We’ve been getting used to new and imaginative ways of keeping ourselves entertained during lockdown, many of them remotely. Remote yoga classes are now part of my routine, but we recently enjoyed a cookery class on Zoom.
Lisa Violino runs Knolita Cooks online directly from her home in New Barnet, offering a range of one-off workshops for groups and individuals. Both her parents came from Northern Italy and immigrated to London in the 1950s. They went into the food industry, owning restaurants and sandwich bars, so Lisa grew up in a very foodie environment. She also spent summer holidays in Italy where her grandma and aunties prepared amazing food.
Lisa didn’t follow her brothers into the family business, but took a more corporate route, however she’s always wanted to do something food related. The cookery school idea was something she’d considered for a number of years, but the timing was never quite right – until Covid struck. She tried things out with a couple of fundraising virtual cookery sessions with The Big Choir (as she is a member) and launched Knolita Cooks in December.
From the tempting selection of courses on the website we settled on the Saturday evening Italian Aperitivi: Cocktails and Canapés as it seemed an ideal choice for the weekend. Lisa emails you details in advance (along with the Zoom link) and some easy preparation is required. You also need to assemble all your ingredients and utensils (and drinks in our case), although it was easy to grab things as we went along. It certainly helped that there were two of us.
We started off by mixing an uplifting and refreshing pink grapefruit Aperol Spritz which we sipped while preparing five very tasty canapés. All were easy and used ingredients in imaginative ways. Some of them could be rustled up using things from the fridge or freezer (eg the pea, mint and parmesan crostini and the roasted tomato, basil and garlic crostini). Lisa is chatty and friendly, explaining things clearly and we could ask questions to check we were getting things right. It was interactive and quite jolly – some of the other people were friends hooking up remotely which seemed like a great idea.
Lisa also talked us through how to make the other cocktails – a more classic Aperol Spritz and a Rossini (like a Bellini, but based on strawberry purée, rather than peach). With the Prosecco and various other bottles on the table, it felt like our own little party and we had plenty of gorgeous nibbles. It made a welcome change to our usual, predictable lockdown Saturdays.
Lisa’s other workshops include Pizza Making, Gnocchi Sorrentina, Aubergine Parmigiana, Home-made Pappardelle With Mushroom Sauce and Italian Desserts. These workshops last about an hour and cost £15. Lisa’s one-to-one cookery class costs £35 (two hours). Lisa will be introducing a “Cooking With Ease” course running over several weeks and she also plans to introduce sessions tailored to children. All with a delicious taste of Italy.