in Italy where he can relax and indulge his passion for art and maybe a little fishing and gardening.
Here are three of Raffaele’s favourite recipes.
Pumpkin cream Delica – 4 portions
1.5 kg Delica pumpkin
0.5 kg leek
120 gr onion
1 gr ground nutmeg
5 cl sunflower oil
White (vegetable) stock
Extra virgin olive oil
Peel and cut the pumpkin into small pieces, clean, wash and cut the leek into small pieces, peel and cut the onions.
Cook the pumpkin, onion, leek and the sunflower oil together in a saucepan for about 10 minutes on a low heat.
Add 2 litres of white stock, salt, black pepper and nutmeg. Cook for another 30 minutes or until all ingredients are soft. Puree.
Serve warm garnished with extra virgin olive oil.
Pasta / orecchiette with broccoli and prawns – 4 portions
Ingredients for pasta dough:
200 gr 00 grade white flour
120 gr semolina
150 ml water
1 gr salt
Make homemade pasta. Knead all the ingredients, let stand one hour.
Cut the dough into small pieces, on the cutting board take each piece of dough and gently drag a knife on each piece of dough before forming it into small ear-like shape with your fingers, ie, orecchiette.
300 gr brocolli
12 gamberi (prawns)
200 gr pimento
50 gr shallots
15 cl extra virgin olive oil
Pepper from the mill
Cut the broccoli into small florets and reserve.
Clean the prawns and sear in a pan with the olive oil and reserve.
Cut the shallots into julienne strips, add the tomatoes and cook for 3 minutes in olive oil.
Boil the broccoli in salted water for about 2 minutes.
Before draining, add the orecchiette and cook together for about 1 minute, drain and mix together with a strip or two of pimento and shallots.
Serve warm with the prawns on top and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a grind of pepper from the mill.
Risotto – basic recipe and method for 2 portions
70 -80gr Carnaroli rice
Small amount of sunflower oil
Hot vegetable stock
Small amount of very finely chopped onion
Grated parmesan cheese
3 or 4 spears of asparagus chopped into approx. 1cm lengths
Skinned and deseeded tomato for garnish
Extra virgin olive oil
Over gentle heat stir the rice in a small amount of sunflower oil until the grains are hot and coated in the oil.
Add and stir in the finely chopped onion and asparagus pieces.
Gradually add the stock two or three ladles at a time, each time stirring until the rice has absorbed that amount of stock.
Add a generous spoonful of parmesan cheese and a knob of butter and continue adding stock and cooking until rice becomes al dente.
Approx time 15 minutes.