A Taste Of Tuscany, with Bookings For You

I need to talk to you about cake.
Specifically this cake.

Otherwise known as Millefoglie Crema Chantilly e Frutti di Bosco.
But before I get to that cake, I need to go back to the beginning. Because yano, that’s where stories tend to start.

This particular story started on an overcast Thursday morning.
As I pulled into Haslemere station in my little ol’ Polo, Emma hopped in, tapped the address into Google Maps and we were off.

You see, we were invited to an Italian masterclass with the Giovannini family, who own the incredibly beautiful Country Relais and Spa Le Capanne, which was organised by luxury villa specialists Bookings For You. However, what was supposed to be a quick seven minute drive from the station to the venue, soon turned into a 20 minute adventure. Because rather than taking us along the direct road (which we didn’t find out existed until much later), maps decided to take us the scenic route. This involved driving up incredibly steep inclines through winding dirt roads that were just about wide enough for little ol’ Polly the Polo. Honestly, I was super impressed that my car managed to even make it up the hill!

But regardless, after the not so quick detour we made it to the venue, and as we walked through the doors we were greeted by the lovely Jo from Bookings For You and an abundance of bloggers. After settling in with a cuppa, like all English folk do, we were introduced to the Giovannini family which consisted of; Giancarlo and his wife Fabiola, their son Dario and his wife Vera. They were honestly the sweetest family unit and they moved with such synergy throughout the kitchen you could tell that cooking was their love language.

The cooking kicked off immediately with the preparation of wild boar thigh, which had been hunted on their land in Italy and driven over with the rest of the ingredients used throughout the masterclass.

The boar was due to be slow-cooked so by starting the masterclass with this, it meant that it could roast away gently in the background throughout the day.

Giancarlo started by chopping sage, rosemary and garlic by hand. The process involved forceful, carefully thought out movements and Vera advised that even though it takes longer to do it this way the benefits to the flavour are greater as a result as if you were to use a food processor for instance, it would heat up the flavours and therefore alter the taste.

Once Giancarlo had diced the herbs and garlic, Fabiola scored the meat before stuffing the incisions with the flavours and topping the boar with fat.

Giancarlo then tied the meat using a much fancier version of a slipknot, and popped the meat on a baking tray into the oven to slow roast – together with three quarters of a bottle of white wine, and a bed of olives.

Whilst the boar roasted away gently in the background, things got serious in the kitchen. And by serious, I mean seriously tasty. Starting with making bruschetta

Then freshly cooked and blended Chicken liver pate.

It was the first time that I have eaten freshly made warm chicken liver pate and my goodness, you’ll never convert me back to the cold fridge stuff. I honestly couldn’t stop eating it and the only thing that prevented me from getting fourths was the fact that I didn’t have stretchy trousers on.

Next up, was pasta. Now, I’m not usually one to volunteer when people need a helper, I prefer to lurk and observe out of the spotlight. But when they said that they wanted somebody to get involved with the pasta making – there I was, front and centre.

Turns out carbs are the key to throwing social awkwardness out the window!
Who knew.

It was carb heaven and the Giovannini family expertly guided us through the process, explaining each detail and the reasons why certain techniques are used. We didn’t knead the dough, Giancarlo did expertly.

To be honest I’m glad that he didn’t need assistance with that part.
It looked exhausting.

Once the dough had risen, it was rolled through the pasta machine which was incredibly therapeutic to watch.

Once it had been rolled through the pasta machine, we were left the softest of doughs. Which was rolled out and filled with spinach and ricotta

And then cut into ravioli shapes.

It was like art and crafts, but better, because it was with carbs. And to make it even more positive – no dough was wasted. The pasta that was leftover from the ravioli was transformed into pici pasta.

Thick hand rolled pasta which (is often referred to as fat spaghetti) was drizzled in olive oil and topped with basil, garlic, mint, parsley and pecorino cheese. Because as you all know, cheese makes everything better and cheese and carbs are the dream team.

After that we ate the fruits of our labour, by having even more pasta.

It was only when I got up to get a drink to wash down the multiple helpings of pasta, that I remembered we were soon to have the boar. To be honest, I didn’t think I’d have the room (curse that delicious pate) and I was 6 days into having a meat-free week, but the moment I smelt this boar come out the oven, that all changed. (Sorry animals).

I have never smelt anything like it, and the taste?

Imagine yourself on a cold winter’s day in England. You’ve just been for a walk in the countryside and you’re craving something warming. Something that oozes flavour, and comfort and makes you sink into your chair with happiness.

That’s what this boar dish is.
Because gluttony is my sin of choice I had seconds or maybe thirds (I forcefully forget) and unashamedly grabbed some toasted bread to mop up the remaining juices on my plate.

When Vera walked over as I was doing so I thought she was coming over to pass judgement, but it turns out that mopping up the juices like that is a typically Tuscan tradition which is referred to as ‘scarpetta’.
Look at my greed. All cultured and whatnot.

Once the mains were done, it was time for pudding.
Two of them to be precise.
I know, I know, was this event ‘me’ or what?

First up was a classic tiramisu made by Vera which I definitely photographed, but can’t find an image of so I’m afraid you’ll have to use your imagination there. But the real star of the show (sorry Vera!) was the Giovannini family’s signature Millefoglie Crema Chantilly e Frutti di Bosco.

I love Tiramisu and I honestly thought that it would be my desert of choice. But it turns out that no, this was.

I didn’t expect to love it as much as I did but the texture of the crisp flakey pastry against the creaminess of the custard style cream sandwiched between layers with the sweet sharpness from the fruit was just magical. The Giovannini mentioned that this cake is often used for weddings and I can see why.

Goodbyeeeee, fruit cake.

After this it was time to leave and I was kindly presented with a goodie bag which contained Italian ingredients, some olive oil which was made from their own groves and some treats from their shop.

The Giovannini family run the oldest pastry shop in Volterra named Dolceria del Corso, and it has been in the family for three generations. As a result they have become renowned for their pastries and it’s easy to see why.

The day was so incredibly well organised (thanks Jo!) and the masterclass served as a great reminder that you only need a handful of quality ingredients to be able to whip up a classic Italian dish.

over and out,
Amy Morgan