For those who dread Monday mornings imagine the joy of a day when you wake up knowing that you will be laughing most of the morning – spending time in the fresh Tuscan countryside with good friends and an amazing cooking teacher and eating a four course mouthwatering Tuscan lunch ……It certainly beats a strap-hanging nose-to- armpit commute into Central London on the Northern Line!

Personal chef Lisa Banchieri now hosts her cooking classes in her beautiful home near the Cascine del Riccio . As it is a little way out of town we were met and collected from the Porta Romana by her partner, Giampaulo.

Whilst we waited at the Porta Romana being never known to miss an opportunity to see a Last Supper, we made a quick unscheduled visit to the Cenacola of the Convitta della Calza to see their fresco , originally painted by Franciabigio in 1514 and restored as shown below in 2000.

What I hadnt spotted on a previous visit was that this lot were clearly supported by the Medici Family – having the family crest like a logo on their wine jugs on the table!

Cooking class with Lisa Banchieri

Menu of the Day

  • Bruschetta with cavolo nero
  • Raviolone with pear and gorgonzola. served with a shallot and pear sauce
  • Lamb with carciofi
  • Cioccolatissimo

Once we arrived safely at our destination and got togged up Lisa took us straight outside again to enjoy their view and to select our seasoning – fresh herbs from their herb garden.

On the much-discussed principle of “Life is too short – start with dessert” – we began by making our pudding, melted pure chocolate & butter in a bain marie on the stove.

Only one tablespoon of flour was added to the cake mix after the 6 egg yolks were mixed in with 6 tablespoons of sugar and the separated egg whites, with a pinch of salt added to make the mix rise to a firm peak, were beaten into an uncooked meringue and folded into the mixture.

Into the pre-heated oven it went, to emerge half an hour later as Ciocollatissmo – molten chocolate cake – once cooled it became our just dessert .


In the meantime Ian had kneaded the fresh pasta into submission in preparation for our pear and Gorgonzola raviolione and the pasta was left in the fridge for half an hour to prove.

For our Secondo we made lamb with carciofi – artichoke – I make no apologies for taking this directly from Lisa’s Blog page

Lamb with Artichokes

  •  gr.800 lamb leg or shoulder, cut into pieces                                                                                                                                  
  • 2 lemon-zest and juice                                                                                                                                                                            
  • 1 glass of dry white wine                                                                                                                                                                       
  • salt and pepper as you like                                                                                                                                                                 
  • 8 tbs of extra virgin olive oil                                                                                                                                                                
  • 3 garlic cloves pressed

Preheat the oven to 200°

In a bowl mix the water with fresh lemon juice and clean the lamb with this mixture, dry well with paper towels.

Take a baking tray and place the artichokes, place the pieces of lamb on top of the artichokes, season with salt and pepper, add grated lemon zest, the garlic and drizzle with evoo, massage all together very well

Put in the oven for 20 minutes, add the white wine and return to the oven for 40-45 minutes more, occasionally basting the lamb with the juice


How clean the artichokes:

mamme crude

“Cut the end of the stems trim off all the dark outer ring of the stems, remove as many rows off the outer leaves as necessary until you arrive at the light yellow of the bottom.
Cut off the top green part and soak the artichokes in a large bowl with cold water and lemon juice (the acidulated water will prevent the artichokes to became black and bitter).
Now you can use for many many tasty recipes!!!!”

See how beautiful they looked cut up ready to be sautéed in Extra Virgin Olive OIl

IMG_20160125_131155 (00000002)

Back at the pasta table Ian was once again Head Chef.

Could I say that the hat had gone to his head? …No probably better not……but then again?

Jackie studies intently as Ian mixes the Gorgonzola and pear into a paste. The pasta, fortified with a small glass of wine, becomes thin and very stretchy – perfect for folding over the cheese mixture and these larger sized portions are created my using a glass instead of a small pasta cutter.

Lisa with pasta stretched and ready to make ravioli

Lisa with pasta stretched and ready to make ravioli

These are called raviolione because they are large, anything referred to in Italian as “ONE” is bigger than average. Tavolone = big table, Portone = big door,  Nasone, big nose, and so on!

These looked wonderful, the creamy blue Gorgonzola mix seems to shine through the silky thin fresh pasta case.

ravioli per e gorg

Just to take the edge off or hunger, whilst we were working we had a special antipasti – Cavolo Nero (Black Cabbage) bruschette – delicious – just a short term a challenge to pull the tasty leaves off the tough stalks -lightly cooked with a couple of cloves of garlic and a splash of EVOO ( Extra Virgin Olive Oil) and served on toasted Tuscan bread – Yummy!

So far too soon all we were left to do was to eat all this delicious food, the pasta washed down with a Vernaccia di San Gimignano and the lamb complemented with a Chianti – What Else?

Buon Appetito!