Friday, 6 December 2013

A very French Christmas...

Your host Didier Billes, at the French estate Castelnau des Fieumarcon, tells us a little about what to expect to eat on Christmas day in France......

Didier is the host at Castelnau des Fieumarcon!

"Dry white wine and oysters to begin the Christmas meal is probably still a classic, and the main course is often roast poultry, like a turkey of chapon.

The trick in France is opulence. Loads of starters, middle courses, fish, meat and plenty of desserts too.

Basically, death by eating!

Oh yes, and the most important thing, the meal normally starts at midnight and finishes four or five hours later!

It's an experience. And to finish, more champagne instead of coffee!"

I think we could learn something from this menu!

Tutor profile: Anneli Faiers - our Cooking Tutor in France!

Anneli Faiers is our charming Cooking tutor, who lives in Gascony in S.W France near our the beautiful estate of Castelnau des Fieumarcon, where we invite our clients to experience, not only cooking holidays, but also painting, photography, walking and singing holidays. It's a very special place, and unique in that it is privately owned by eccentric and allusive Federique - the only privately owned, walled village of it's kind. Within the walls are seventeen lovingly restored cottages, where you can relax and lie on your comfortable bed looking out across the delicious views of the surrounding hills, often referred to as the 'Tuscany of France' but should not be compared, as they are stunning in their own right. Anneli loves where she lives, and has a deep passion for cooking with local produce. Read on to find out more....

Castelnau des Fieumarcon

Where do you live? And what do you love about it?
Larroque-Saint-Sernin - a tiny village with less than 600 habitants in Gascony, S.W France. My house is called is over 300 years old and is surrounded by 360 degrees of rolling fields taking 'rural' to a new level!

I love the space and the beautiful countryside - the fact that my house is surrounded by sunflowers during the Summer. The climate, the food and the pace of life are all wonderful here and perfect for me and my family.

Having come from a small flat in London where life was all about space saving and rushing about, I have fallen in love with this part of France and all it's history and charms.

What is your special skill?
Cooking and feeding people is my special skill! I have embraced Gascon traditions and the cuisine of this region, and I try to honour it and celebrate it. I develop my own recipes and write a food blog

Why do you love being a tutor for Authentic Adventures?
It's great fun meeting people who fall in love with Gascony as much as I do. I feel lucky to be able to share my passion for food....eating and drinking brings people together and should be celebrated!

What's your top tip for future clients on an Authentic Adventures trip?
Be hungry and thirsty and get stuck in!

Holiday tales.....funny anecdotes, weird moments!
During a cooking session where I was discussing all the unusual and interesting bits of duck that might not be well known in the UK (!) I was in the middle of talking about 'Gesiers' and most of the group started to say they would not fancy eating them, just at that moment, I produced a plate of them to taste! Their faces were a picture!

Tell us something we don't already know about you...!
I am half Swedish - and I embrace my Scandanavian side happily!

Have you got anything special up your sleeve for your next holiday?
Just really delicious food :)

Where would you like to travel next, that Authentic Adventures don't currently visit?
I would love to visit Japan.....

If you weren't doing what you currently do - what other job would you like to do?
I would like to work for the Michelin Guide, awarding stars to the worlds best restaurants whilst eating my way around them all!

Join Anneli on one of her wonderful 'culinary experience' weeks at Castelnau des Fieumarcon - with the help of your host Didier Billes, she will make you feel at home and you will cook and taste some wonderful food, visit wineries, local markets and explore the beautiful landscape around the estate - fresh figs, rosemary, pears and all!

19th September (3 nights) or 23rd October (4 nights)

Please do feel free to contact us in the office any time for an informal chat about this holiday:
01453 823328.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Happy Thanksgiving - Pumpkin Pie!

We're all foodies here at Authentic Adventures, so it's only seems right to share our recipe for Pumpkin Pie on Thanksgiving Day....

