Today, the van pulled up at the doors of a beautiful farmhouse in the village of Poreta. We poured out and looked around the courtyard, taking in the scene. There were chickens in one corner, tobacco fields in front of us, patches of vegetables visible across the road, fields of cereal crops in another direction. Just what exactly was being farmed here? Ettore, the farmer and our chef for the day, walked out to meet us and took us on "the tour". Yes, it was all his - the tobacco and the spelt and the lentils and the vegetables, and the chooks, the olive trees...he farmed a bit of everything really! Upstairs in the kitchen, with him and his wife Lorella, we realised just exactly what that meant when we set eyes on the long trestle table laden with ingredients for our lesson.
Tobacco fields and beyond
Every single item on that table, from butter to eggs to the oil and the different grains and lentils, to the various vegetables and herbs to the plump chicken on the plate was from his own farm. The only concessions to outside was the salkt, the wheatflour and the sugar.....Amazing!
We cooked farro and chickpeas, made potato gnocchi with a fresh vegetable sauce, then chicken cooked with peppers and to finish, a magnificent crostata (rich butter shortcrust pastry base, filled with jam - homemade from his own fruit.....of course....). After lunch, we wondered around the farm taking photos and asking questions. The importance of freshness, local ingredients and cooking seasonally plays such a big part in the quality of the food prepared and served. How satisfying to finally understand that when one is sensitive to the environment, to the land and what it produces with the changing seasons, one gets back in touch with an essential rhythm of life. Something for me to take home to my kitchen, my approach to preparing food for those I love..........