Tag Archives: tiramisu

A Taste of Tuscany

I am sitting in my farmhouse bedroom listening to the rain outside while writing this – well of course that is why Tuscany is so lush and green. This is my first trip to Tuscany and I was amazed at finding such a treasure that I had never even thought of visiting before. I went on an Exodus trip and I couldn’t have done it any other way as the first thing that struck me was that we were shown walks and paths, little old towns that I would never have found myself.
We stayed at Braccicorti an agricultural tourisme which is a farmhouse that provides accommodation and supports the local community. All the food is produced locally so that not only are we supporting the family at the farmhouse but a number of families in the local region!

The food is traditional Tuscan style made freshly by Mama and her daughters. Each day we have been served with a wholesome, hearty starter, a lighter main course and a sweet dessert. So here are a couple of the menus to give you a taste of Tuscany

Saturday’s Menu
Pesto spaghetti
Turkey Escaloppes
Chopped strawberries in a syrup

On Sunday we went on a full days walk – The Valley Walk. We went straight from Braccicorti – out of the property up the hill and walked across to Pianacci. There were 10 of us on this small walking trip organised by Exodus. We explored the local area across undulating hills and stopped at a local café – We walked through lush green countryside with fresh water springs.

Lunch at a local café in villa Collemandina which suddenly burst into life at around 2.30 when people came out and the town was buzzing. We then walked through Castigliome di Garfagnama and back to Braccicorti for dinner!

Sunday’s Menu
Mushroom risotto
Pork escallopes with sauté potatoes and vegetables
Pannacotta with berry sauce

On Monday we took the train to Cinque Terre (five lands) where you can get a little train between each of the seafront towns – but we walked over the mountain (which took  a couple of hours) with lots of steps.

A full fabulous day out and then we returned for another delicious Tuscan dinner.

Monday’s Menu
Minestrone soup
Stuffed peppers

On Tuesday we went to Castelnuova situated at the confluence of 2 rivers and is the capital city of the Garfagnana one of those fabulous spots that had I not been on an Exodus tour with a local guide I would have driven straight past! You had to walk into the centre of the town to see the old town with a central square perched on top of a hill. Boutique shops , cafes and bars and the best ice cream shops in the world.


We then took a walk up to the very top to see the old castle with magnificent views of the surrounding lush green mountains of the Alpane for a picnic lunch. After which we walked around the knoll and down along the terraced mountainside with an Amphitheatre vineyard back into the town for another ice cream – it would be rude not to!

Tuesday’s Menu
Tomato and chili penne pasta
Bresola, sliced parmesan, melon and fresh olives
Nepolitana Ice cream

Wednesday we took the local train at 8.30 to to the magnificent city of Lucca.

A walled city, with a number of churches and a cathedral, inside the city walls. We started at a café for espresso and local pastries and then walked through the city where we saw the amazing art and sculptures in the churches , the boutique shops and Piazza Anfiteatro , a circular “square” with cafes .
After lunch we hired bikes and cycled on the wide promenade wall around the city. We headed back to Villetta the train station close to Braccicorti and stopped for drinks and dinner at the local restaurant Il Grotto.
Thursday was a free day for the group, and most of the group went into Piza to walk up the leaning tower.

And on our last day we went to Il Grotto Vente (The wind caves) and then onto Barga town for a scrumptious Italian ice cream.

We finished with a beer at the lake close to Barccicoti and came back in time for a final dinner.

Friday’s menu
Tagliatelle ragout
Pan fried trout
Chocolate ice cream

MyDish Menu #35 – Tuscan Dinner Party

Italian cuisine is known as one of the best in the world for its variety of delicious dishes. Simplicity is a key feature of Italian cooking as they usually do not include too many ingredients- perfect for a dinner party! Fresh local produce is at the heart of Italian cooking and recipes vary seasonally. This dinner serve 4-6 people.

Tuscan Dinner Party Menu



Main Course

Spezzatino (Tuscan Beef Stew)



A note from the Chefs….

These recipes are provided by native Tuscan chef Fabrizio who works at our cookery school outside of Florence. Fabrizio is passionate about food and cooking, and follows the age old Italian saying that the best recipes come from using the freshest seasonal ingredients. He believes cooking should not be a chore and using good quality ingredients mean the food does all the talking. These typical Italian are simple but packed with flavour – great to impress your guests!

Panzanella  is a traditional Tuscan dish believed to have originated from the country men who used to soak their stale bread mixed with vegetables from the garden. As it is fresh and light it is great for the summer

To make this dish soak your stale bread in water and then squeeze out the liquid. Crumble the bread and mix with the chopped up vegetables and Basil and add half the Olive Oil, salt and pepper and let the mixture stand in the fridge.  Then mix with the remaining oil and vinegar.  You can put into ramekin dishes and turn out on the plate and then drizzle with oil and decorate with Basil leaves.