Gingersnap Pumpkin Pie

For the gingersnap crust:
crushed gingersnaps - 1 and a half cups
sugar - 3 tablespoons
unsalted butter
ground ginger - half a tablespoon

For the filling:
3 eggs
Brown sugar - 3/4 of a cup
ground cinnamon - half a tablespoon
ground ginger - half a tablespoon
ground cloves - quarter of a tablespoon
fresh grated nutmeg - quarter of a tablespoon
salt - half a tablespoon
canned pumpkin puree - 1 and a half cups
double cream - 1 and a half cups

In a bowl, mix the melted butter, and stir all the other ingredients together. Pat evenly into a 9" pie pan. Bake until set - approximately 5 - 10 minutes. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs until blended, whisk in the brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg and salt. Stir in the pumpkin puree and pour into crust. Bake for 45 - 50 minutes, and let it cool on the rack. Serve with whipped cream.

Friday, 15 November 2013

Tutor profile: Brian Steventon - painting tutor

Join Brian Steventon on a Painting Holiday in Havana, Puglia and France in 2014!

Manorolo, Cinque Terre

In an attempt for you to get to know our tutors a little bit better, I will be writing a profile about each of them over the course of 2014. If you're thinking about joining us on a holiday, but you'd like to know more about the background, experience and personality of your potential tutor, then look no further. There are hard facts and some light-hearted banter, but I hope it exemplifies their and our passion for the holidays we are selling and the work that they do. They are all, after all both teachers and working artists themselves - whether they specialise in painting, photography, cooking, singing or indeed walking. They are continually honing their knowledge, skill and craft in order that their guests get the very most from their holidays.

Brian is a full time artist and tutor. His work is sold through numerous UK galleries and has also be purchased by Stephen Fry's Kingdom series. He is currently the official artist at the Black Country Living Museum. An experienced tutor, it is his innovative, free-flowing and impressionistic style for capturing atmosphere and light that most appeals to his students. He combines this with a warm and friendly approach with personalised tuition and demonstrations. His is committed to inspiring and improving the work of all his students.

Brian led some very successful trips last year, with two back to back weeks in Cinque Terre which SOLD OUT! Be quick to sign up for his holidays - they are selling fast!

A few questions....

Q: What's your special skill?
A: My special skill is getting to the essence of the subject in any medium, whether it be landscape, figurative etc.

Q: Why do you love being a tutor for Authentic Adventures?
a) We get to meet such a wide section of people, whether it be students, hoteliers, restauranteurs, who are mostly passionate about what they do.
b) We get to travel to some wonderful places.
c) We get to tutor a wide range of artistic abilities, and hopefully make a difference to peoples lives.

Q: What's your top tip for future guests on an Authentic Adventures holiday?
a) Be open to trying things out
b) Look hard at the tones and shapes before you put pencil to paper
c) Simplify the composition
d) Never make two marks if one will do.

Q: Which Authentic Adventures trip are you most excited about in 2014?
A: I am excited about them all, but if I had to single out one trip, it would be Havana. It's such an unusual place, it's culture, colour and the almost timeless element that will make it a superb painting trip. It's unlikely to remain like this, so go for it now, whilst you can!

Q: What's been the best holiday you've worked on for Authentic Adventures and why?
A: I've enjoyed all the trips for Authentic Adventures, but I still have very fond memories of my first trip to Zuheros in Subbetica. The people on the trip, the Spanish locals and the thrill of selecting new venues was amazing.

Q: Holiday tales...funny anecdotes, memorable holidays - weird moments!
A: How come Italian trains were always late but on the day of the rail strike they were all on time!! How weird is that!!!

Q: Tell us something we don't already know about you...
A: As well as being a painter I have also been a potter and enameller. When I was a little younger I played league Squash, rant the London Marathon four times - I should add, not all on the same day!

Q: Have you got anything special up your sleeve for your next trip?
A: I have not yet been to any of my new venues for 2014, but I always look out for things that will make a difference to artists trips. So rest assured, I will have something up my sleeve. A jazz club sketch night in Havana would be amazing!!

Q: Where would you like to travel to next that Authentic Adventures do not currently visit?
A: A painting trip to Venice would be great, I have been there numerous times but never with Authentic Adventures. It's an amazing place for artists.

