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If you’ve read my earlier post on why I value cooking classes, you’ll know that I’m not one to turn down a class. It’s also no surprise that having a food and sustainability blog means I spend 80% of my time in the kitchen, and the rest of my time dabbling in sustainable activities. You can imagine how thrilled I was when I came across the Mediterranean Culinary Academy in Malta, as it was the perfect excuse for me to get my hands busy, whilst prioritising local sustainable produce!
About the Mediterranean Culinary Academy in Malta
The Mediterranean Culinary Academy (MCA) is a fairly recent venture, only starting out in 2017 as a pop-up dining event called Pollen. Following this, the first courses were launched in December 2017, with the doors to their official premises in Valletta opening to the Public in January 2018.
The concept of running interactive cooking classes fared well but MCA didn’t want to stop there. They wanted to ensure that the natural, seasonal food cycle is recognised by integrating local and sustainably sourced ingredients in their cooking classes.
Today they host both short and long cooking classes for children and adults aimed to help budding home cooks or aspiring chefs access a wealth of knowledge and skills from the class. They also host other activities including a unique hands-on seasonal harvesting event and dinner giving their guests the opportunity to experience the process of making and tasting an endemic monovarietal extra virgin olive oil called Bidni. The Branch to Bottle event is now held annually on three consecutive nights.
MCA’s Vegan Pasta Couples Class
I was thrilled to learn that MCA was running its first vegan cooking class. As I’m still exploring the world of plant-based eating, it was the perfect opportunity for me to dive right in.
Note that due to COVID-19 restrictions, we were to wear masks at all times (apart from when we had to eat) and practice social distancing where possible.
About the Class
Cost: €150 per couple
Description: The class lasts 3 hours with two dishes needing to be prepared: an eggless pasta filled with pumpkin cooked in a fennel and sage sauce, and a decadent vegan chocolate cake, the frosting of which is made with their very own Bidni olive oil.
- Learn how to make fresh pasta from scratch
- Fill and shape ravioli
- How to make a beautifully emulsified sauce flavoured with hard herbs
- Make a rich baked chocolate cake
- How to prepare an effortless smooth frosting
- Learn how to hold a knife
- Get inspired with a couple of garnishing ideas
- Learn to work as a team to make home dinners more exciting
- Enjoy a carefree evening of cooking, eating and drinking
Location: The POD, Carob Tree Food Court, St. Julian's
How the MCA Ran the Class
The class was delivered by the lovely Megan Mercieca, vegan chef and pastry specialist of gluten-free plant-based baked treats. Megan was also assisted by Nicole Borg, an aspiring food anthropologist.
As this was a couples class, MCA had 7 workstations, 1 per couple. The workstations were equipped with the tools and ingredients required for the class. Some ingredients were prepared in advance of the class, such as the pasta’s pumpkin filling, as the pumpkin required longer than the allotted 3 hours. We also had some of the dishes’ ingredients weighed out and combined, which saved us time. Each table was also provided with the recipes for the two dishes being prepared that night.
The class was well-balanced. Megan would first demonstrate what dishes were being prepared and how. She would also impart knowledge on certain techniques like knife-holding, knife cutting, garlic crushing and piping. After Megan's demonstration, we would work in pairs to create our dishes.
Level of Difficulty
The cake was a simple affair. We had the dried ingredients pre-mixed, so all we had to do was mix in the wet ingredients together and transfer the mixture into a bowl. Once the cake was out of the oven, we had to prepare a delicious Bidni olive oil chocolate frosting, resulting in an incredibly moist and indulgent chocolate cake, perfect for Valentine’s if you ask me (see bonus recipe by MCA at the end of this post, in case you actually do want to make it for Valentines).
The pasta was more laborious and required a good bit of effort. But it was worth every second of it. We made eggless dough, which had to be worked for 15 minutes and then let rest. We then used the piece-de-resistance. the past machine, to roll it out into perfect pasta sheets. We used a cutter to create our filled pasta which could either turned into mezza luna pasta (half moon pasta) or tortellini pasta (or both). Thanks Megan!
We filled our pasta with using a piping bag, an undeniably satisfying procedure. Once our pasta was prepped, we had to cook the sauce, which was largely composed of fennel, garlic, vegan wine, and herbs. As a finishing touch to the pasta, we added hazelnuts, flaky salt, chilli flakes and a drizzle of local olive oil.
The Final Outcome
We spent 3 glorious hours in the kitchen with most of the effort going toward pasta making. It was a fantastic way to spend the evening, as we were active the whole time, with hardly any idleness.
In the end, we produced two gorgeous vegan dishes, the filled pasta and the chocolate cake and after the three hours were up, we opened a bottle of vegan wine white wine to complement our dinner. Water was also provided throughout the class.
What I loved
I love that the class was busy from start to finish, with my mind being focused on producing these two dishes. I was also thrilled to be taking home new recipes to share with my family and friends.
Our chef Megan was lovely and I appreciated that she got us 14 participants to introduce ourselves so that we all knew a little bit more about each other. Megan also occasionally passed around to check how everyone was doing but she gave us the freedom to make our food the way we like it. We also got to take home some fresh tagliatelle made from the remaining pasta dough. Hooray!
When’s the Next Class?
MCA will be hosting the next vegan pasta couple’s class on the 19th of February 2021. If you’re interested in booking use code Theoffbeatappetite10 to get 10% off.
A decadent vegan chocolate cake with a luxurious olive oil frosting
- Preparation time
- Cooking time
- 112grFlour, all purpose
- 80grCacao powder (22g reserved for the frosting)
- 0.25tsp, Bicarbonate of soda
- 100gr Sugar, demerara
- 93grOlive oil (55g reserved for the frosting)
- 130mlBrewed coffee
- 0.25tsp, Cider vinegar
- 40grIcing sugar
- —a pinch of salt (in both the batter and the frosting)
1. Prepare the Batter
Preheat the oven to 170'C and grease a 15 cm round cake pan.
In a bowl whisk together the flour, bicarbonate of soda, cacao powder, salt and Demerara sugar.
In a separate bowl whisk together the brewed coffee, water, and olive oil. Pour the wet mixture into the dry one and whisk until smooth. Add the cider vinegar and whisk well.
2. Bake the Cake
Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 25-30 minutes. Once ready, remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pan on a wire rack.
3. Prepare the Frosting
For the frosting, in a clean bowl, combine the icing ingredients with a whisk. Once cool, remove the cake from the cake tin and frost with the olive oil frosting.