Regular readers will know I’m a big advocate of self-care for parents, as well as ensuring we stay connected to the hobbies and interests we had before entering the parenting journey. So when I was invited to attend an Italian cookery masterclass last week, hosted by a wonderful Tuscan family consisting of two generations of impressive chefs, I leapt at the opportunity to indulge in my personal self-care paradise; cooking…and eating.
So why is cooking such great self-care? Firstly, it’s creative and I’ve written many times about how creativity can do fantastic things for our emotional wellbeing. Secondly, it’s nourishing – both literally and figuratively. I know some folks find cooking stressful but I find it incredibly therapeutic – in particular the slow process of risotto making. Thirdly, it’s satisfying. Any task that has a clear goal and obvious result tends to bring us a sense of pride and contentment.
I consider myself a fairly competent and confident cook – I can count my true culinary disasters on one hand and my family have no complaints. But I’m not very neat nor methodical. I would say I’m enthusiastic to the point of careless – if I don’t have all the ingredients for a recipe I’ll just toss something else in instead and hope for the best. I don’t know the proper way to chop an onion but I’ll hack away diligently nonetheless. And although my food often tastes pretty good, my presentation leaves a lot to be desired. So to watch the Giovannini family prepare authentic dishes with ingredients brought all the way from Volterra left my inner wannabe chef a little awed.
Giovannini Enterprises is founded by Giancarlo & Fabiola, who each have 30 years farm to table Italian catering experience…and it shows. They have a natural skill and familiarity with ingredients that can only come with time. Along with their son and daughter-in-law, they run the beautiful Country Relais & Spa Le Capanne in Volterra; a gorgeous venue popular for weddings where Giancarlo creates his delicious milefoglie cake in front of the guests. The milegoglie was just one of the delights we got to taste last week and it definitely lived up to its reputation.
It’s time to talk food. The star of the show had to be the slow-cooked wild boar, shot by a family member on the Giovanninis’ own land ready for their trip. I’d never tasted boar before but was salivating even before it was cooked when I saw the flavours it was being bathed in.
We were shown three versions of ciabatta antipasti, one of which was a homemade chicken liver pate, also delicious.
Then, onto the pasta of course. I fell in love with fresh pasta when we visited Rome many years ago and I even have a pasta maker in the cupboard at home, shamefully unopened. After trying my hand at making ravioli, and being reminded of how much better the texture of freshly made pasta is, I’m now keen to have a go at home.
Our second dessert was the classic tiramisu, perhaps the only typical Italian dish in existence that I don’t tend to enjoy (since I detest coffee). However, the coffee flavour was so delicate in this one and the filling so silky and luscious I was very much up for a second slice.
What did I learn? Here are a few helpful little hints I picked up last week.
- To avoid making your bread too garlicky (is that possible?) simply rub a garlic clove over warmed bread two or three times
- Making book folds with your pasta dough several times inbetween rolling it through the machine improves the texture and leads to a more even consistency
- Handfuls of semolina on your work surface is the key to your dough not sticking and your ravioli not clumping together in the pan
- You can whizz up hard boiled eggs into pesto-style sauce and it totally works (who knew?)
- Replace the coffee in tiramisu with milk if you’re coffee adverse (my suck-it-and-see cooking brain came away wondering if this would also work with cooled hot chocolate…?)
- The act of mopping up sauce with bread has an actual name in Italian – scarpetta!
Bookings For You work with the Giovannini family and many, many other property owners across Italy and France to create beautiful holidays for us sun-starved Brits, so if you want to know more about their villas please visit their website or check out this guest post by their founder, Jo Mackay.
Huge thanks to Jo and the Giovanninis for a truly fantastic day – my husband will have you all to thank (blame) for a semolina covered kitchen in the coming weeks!