Welcome to our courses in Tuscan farmhouse cookery
Not only cooking, but also sightseeing, learning italian, wine-tasting, you name it!
§ Stay in a seventeenth-century farmhouse on an organic olive farm (also a riding centre).
§ Have daily hands-on cooking lessons with jovial Franca, chef of our farm restaurant, using locally reared meat and, above all, Tuscany’s glory: the variety of vegetables and fruit.
§ Learn about Tuscan culinary traditions and the production of wine and olive oil from Jenny, an Oxford graduate who came to Tuscany some years ago and lost her return ticket.
§ Visit local sites of interest not known to the average tourist. Visit a famous winery in the heart of the Chianti region.
§ Learn from an experienced teacher useful words and phrases in Italian, such as “delizioso!” and “buon appetito!”
When do the courses take place?
We have chosen periods when there is a great variety of local produce on which to base our cooking courses, avoiding, generally, the busy tourist season, when flights are more expensive and tourist destinations crowded. Please note, however, that we can organize tailor-made courses at other times of year for groups of 4-6 people. Find out by getting in touch!
Download or view “a typical cooking-class programme”.
SPRING 2015: 4 – 11 April
In early spring the sun is beginning to get warm and wild flowers spring up in the fields and woods: violets, primroses and the first poppies. During the courses you will be able to use fresh produce from the local farms and gardens: asparagus for a risotto, wild chives to combine with ricotta to make a delicious antipasto, various types of lettuce for salads and garnish. While Tuscan pecorino is available all the year, it is only now we can find marzolina, the exquisite fresh cheese produced when the sheep begin to eat the first tender shoots of spring grass.
This, too, is the season for lamb and Franca will teach you a couple of traditional ways of preparing it. Alternatively she can show you two delicius vegetarian dishes that also meat-eaters will enjoy. You will make pasta or gnocchi with Tuscan sauces and buy the first strawberries of the season at the market so that Franca can show you how to make one of her famous decorated cakes.
SUMMER 2015: 22 – 29 August / 5 -12 September
At last the torrid Italian summer is drawing to a close and we can begin to enjoy the golden light so typical of this season. Now is the time that our gardens are full of sun-ripened tomatoes, zucchine and aubergines, and Franca will teach you both Tuscan and Sicilian recipes using these tasty vegetables, stuffing them, frying them, sautéing them, you name it! You will learn how to make pomarola, a tomato sauce that can then be bottled and used over the winter, as well as other spreads for crostini and bruschette, both with meat and without.
We can visit a famous wine-farm, visiting the gardens and cellars and sampling their world-famous wine which is matured in vast oak barrels. We may also visit a local honey-producer and taste the various honeys his bees produce from heather, acacia and sweet chestnut flowers. Franca can then teach you a recipe using one of these delicious honeys. She can make a keen tiramisu, too!
AUTUMN 2015: 24 – 31 October
The climate is mild, the wine harvest has just finished, the woods and vineyards are ablaze with colour and the olive-picking has started: you may, if you like, take part! You will be able to visit an olive press and taste a bruschetta of newly-made olive oil, thick, green and peppery. This is the chestnut season and Franca will teach you how to use chestnut flour to make castagnaccio, a traditional Tuscan sweet. It is the month of porcini mushrooms, too: we will go together to buy them at the local market and Franca will teach you to make her very special mushroom risotto.
Gardens are full of autumn vegetables and you may learn how to make ribollita, a mushroom and broccoli lasagna or tapelucco, a Piedmontese dish using beef and Savoy cabbage (we do sometimes venture outside our Tuscan repertoire). Franca will also show you how to make home-made pasta and how to match it with a tasty sauce using local herbs.
This is Franca, the chef of our farm restaurant. She was born in Sicily and came to Tuscany as a small child. From her mother she learnt to prepare Sicilian dishes, but she is also expert in Tuscan cuisine. She adores cooking and likes to give personal, innovative touches to traditional dishes.
This is Jenny, the owner of Rendola Riding, where people come to ride as well as cook. She is a language teacher and is also very knowledgeable about Tuscan traditions and culture. She is author of two books “Pietro’s Book”, a biography of a peasant farmer, and “Pietro’s Book of Recipes”.
This is Sergio, the son of Pietro, who was cook at Rendola for more than thirty years and retired when he was eighty. Sadly he died in 2011. Sergio specializes in the traditional Tuscan recipes that his father taught him and is also in charge of the Italian-style barbecue.
“The variety of demonstrations and recipes was well thought out and a good representation of seasonal, easy, tasty to a bit more challenging-to-make (gnocchi). I loved the opportunities to visit a monastery, churches and markets and a boarhunters’ hut.”
– Marian Kaminitz