Spezzatino is the Italian name for Tuscan Beef Stew.  This recipe is typically Florentine that doesn’t need you to use the ‘soffritto’ (vegetable mix used as base for lots of dishes). It is a delicious dish and very versatile. It can be enjoyed as a main course or as a pasta sauce, on ‘crostini’ or served with polenta. There are lots of exciting things you can do with this recipe!

Heat the oil, crush the garlic and brown the cubed meat.  Add the flour, salt and pepper to allow the sauce to stick to the meat.  Then add the chopped tomatoes and leave to cook on a low heat for 1.5 hours.

The menu is finished off with the traditional Italian dessert – Tiramisu which translates to “pick me up” because of the sugar and coffee!

This recipe is easy to make and yet impressive – Just whisk up the egg yolks and sugar to a thick pale creamy mixture and then add the marscapone cheese and continue to whisk.  Whisk the egg whites separately and then fold into the yolk mixture.  Soak the sponge biscuits in the cold coffee and  then alternate a layer of soaked biscuits with the marscapone mixture until all the biscuits have been used up.  Make the last layer mascapone and dust with cocoa powder and leave to chill in the fridge.

Thanks to Goleanto for contributing this menu from their chefs who teach people how to create greate dinner parties at home.  Don’t forget to tell us your favourite dinner party menu for a chance to win a cooking holiday for 2 and more importantly to add to our dinner party menu collection to provide and share and gain inspiration for your next dinner party.

Fancy learning to cook fresh pasta in Tuscany, making tarte tatin in France or tapas in Spain? www.GoLearnTo have a variety of cookery holidays in destinations worldwide, all hand-picked for quality, authentic, inspiring cooking experiences, great flavours, fun and friendly chefs and wonderful settings in some of the world’s best culinary locations.

www.GoLearnTo.com are specialists with a great range of inspiring holidays around the world where you can learn a new skill or pursue an existing hobby from dancing, photography, painting or jewellery making to cooking, wine tasting, yoga, Reki, guitar playing, language courses, horse riding and much more.

New Year’s Eve menu- MyDish Menu 12

Is it dinner for 2 – a sit down dinner for 8-12 or a buffet for more than 20?

Whatever your plans this New Years Eve most people I have spoken with will be making a celebratory dinner of it.  So I have decided to pull together 3 different menus for New Year’s Eve depending on your plans.

I have searched our site and chosen dishes that go together – these aren’t my recipes but they are my chosen favourites for the big night!


Romantic meal for 2



Tiger Prawns with Garlic

Main Course

Cabernet Filet Mignon

Honey and Thyme Roasted Carrots

Potatoes Dauphinoise


Deborah Meaden’s Champagne sorbet

I like this because it is light and quick and special – it reminds me of going away for a weekend with my husband for our anniversary and he made me a romantic dinner with this for starters – sure to impress – just make sure you have all the ingredients prepared before you start!

This recipe uses a little crumbly cheese to add a kick and a bit of red wine to finish off the steaks.  It can be served with a baked potato dish and asparagus with parmesan.

To finish I like to have something made in advance – and to make it a really speacial meal I have chosen Deborah Meaden’s champagne sorbet


Special New Year’s Eve sit down dinner for 8-12 people.

If you are having a celebratory sit down dinner then you don’ want to be rushing back and forth to the kitchen whilst everyone else is enjoying the party.  So my advice is make dishes that are special but that you can make today and tomorrow before the dinner party.


Smoked Mackerel and Cranberry pate

Main Course

Chicken in Champagne and Mushroom Sauce

Le Fabulous Parmesan Asparagus



Chocolate Mousse


This is a great way to use up any of those cranberries left from Christmas dinner.  It is easy to make in advance and prepare by making up the plate and lating on the table in advance of the guests arriving.

The main course can also be par cooked in advanced and finished off in time to serve.  The rice can be put on whilst you are eating hors doeavre and the Asparagus can be pan fried and then baked in the oven.

For dessert a choice of individual chocolate mousse pots or a special New years eve treat of Tiramisu which means pick me up – just in time to keep you going till midnight.

New Year’s Eve buffet

Cocktail party canapés

Party dates

Roasted carrot and hummous dip with pita

Marinated Salmon

Roast new potatoes

Crunchy coleslaw salad

Saute beans

Leg of Lamb

Vegetarian Moussaka


Chocolate Mousse


Champagne Sorbet

Cheese plate and biscuits

For starters I love the different selection of canapes that people can just snack on.


Followed by a choice of salmon or lamb with buffet style sides such as crunchy coleslaw, roasted potatoes and saute beans.  The lamb dish I have chosen as it is a little different and the owner of the recipe Annabel says this is great for lots of people – so if you like something with a bit of spice – give it a go!

I have chosen these recipes from our collection but I am looking for your menu combinations for 2012 – we are still on our challenge to get a different  menu for each week – I have some great ones ready for January but if you have a special menu that you love and you know works well – please send it to me to share with our members