Monday, 21 July 2014

Cooking with Fernanda

Among other things, Villa Le Barone has cooking classes with the actual cooks who prepare the meals there.  I, and a lovely young American couple, Pam and Zapada had a ball with Fernanda, our instructor, who was a volcano of energy!  Charles was the photographer, but was also considered a participant in a way because he was invited to taste and also to partake of the meal we prepared. You see, the neat thing about this meal was that we ate what we prepared during the class for dinner that evening.  Fernanda doesn't have formal schooling in cooking, but boy, does she rock in the kitchen!  Everything she learned was passed down from her mother and her mother before her, so lucky participants of her cooking class get a taste of preparing and sampling truly authentic Tuscan cuisine.

We started with bruschetta that was loaded with tomato, garlic and basil that is grown in the gardens of Villa Le Barone and olive oil that is made from olives that are harvested and pressed a kilometre away from the villa.

Tomatoes must be chopped very small so they stay on the bread and soak up the flavour of the oil, garlic and herbs
When it comes to olive oil, Fernanda doesn't mess around 
By the way, the real secret is to use a LOT of olive in glug, glug, glug and quite a bit of garlic & basil, then let the mixture sit before spreading it on lightly toasted bread
Something I learned that was totally new is to cut the garlic clove in half and look for the little germination kernel.  If it has one, remove it for a sweeter and more gentle gastronomic experience.  Who knew?

Next came the preparation of the Primi, which was a vegetarian Pasta.

Diced vegetables and peeled tomatoes sautéing in a lot of olive oil

The pasta must be worked before stretching
Easy does it

The pasta is cut and laid out on a cloth to dry for a few hours an then ready to cook :)

The Secondi, was a traditional stewed beef called peposo, made with peppercorns and vegetables.  It's easy to prepare, but must be started well in advance, as it takes a while to simmer its way to tender perfection.

Meat is roughly sliced into chunks

Add vegetables and throw it all in the pot

Give it a stir and add A LOT of good red wine and a tad of water...I like that ratio
And finally, the dolce.  You guessed it, Tiramisu!  Yay!!

Marcapone cheese, of course, as well as whipping cream and eggs
Build the layers
And keep building until all the ingredients are used up
Fernanda dips the lady finger cookies in freshly made espresso coffee and she only dips half of each cookie so that the final product isn't too soggy.  It worked really well.

To a job well done!

Bruschetta is in the corner, in our excitement we forgot to get a pic at the table

Dinner that evening was fantastic.  It was most gratifying to enjoy a meal that we had played a role in creating.  Pam, Zap, Charles and I sat at the same table and were served the food we cooked. A tasty meal and great company; doesn't get much better than that! This was definitely a highlight of the whole trip, to be working along side an amazing woman like Fernanda. Charles and I both agree that her laugh sounds exactly, and I mean exactly, like my Aunt Carmela's!  We just looked at each other and shook our heads in amazement every time she laughed :)
The pasta was superb!  Fernanda tossed it with the sauce we made and added cream...yum!

The stewed beef...OMG...So good!  We also peeled and prepared the carrots; she cooked them in a little butter and olive oil just before they were brought out to the table

The Tiramisu garnished with chocolate shavings and rose petals.  A lovely touch and it was absolutely delicious!

Now, for our friends back home who are caught between a state of drooling and envy, the good news is, we have all the recipes and are not only willing to cook them for you, but also to share them.  Bon appetite and see you all soon.


  1. Total food porn. Great photos and such exact measurements (how much Is a GLUG)? That sounds amazing. Please make me tiramisu - it's my fav and you always know when my birthday is!

  2. Kicks the food network's ass!

  3. This is maybe my favourite blog yet! I loved how you made all that food with an old school italian contessa. #drool #fernandaknowshershit

    I am so much more excited for you to come home now knowing that you will begin making all these dishes for us. Did you ask for Ketchup with the meal? I think that would have been so funny. She might have kicked you off the property. What a fun experience! Great pics too!