The Mediterranean adventure day ten: Tuscany

 

We had the most fantastic cooking tour today! We booked through Viator, the tour company used though was Walkabout Florence. We got up and dressed and made it into town for 9am. We were due to meet for our tour at 9.45am and we thought we would get there a bit early so we could have a walk around Palazzo Vecchio, which was near to the meeting point. Lots of nudey statues!

We met up with our group, which was nice and small, approximately 10 people. Our tour guide was so fantastic, she spoke excellent English having lived in London for 14 years, and remembered everyone’s names instantly.

We first got a walking tour of Florence, whilst she explained some of the places and their connection to food. It was lovely to get the chance to see Florence in cooler circumstances, as it was early it was only about 30 degrees and quite shaded. We stopped at a coffee shop where we were all bought drinks and she showed us how to drink coffee the ‘Italian’ way.

After the walking tour we went to the central market where we walked around, buying everything we would need for the cooking class. We got tomatoes, mince, pork, bread and parmesan. As we walked around the market we were talked through how the Italians eat and prepared certain specialities and there were lots of tasters too. Adam and I loved the central market and decided to make some kind of plan to return again ourselves.

We then boarded a bus to take us out to the Tuscan country home, it took about 20 minutes. Adam and I had this image in our heads of a rustic looking house but what we found was this amazing modern glass house with the most amazing countryside views. We were really flabbergasted.

The kitchen was amazing, it was self cleaning which made Adam super jealous.We met our chef, Carmella, who spoke no English, however our guide was able to act as a translator throughout. Carmella was an amazing character though, she sung and laughed throughout the day. There was such a sense of laughter throughout the whole day, everyone got on so well.

Our first job was to make the beef ragu for the pasta. We learnt how to dice vegetables finely and how Italians don’t preheat their oil or add salt or garlic etc. At this point we were all gathered around the kitchen island and Carmella would assign us a different job.

We then made some bruschetta. Some chopped tomatoes, some chopped basil, some toasted the bread. We were told it was time to have a break to enjoy our treat. They cracked open the Chianti wine and from that point the wine flowed all day, there wasn’t a limit to what we could have. Now I’m not a fan of bruschetta because I don’t like uncooked tomatoes but I didn’t want to be rude so I took a slice thinking I would take a bite and pass it onto Adam. Well it turned out to be beautiful! The tomatoes were just so sweet! I scoffed it down instantly.

After our snack we gathered back around the table and Carmella showed us how to make pasta. She also showed us how you would then fashion the completed dough into various different styles. She did it without a pasta press, all using a rolling pin. We were then led to another of the glass buildings where there were little cooking stations laid out for each of us so we could be left to our own devices to create our own pasta. It was so much fun, afterwards the pasta was collected up and taken back to the kitchen to be cooked later on.

Whilst back in the kitchen Carmella put on the pork, showing us how to season the loin. It was real mouth watering stuff. Then we were lead out to the gorgeous tuscan garden where there was a pizza wood oven. A special pizza chef had been bought in to show us how to make dough. She gave us an example but due to the fact the dough needs time to rise she had ready made dough for us to work with. She showed us how to knead it, stretch it and ‘gravity’ work it before she started throwing it about in the air! It needed just 90 seconds to cook in the wood oven before it came out, looking perfect. We had some time to sit in the garden with a beer and enjoy our delicious pizzas.

After our pizza break it was back to the kitchen to make amaretto ice cream. We were all handed out jobs and this time I was on whipping duty. We also made tiramisu. Adam was given the all important job of separating egg yolks from whites whilst I remained whipping. We all got to make individual tiramisus and decorate them with cocoa however we wanted.

We finally ended the cooking and sat down for dinner. The table had been laid in the big glass open room and once again unlimited Chianti wine adorned the table. We started off with a dish of our beef ragu pasta followed by pork loin and potatoes then tiramisu and finally our ice cream to finish. We met a lovely family from Boston and the long tables allowed for some great conversation to flow. Having spent the whole day together now everyone was really comfortable. At the end of the meal there was a little ceremony where they awarded us certificates and a cooking book. Everyone cheered and clapped, it was fun.

All in all it really went down as one of our trip highlights!

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