globetotting partner post
It’s no secret that I’m not a great cook. I have a handful of recipes that I can dash off when needed but producing critic-worthy meals is not my forte.
I am, however, hopeful that this may soon change. And if not change completely, at least improve. I recently attended a fabulous Italian cooking masterclass hosted by the lovely Jo Mackay of Italian Villa Specialists, Bookings for You. Jo, who set up Bookings for You in 2011, is incredibly passionate about Italy and is constantly growing her portfolio of villas and apartments. One of the homes in the Bookings for You collection is Country Relais & Spa Le Capanne, a nine-bedroom luxury villa in Tuscany that looks truly amazing. Jo invited the owners, the Giovannini family, over to the U.K. for a masterclass in Tuscan cooking.
i will start by saying that the four members of the Giovannini family that we met were incredibly charming. The husband and wife team Giancarlo and Fabiola were assisted by son Dario and daughter-in-law Vera and between them they did a stellar job teaching and cooking while keeping our glasses topped up with a steady flow of Chianti.
The Giovannini family, like most Italians, have a extraordinary passion for food. The grandfather of the family, Terziiolo Giovannini, once owned a pastry shop and his son, Giancarlo soon joined the businesses. Between them, they perfected their pastries and cakes and during our masterclass we were lucky enough to sample the Millefeuille layered cake for which the family pastry shop, Dolceria del Corso, is famous.
The family have since expanded their empire and now run a catering business as well as hosting weddings at their country home. The property is also available to hire and looks like a wonderful destination for a family holiday.
To say we ate well during our masterclass would be a serious understatement. Over the course of the afternoon we prepared and devoured the following:
- Bruschetta Toscana
- Bruschetta al Pomodoro
- Crostini con Fegatini
- Ravioli Ricotta e Spinaci con Pomodorini Pachino e Basilico
- Pici all Etrusca
- Coscio di Cinghiale Agli Aromi con Olive
- Millefoglie Bellavista
If I were to start anywhere at improving my culinary skills it would be to start with the bruschetta. We were taught how to create two versions; the Toscana, which involved baking Tuscan country bread with olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper and the Pomodoro, which comes with a fresh tomato sauce created with basil, onions and seasoning. Although I have yet to try and recreate this at home, I am confident that I can bake bread! Whether or not I can bake bread as well as the Giovannini family is another matter.
Crostini con Fegatini
In my mind, this is similar to a Bruschetta although I’m aware that by admitting this I may well never be welcomed in Italy again! Still, for ease of translation, this dish involved toasted bread topped with a tasty chicken liver spread that was made from chicken livers, garlic and sage.
The spinach and ricotta filled ravioli was served with a stunning fresh tomato and basil sauce (which I have tried to recreate but it just doesn’t quite taste the same). Everyone took turns making and filling the ravioli, which was great fun although there’s no denying that Giancarlo had the kind of skills that only comes with years of practice (and, I believe, being born Italian). This was one of my favourite meals of the day.
Coscio di Cinghiale Agli Aromi con Olive
The star of the show was the slow cooked wild boar that came from the Giovannini estate. The boat was prepared by rubbing a mixture of chopped sage, rosemary and garlic into deep cuts, before being left to roast slowly in the oven for two- to three-hours. Half-way through cooking, the boar is covered in a healthy dose of white wine. This dish is a favourite for weddings and celebratory events and I can see why, it was absolutely delicious. If you find wild boar hard to come by, then apparently you can also make this dish with venison. I should point out that the Giovannini family had brought all their produce with them from Italy.
Just when I thought I couldn’t possibly eat anything else, I managed to put away a generous serving of both the Tiramisu and the incredible millefeuille pastry. Made, as with everything that the Giovannini family creates, with passion and a genuine love of food, both of these deserts were fabulous. It is, however, unlikely that I will try and create my own Millefoglie Bellavista at home.
Overall it was a wonderful day spent in great company with Jo, the Giovannini family and a host of other bloggers who I “knew” online but who I enjoyed meeting in person much more. The masterclass also allowed me to start getting excited about my trip to Italy in mid-March where I will be staying at one of the Bookings for You villas (clue, it’s this one here). As for recreating these recipes, let’s just say that it’s a work in progress!
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Disclosure: I was a guest of Bookings for You for the Italian cooking masterclass. All opinions are, as always, entirely my own.