Q: Tell us about your forthcoming exhibitions, master classes or anything else you are up to.
A: I lead the Kingswinford 'All Media Art Group' and we're currently working on Christmas week I travel to Bevere Gallery to deliver some new work, and also to Bircham gallery. Early in 2014, I'll be exhibiting at the RBSA (Royal Birmingham Society of Artists) for their start and open exhibitions. I have work ready to submit to the RBA Exhibition at the Mall Galleries in the new year. Keep your fingers crossed. In 2014 I'll be running my Plein-Air painting days at David Austin Roses in June & July and at The Wodehouse in May and Harvington Hall in August. I also have a Watercolour Masterclass arranged for 12th April - to give you a taster of my work and teaching style if you want to then come on holiday with me! I'm doing a Café Scene demo for Spalding Art Society and tutoring my Wednesday group at Quatt. I am also travelling to Weoley Castle art Society to demonstrate acrylic collage and tutoring a monthly easel club. I'm a busy man!!

Monterosso al Mare, Cinque Terre

Vernazza, Cinque Terre - straight from Brians sketchbook

Riomaggiore, Cinque Terre

Monterosso al Mare, Café Scene


Domaine d'Arton - a beautiful, hidden corner of South West France - vineyards as far as the eye can see!

Domaine d'Arton

Patricks wonderful vines with crocuses in the foreground

If you travel with us to Gascony in South West France on one of our very special Cooking Holidays you will be privy to a very special treat - a visit to Domaine d'Arton, the home and vineyard of Patrick and Victoire de Montal. They are two of the most elegant and charming hosts I have ever had the pleasure of meeting - and I do not exaggerate! Whilst staying at Castelnau des Fieumarcon, the Authentic Adventures team were introduced to this wonderful place by Didier Billes, our host and local knowledge in Gers. We spent a morning exploring the estate and tasting the wines, as will you on your Cooking Holiday. It will be an experience you will take with you and remember for years. Excuse my lack of knowledge regarding wine - I am learning (slowly), and merely re-iterate the facts as recounted by Patrick!

Elegant interior of the drawing room

We weave through the hills, known as 'the Tuscany of France' and arrive at a very solid, but not ostentatious pair of iron gates, which slowly open to reveal a single track drive towards a beautiful, stone property surrounded by vivid, limey-green, healthy vines - forty hectares to be precise. It is a family run estate, planted and tended to for the past forty years by Patrick and his whole family. Every single grape grown in Domaine d'Arton goes into the bottles of wine, nothing is bought in from outside the estate. Seven different varieties of vines are grown, and blended together to create the delicious wines each year. How lucky we are, then, that Patrick supplies the wine for our guests at Castelnau des Fieumarcon, which you will taste and savour alongside the delicious food you will cook with Anneli Faiers. The wines will be carefully matched by Didier Billes, himself a knowledge on wines of the region, and he will provide a good and basic guide to Armagnac (white also) which is famous in this part of France.

Wine tasting (Patrick centre)

Armagnac - famous in this region of France, and made predominantly from the Ugni Blanc grape variety (because of its high acidity), in 400 litre oak casks at low temperatures. It creates a kind of 'eau de vie' and was first produced in 1310 - one of the oldest in the world. We sit, and chat to Patrick and enjoy his quiet, yet confident manner, supremely elegant, when suddenly two gun-shots ring out, "C'est la chasse," explains Patrick, "Hunting." He continues - "seven varieties of grape are grown here - merlot, syrah, cabernet sauvignon, colombard, sauvignon, petit monsant, gros montsant. Three grapes are used in producing red wine, and the remaining four for white." He is clearly passionate about his product, and we taste every single one, accompanied by delicious morsels of local food that are perfectly matched. For example, Patrick explains his white wines are perfect when drunk with fois gras, and surprisingly, Indian food! The sweet wines should be eaten with game. I feel priviledged to listen to his ideas regarding food and wine - I must remember to drink fine wines with fois gras at home (if only).

Wild croci carpet the lawns surrounding Domaine d'Arton

After much enjoyment and replete from wine, cheese, pate, fois gras.....we slowly walk around the estate in the morning sunshine. Victoire smiles - she is well versed at playing hostess - and leads us through her garden carpeted with tiny, violet crocuses left to grow wild. From a vantage point, we look down upon the vines that snake away in neat rows into the distance, each vine and grape carefully tended to. Vinotopia is a true art, a religion almost, every waking hour spent nurturing these precious vines.

John Brough tasting the product!

