In the kitchen with Cooking in Florence

Last month I was invited on a fantastic press trip to spend a long weekend up in the rolling green hills of Tuscany, in Monte San Savino by bookings for you and Mansalto Toscana.

Located on the central-western Italian coastline, Tuscany is frequently visited all year round by tourists from every corner of the globe. A popular holiday destination, where many people come to witness for themselves the beauty the land has to offer. Enriched with ancient history, eye-catching architecture, breathtaking landscapes; it truly is a special place.

However, as a food enthusiast, embracing local cuisine, eating/drinking regional specialities and mingling with the locals is a great way to embrace the local culture. And without a doubt, Tuscan cuisine is some of the best in the country.

So, when we were told, that as well as accommodating us in a unique farmhouse villa for a few days, bookings for you can also cater to your holiday needs by organising tailored Tuscan experiences; I, of course, had my fingers crossed for something ‘foodie’ related.

So, after spending a beautiful, sunny day strolling through the cobbled streets of Sienna, we returned to our villa to receive a warm welcome by Laura and Gianluca from Tuscan cookery school, Cooking in Florence.

Stepping into our Tuscan kitchen, the room had been transformed into a cooking class. Chopping boards and knives laid out, with large bowls brimming with fresh seasonal vegetables, fruits and other ingredients.

What is Cooking in Florence?

Cooking in Florence (CIF) is the brainchild of Fiorentine born, Laura Franceschetti.

Laura has a wealth of culinary experience and a vast collection of family recipes which have been passed down to her. Alongside fellow chef and business partner, Gianluca, their mission is to spread their passion and transport others to the delicious world of traditional Tuscan food and wine.

Set in her Florence, Laura has opened her home doors to food enthusiasts where her cooking school is based in the Santa Croce neighbourhood. Besides the cookery school, CIF creates personal culinary experiences dotted all over the region. Catering for both small or large groups, they tailor offerings for every occasion and dietary requirements.

Cooking in Florence at Mansalto

My cooking crew, Kristie, Tayla, Louise, Emma, Lisa and Monika were ready and prepared to get our hands dirty and get stuck in. Each proudly adorning our new vibrant red apron, we were given a notepad/pen to scribble down all our learnings.

 Due to a few dietary requirements, Laura went on to explain that they were both going to show us how to make a vegetarian 4-course meal only using local produce and traditional recipes. Simple, straightforward and uncomplicated dishes that would inspire us to cook again when back in the UK. Laura was also very passionate, explaining the importance of using local seasonal produce to give these dishes the fantastic flavours they deserve. She talked us through each ingredient, giving us the chance to touch and smell everything we were going to be using.

On the menu that day was:

Tomato Gratin

Homemade potato gnocchi with fresh basil pesto

Aubergine Parmigiana

Baked Peaches with Amaretto and Chocolate

Their warm and relax approach instantly put us at ease. Each step was clearly broken down, explained and demonstrated. Throughout the class, their expertise was on hand, while we interactively worked together to cook the menu they had specifically designed for us. Each one of us had a part to play. Even jumping in when one of us needed help. It was such an amazing feeling to see what we collectively cooked and I will never forget the smells created in that kitchen. A great Tuscan food experience.

Recipes

Here are a couple of my favourite recipes and dishes that I had never previously cooked myself but will be confidently adding to my dinner party repertoire.

Tomato Gratin.

  • Wash, halve and de-seed tomatoes. Place tomato seeds in a separate bowl and place tomato shells on a baking tray.
  • Finely chop, rosemary, sage, parsley, spring onion, capers and raisins.
  • Mix the tomato seeds with the finely chopped ingredients. Next, add breadcrumbs and drizzle olive oil. Mix everything well together. 
  • Stuff the tomatoes, with the mixture and bake in the oven at 170C for 20-30 minutes.

Baked amaretti peaches

  • Halve and destone the peaches
  • Whisk egg yolks and sugar together 
  • Crush amaretti biscuits and add to the egg/sugar mixture. Add chocolate drops.
  • Stuff the peaches with the mixture and bake in the oven at 160c.

After a few hours of cooking, our long country house table was laid out for dinner. We were told to sit down, while Laura and Gianluca served us our delicious 4-course meal. What a great way to end such a fun culinary experience – rewarded with the fruits of our labour.

 And to anyone who may think a cooking class is not for them, I can categorically say that CIF classes will change your mind. So much fun and interactive. Not only do you have a great time, you surely walk away learning something new. I don’t think we laughed as much on that trip as we did during that cooking class. Who said cooking wasn’t fun!

Laura and Gianluca were not only our teachers for the evening but quickly became part of own little crew. Each with their own part to play in the fun we were having. Super knowledgable, adaptive, warm, passionate, I am already looking forward to my return to Tuscany where I will be sure to find a way to cook with this magnificent pair again.