Posted by: lucylastic | October 29, 2008

Return to Tuscany…………Part 1

Where to begin? We have returned from our long-awaited cookery holiday in Tuscany with so many delights and wonderful experiences that it is difficult to know where to start. At the beginning? Well, OK.

First of all the location – Castello di Gabbiano is magnificent – I was thinking old castle would equal cold, draughty, possibly damp – but no, the wonderfully restored Castello boasts underfloor heating, toasty rooms and elegance in abundance. My only criticism is that a ‘superior’ room didn’t have a separate shower, only an attachment over the bath, which meant that the bathroom was more like a swimming pool, (OK, then, paddling pool) most times after we had finished!

Day 1 of the course – mucked in and helped with the canapes for the reception as we had arrived early and already spent some time with Giancarlo and Katie Caldesi and the lovely Stefano Borella, Head Chef from their London restaurant. Bresaola wraps, containing shaved Parmesan and rocket – very simple, very tasty indeed, (with chilled Prosecco in hand). Also rustled up some home made cheese and olive bread sticks – a basic foccacia mix, allowed to rise and then studded with olives and grated cheeses – easy peasy lemon squeezy – am starting to wonder if I couldn’t be teaching one of these courses already! What I did like was that Katie made a point of going round to everyone and asking what we especially wanted to cook – and this got worked into the menus over the week. For sinner, had a ravioli filled with roasted, mashed pumpkin puree and served with a sage and butter sauce – divine – one of Stef’s creations- he is a hugely talented chef – and very calm, (at least on the outside).

Day 2 – early, (8.00am departure – and we’re on holiday) trip to collect supplies -it feels like a school outing, but it’s fun and the faces on the ladies serving at the fish stall are a picture as we proceed to purchase enough fish to feed the five thousand without the need of a miracle! Back to school after a quick coffee and pastry in the lovely nearby town of San Casciano and straight into the fish. I should have realised there would be a drawback to being teacher’s pet…….’Where is Lucy?’ said Giancarlo – and then threw a rather large cuttlefish at me. It took me approximately an hour to prepare it – guts out, skin off, various bits and tentacles removed – some saved, others discarded, the ink sack squeezed out, (lovely with pasta or polenta, allegedly), the eyes removed. ‘What next Giancarlo?’ I said. ‘Oh, nothing’ he replied, I just wanted you to see how it is done – we probably won’t use it at all………………There was certainly quite a bit of waste with the food, (not much with the drink you’ll be pleased to hear). When I questioned Giancarlo about his purchasing policy he was bullish in its defence – ‘I don’t want people to come here and watch me preparing enough for dinner – everyone should try, even if everyone’s food doesn’t get used – you are here to learn, you can’t learn without real food……….’ he’s got a point Afternoon pasta making – we ended up with enough pasta to sink a ship – ravioli filled with some of the fish we cooked this morning, (made into a paste with cream and herbs), a cheese mix for the vegetarians amongst us, which was divine and all sorts of long pasta – tagliatelle, pepardelle – basically the same stuff, cut differently – but each designed to soak up a different sort of sauce. We also made twists, twirls and ‘miscuts’ to go into soup. Hard work on the arms all that kneading.

Day 3 – I am liking the sound of today’s menu already – an ‘Arrosto Misto’ – or mixed roast – which has chicken, Guinea fowl and rabbit, country potatoes and onions in it, followed by home-made, (of course) tiramisu – I promise you, this is a million miles away from the soggy pap you get in many places – it was delicious, I ate more tiramisu last week than I have eaten in a life-time………..almost as good as my Zabaglione – so easy – much more so than a recipe I have done at home – put a bowl over boiling water and whip up eggs and runny honey with a splash of vin santo – hey presto – zabaglione – beautiful – I could eat it forever. A second chance to make foccacia – this time I pushed the boat out and went for chopped olives and rosemary – was very proud when Roberto, the visiting brother of Giancarlo, pronounced it ‘very tasty, very good’ and ate almost half of it on his own!!!

Must dash now……… more to come………..



  1. Sounds and looks really fabulous Lucy! I wonder what became of the cuttlefish?

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