Wine with accompanying nibbles


The only way meet Patrick and enjoy his delicious wines is to join us on a Cooking Holiday at Castelnau des Fieumarcon! We still have places left on our convenient short breaks (three and four nights) in May and October. Order your brochure, email our office to express your interest, or give us a ring for an informal chat - we are so excited and passionate about our 'culinary experience' holidays. Places like this are what make Authentic Adventure holidays different from the rest - something special that you would never find on your own.

For more information about where you will stay and what you will learn on your holiday, go a little further back in this blog and delight at the interior shots of Castelnau.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Castelnau des Fieumarcon - mist falling on the rolling hills, figs, pear and rosemary. A very special place to stay....

The main reception room at Castelnau des Fieumarcon

Introducing a new location in South West France where we will be hosting painting, photography, walking, singing and cooking holidays. An estate tucked away in the rolling hills of historic Gascony, we are lucky enough to stay in France's only, privately owned, fortified village with 13th century origins. Lovingly restored over a period of twenty five years by the wonderful and eccentric owner Frederique, it is now run by charming Didier Billes who will be your host, along with your tutor for your weeks stay.

Stunning sunsets and views from Castelnau

The Authentic Adventures team stayed here for a long weekend at the end of September with two journalists and travel councellors who were invited to experience, and write about, a weekend of cooking. We had an inspiring time soaking up the atmosphere of Castelnau, enjoying the landscape and culture of Gascony and cooking and tasting with Anneli Faiers - our fantastic cook. We visited Chateau Monluc, tasting wines and Armagnac, lunch in nearby St. Puy, a gorgeous restaurant - our group took a table outside and enjoyed scallops with leek puree and other delights. A trip to the local town of Fleurance with its pretty market, and a memorable visit to Domaine d'Arton -the prettiest vineyard and elegant and charming hosts Patrick and Victoire de Montal.

Our cooking holidays at Castelnau des Fieumarcon are not cooking courses or classes, they are a complete 'culinary experience' with a chance to soak up everything that is wonderful about the landscape, food and wine of the region. Anneli is passionate about where she lives, and gave us an interesting history of Gascony cuisine, in particular their love of duck. Follow my next blog to read about it, and use a local recipe of 'Cake aux lardons avec figues et noix' - delicious.

Anneli Faiers - our cook at Castelnau

Anneli & Didier

We couldn't be more excited about launching cooking holidays from Castelnau des Fieumarcon!

The interior décor in the drawing room is stunning

This cottage is called Pressaic (where I stayed) - amazing views, high quality interiors.

All the bedrooms are decorated uniquely, and are comfortable. No tea making facilities or televisions!

A peep into another cottage - the evening light was beautiful!

Castelnau has won various awards for its restoration with beautiful detailing.

The lovely market at Fleurance

Linda Kember - our Operations Manager enjoying a cold drink

Our happy group outside Chateau Monluc - John Brough, MD, far left, Didier Billes - our host, next to him, Sarah Edmonds, Marketing Executive, far right.
One of our guests, Antonia, enjoying a cooking session

Enjoying the sunshine outside Chateau Monluc

A brief history of Castelnau des Fieumarcon:

The Castelnau des Fieumarcon is a private fortified settlement built in the 13th century, far away from noise and pollution. Located in the historical land of Armagnac in the South West of France and easily accessible from Bordeaux and Toulouse airports, the village lends itself perfectly our group holidays in all our specialist areas: walking in the beautiful countryside known as 'the Tuscany of France', singing in the grounds of the estate with use of the intimate, private chapel, painting - both the landscape and details of the ancient buildings, and cooking with local chef and award winning food writer Anneli Faiers.

The beauty of the Castelnau des Fieumarcon is the ability to have an entire world of your own where you can think, and explore uninterrupted, and of course enjoy the 'party house' feel in the company of other like-minded people who share your passion. Our aim is to provide a place in which to relax, or be as busy as you wish, use the swimming pool, enjoy the privacy of your own cottage, or paint, sketch, photograph, edit and discuss your work in the comfortable communal spaces. We feel that Castelnau perfectly exemplifies the style of an Authentic Adventures holiday - the décor is stylish, but not overdone, not overtly modern, no televisions or coffee making machines - it's more 'authentic' than that. A beautiful artistic retreat.

The stronghold is a perfect example of sensitive (and sensible) renovation. Built in the 13th century by local feudal lords, the village saw its population rise to 240 in the 17th century. As time went by and lured by the attraction of better living the inhabitants moved slowly away in direction of bigger towns. In the early 1960’s the population had all but vanished leaving most of the houses and the chapel in ruins.

The rebirth of the Castelnau began in 1978 when the Coustols family, local entrepreneurs, decided to change the fate of the village. 16 out of the original 32 houses were rebuilt, and the remaining space planted with scented and fruit gardens. The restoration followed the principles of the DaST (Design a Sustainable Tomorrow) Compass and the Venice Charter, the Castelnau received the VMF Award in 1992 and the RICS Award 2001 in London.

A quarter of a century, a lot of love and tenacity were necessary, not only to bring new life to medieval structures, but also in the particular attention that was given to the interior decoration. Furnishings, objects and tapestries (all sourced in Gascony) blend with more contemporary furniture designed by the owner, allowing history and present to combine harmoniously.

When John discovered Castelnau des Fieumarcon, he knew he had found something special - a place where our clients could enjoy themselves, relax, absorb the culture of this region, delight in Gascogne food and wine and share their passion for photography, painting, singing, walking or cooking.

For more information follow this link:

Wine - we taste alot of it on our holidays in France & Italy - here's a potted history!

An introduction to Italian and French viniculture by Celestine Bridgeman of
The Oxford Wine Company.  

In September, we exhibited at the Tetbury Food & Drink Festival, and hosted a talk and wine tasting during the event in association with The Oxford Wine Company. For those who are wine lovers (aren't we all?) this is a potted history of French and Italian viniculture and the wines we tasted. We had a great evening - a good crowd of interesting people who loved hearing about our adventures, our new cooking holidays and the kind of wine we will be tasting and enjoying with our meals.

A view from Castelnau des Fieumarcon, the estate where we stay in France.
John Brough, far left, MD with Linda Kember far right, Operations Manager with our group outside Chateau Monluc which sells wine and Armagnac, in S.W France.

Italy is home to some of the oldest wine making regions in the world – it has been producing wine longer than France!

French wine originated in the 6th century BC, with the colonization of Southern Gaul by Greek settlers. (A large area that included France)

Wine making developed in Europe with the expansion of the Roman empire throughout the Mediterranean, when many major wine producing regions that still exist today were established. During the Middle Ages, monks maintained vineyards and, more importantly, conserved wine-making knowledge and skills during an often turbulent period.
Monasteries had the resources, security, and motivation to produce a steady supply of wine both for celebrating mass and generating income.

Improved production techniques in the 17th and 18th centuries resulted in the emergence of finer qualities of wine, glass bottles with corks began to be used, and the corkscrew was invented.

The French wine industry took off at this point, racing ahead of the Italians, with particular recognition being given to the clarets of the Bordeaux region. The French have since worked hard to improve their wines, with huge success. (cultural, economic etc)

In 1935 numerous laws were passed to control the quality of French wine. They established the first AOC system (Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée), which is governed by a powerful oversight board. (Institut National des Appellations d'Origine, INAO)

Consequently, France has one of the oldest systems for protected designation of origin for wine in the world, and strict laws concerning winemaking and production.

In contrast, the Italian classification system although developed around the same time, was far less strict resulting in quantity rather than quality wines. With improved rules and adherence this is now changing.

However there is a general acceptance that the French produce some of the best wines in the world. In terms of a wine economy this is hugely important.

A view across the vines from Domaine d'Arton - a vineyard you will visit if you come on a cooking holiday in France with us!


A proud region in South West France

Today comprises of Armagnac country and wines such as Madrian, Jurancon and those we are tasting.

The name Gascony appears on labels of the highly successful Vin de Pays

South West France is a rather heterogeneous region in terms of its wines and how they are marketed.

It is rare to see wines being sold as Vins du Sud-Ouest. Rather, the smaller areas and individual appellations market their wines under their own (smaller) umbrella, in contrast with common practice in e.g. the Bordeaux region.

Gascony covers a large area with different climatic conditions. The areas closest to Bordeaux produce wines in a style similar to those of Bordeaux, and largely from the same grape varieties.

Further south, wines are still rather similar to those of Bordeaux, but several grape varieties not used in Bordeaux are common, such as Tannat.

Finally, in the areas closest to the Pyrenees (where the French wines tonight are from) wines are made from local varieties, such as Gros Manseng and Petit Manseng.

Ugni Blanc (Trebbiano), Colombard 10.5% (Domaine Tariquet)

Domaine Tariquet lies at the foot of the Pyrenees in the Armagnac region in Gascony in the village of Ercé.

The region has a temperate climate that plays a crucial role, its mid-August warm days and cool nights encouraging the development of aromatic precursors.

Domaine Tariquet has been independent hands since 1912.  It started life in the tradition of Armagnac making Bas Armagnac brandies.  In 1982 the family diversified and started producing quality white wines – forerunners in the region

Ugni Blanc (Trebbiano Italy) (also known as Clairette Ronde) is France’s most planted white grape variety, far outnumbering Chardonnay’s area. 

Globally, this variety produces more wine than any other.  It was imported from Italy, probably during the 14th Century.

This copious, thin, acidic dry wine also washes through the stills of the Cognac (Charentais north of Bordeaux) and Armagnac regions.

Colombard produces a fruity white wine of both dry and sweet characters.

It would take some sorcery to transform this into an exciting wine on its own, but pleasantly lively innocuouness is well within reach for those equipped with stainless steel and temperature control.

It is used as a blending grape for its tropical light fruity flavours and citrus aromas.


Superbly intense for a dry fruity white, its bouquet reveals floral and citrus aromas with nice touches of tropical fruit. Light and well-balanced, this wine is a thirst-quenching pleasure.

Serve chilled. Very refreshing at any time of the day, as an aperitif or with starters, seafood or fish.

Les Premières Grives, 11.5% (Domaine Tariquet)

Gros Manseng

Gros Manseng is a Basque grape, brought to the region by the Basques who originally  inhabited Gascony.

It is a large yielding white grape that produces a less rich wine that that of its relation, Petit Manseng.

On its own it has the potential to produce intensely flavored wines with high acidity, apricot and quince fruit along with spicy and floral notes.

The time of harvest will play a large role in the type of wine that the grape will produce – lower alcohol levels (11.5 – 12%) produce characteristics of fresh fruit and flowers and if picked later (with higher alcohol levels) the flavours will be much more intense and powerful.


Harvested in autumn, mature grapes packed with sweetness produce an elegant wine with good typicity.

Medaille d'Or, Berliner Wine Trophy February 2013.


Ugni Blanc and Clombard, two of the ten different grapes authorised for use in the production of Armagnac.  Indeed, Domaine Tariquet started life in the tradition of Armagnac.

Armagnac is a distinctive kind of brandy distilled from wine usually made from a blend of grapes that including, Colombard, and Ugni blanc.

The production of Armagnac uses column stills rather than the pot stills used in the production of Cognac. The resulting spirit is then aged in oak barrels before release.
John Brough (left) and Didier Billes (middle) in the wine cellar at Chateau Monluc, S.W France, with guests.
Oak wine barrels in the original cellars at Chateau Monluc, S.W France.
If you are interested in cooking and wine tasting, please have a look at our new cooking holidays: 


Tetbury Food & Drink Festival - September 2013

Sarah Edmonds (me) manning our stand at Tetbury Food & Drink Festival

As part of our launch of NEW COOKING HOLIDAYS in 2014, we exhibited at the Tetbury Food & Drink Festival for the first time this year. We felt it was important, not only to introduce a new genre of holiday for Authentic Adventures, but also to support our local food festival. We are lucky enough to live and work in the Cotswolds which is prosperous and entrepreneurial, in a region that is lucky enough to enjoy a variety of fresh, locally grown produce and excellent restaurants. The food festival is growing year by year thanks to the careful guidance and effort of Kathryn Limoi, whose passion for the town keeps her up late at night for weeks in the run up to the festival. She introduced us to The Oxford Wine Co. with whom we collaborated on an evening event during the festival - a talk to introduce our new holidays with wines to taste from the regions we visit - Puglia (S.E Italy) and Gascony (S.W France). The event was a great success, with our founder and Managing Director John Brough delivering an inspiring talk with ease and flair (he has a natural talent for it!), whilst Celestine from The Oxford Wine Co. introduced a short history of French and Italian vinification with tastings of Colombard, Gros Manseng, Primitivo, Negroamaro, Sangiovese and a delicious glass of deep, orangey Armagnac to finish. (For more information about the wines that come from these regions, take a look at the following blog!)

John Brough (MD) talking about our new Cooking Holidays in Italy & France

The following day was spent talking to old friends and clients, meeting new people and prospective customers. We were delighted to sell a holiday to a very excited couple who had wanted to learn cooking in Italy for a while. They were even more excited to learn of the £100 discount for any new customer booking a seven night holiday! They will be travelling to Puglia in May to enjoy a week of cooking with a local 'Mamma', staying in delightful Masseria Provenzani, a converted farmhouse set in beautiful olive groves near the gorgeous town of Lecce known as 'The Florence of the South'.

Our 2014 brochures have just been printed, and only one week after posting them, we have already sold seven places for cooking holidays in Puglia. We stress that our cooking holidays should be classed as "culinary experiences" and are not just cooking courses/classes - we have incorporated other aspects of food appreciation including visits to local markets, farms, vineyards, plenty of wine appreciation, Armagnac chateaux, picking fresh produce on our estate in France (figs, pear, rosemary), cheese and olive oil tastings - it's a complete foodie itinerary. Book your place before they're all gone!

Ben handing out brochures

busy Tetbury

John and guest discussing wines!

John Brough

Our banner showing Ylenia Sambati cooking in Puglia

Queuing up to see us!!

Sarah laughing with local artist Richard Callingham
Our wine tasting and talk

Friday, 13 September 2013

Orecchiette 'Ear shaped' pasta

A recipe by Ylenia Sambati – our Tour Leader on Cooking Holidays in Puglia with Authentic Adventures.
Ylenia demonstrating pasta making!

For the Pasta

1lb(450grams)semolina flour

200ml tepid water (room temperature)

Orecchiette con il sugo fresco (Fresh Tomato Sauce)

For the Sauce:

500 grams of orecchiette pasta

5 Tablespoons olive oil

2 Cloves garlic, chopped

2 to 3 kg Fresh Plum Tomatoes

Salt to taste

To make the pasta:

Make a volcano‐shaped well with the flour

Add half of the water to the centre of the well, and slowly mix the flour into the centre of the well with your hands.

Add more water as necessary until the dough comes together.

It should not be sticky but moist and soft.

Knead for a few minutes until all the flour and water combine to make a smooth dough.

Cover with cotton wrap and let rest for 15 minutes.

To form into orecchiette, roll the dough out into a long snake‐like strip about ¼ inch in diameter.

Cut a strip about ½ an inch long.

With a butter knife(one that has teeth, but dull teeth), roll the tooth side of the knife down and over the cut strip of pasta.

Turn the curved piece of dough over your thumb to form the little ear.

Set aside and repeat until you've used all the dough.

To make the sauce:

On low heat, slowly heat the garlic and olive oil in a saucepan.

Once the garlic is toasted, a golden colour, add the tomatoes and salt.

Bring the sauce to a boil.

Lower the flame and simmer.

Cook for about 20 minutes, until the sauce is a consistency you desire when the tomatoes have become very soft.

Taste and adjust for seasoning.

Cook the orecchiette in salted boiling water until the pasta is al dente.

Dress with the tomato sauce and top with grated pecorino or parmigiana cheese.

Serve warm.
Our cooking holidays are now 'live' and already selling well! Please do not hesitate to contact Linda in our office to make a provisional booking for 2014. Our Cooking Holidays in Italy are over seven nights staying in Masseria Provenzani - a wonderfully restored Italian farmhouse with excellent cooking facilities. Ylenia Sambati will be your Tour Leader and will introduce you to a local 'Mamma' with years of experience, tips and amazing recipes at her disposal. Return home with an array of recipes to cook for your friends and family! We think we've created a holiday with the perfect balance between rest and relaxation, plenty of cooking - both demonstrations and hands on classes, visits to local markets, delicious food, wine, cheese and olive oil tasting. Your hotel is surrounded by olive groves, and you will visit the beach nearby and the Baroque town of Lecce. A wonderful holiday.
7 nights in May & October - please check our website for a complete itinerary, dates and prices.