Cooking Techniques

Wine-Can Chicken: The Perfect Summer Meal

If you’re hosting a backyard party on a beautiful day in August, you want to be drinking with your friends, playing bocce ball and having a good time, not fussing over a meal that requires an elaborate preparation. Hiring reliable event staffing services in Toronto is one way to free yourself up and hang with your friends (whether it’s a lone bartender or a full on catering staff); another way is to prep a meal that is reasonably straightforward to cook and serve. Beer-can chicken is the perfect example of this meal: you simply massage the chicken with oil, rub it down with spices, plop it on a half-empty beer can and throw it on the barbecue. An alternate version of this that we’ll explore today is a slightly more sophisticated cousin: wine-can chicken.

Wine-can chicken requires a very simple substitution, adding just one super quick step to the process. You pour out the beer you were going to use in a glass (you should probably drink it, or give it to a friend) and then pour a few ounces of wine into the can instead, before affixing the chicken to it. The key principle behind beer-can chicken is that the can of beer on the grill heats up and steams the chicken as it is cooking, infusing it with flavor and keeping it moist.

There are certainly some haters on the Internet who argue that this is an ineffective and silly way to cook a chicken, but results speak for themselves, and anyone who has ever competently cooked a chicken in this method knows that the end product is frigging delicious. Your instincts in this scenario might be to use white wine to cook the chicken (since fowl is typically paired with white wines), however, richer wines such as Malbec, Zinfandel or Cab Franc complement BBQ chicken much better, balancing the smokiness.

As for the seasoning, fret not, it is incredibly simple. You’ll want to set aside a bowl and mix salt, pepper, crushed red pepper and cayenne in it and then rub this mixture all over the chicken once it’s been massaged with oil. Make sure to use lots of salt, as this helps the skin crisp up, and definitely make sure to wash your hands once you’re done handling the chicken.

An excellent accompaniment to this meal is barbecued corn. Like the chicken, it is incredibly unfussy to prepare: you place the corn on the grill in its husk and cook it for 20-30 minutes. Within its husk the corn steams naturally as well, and even if you forget about it and leave it on for a very long time, it is extremely difficult to burn, overcook it, or dry it out.

Finally, you’ll probably want some sort of vegetable as well, perhaps a refreshing summer salad to balance out the richness of the grilled food. A Greek salad with feta and olives can serve quite nicely in this scenario, but since you worked so hard on the chicken and corn, you may want to call on friends to bring the salad.


Hosting The Ideal Cocktail Party For Your Donors

Giving your top tier prospects a night to remember is part of what donor stewardship is all about when you work in the not-for-profit sector. Whether you’re hosting an annual spring gala to thank your supporters for contributing to your charity, or planning something smaller, more intimate, and exclusive, patrons need to be recognized – that’s how they’ll keep coming back.

You can throw a fun cocktail party for example to cultivate and revive your donor list while endearing new prospects to your mission. It isn’t an explicit ask, however it fosters your relationship, connecting potential sponsors, or returning sponsors to the cause you’re raising money for. It is one of the most powerful marketing tools in the not-for-profit world.

When your work is philanthropic, your donors are the life-blood of your organization especially since government funding only covers project-to-project costs, and cannot possibly begin to fund the operating fees associated with running a charitable initiative. Research shows however that among donors who were satisfied after attending an event, 33 percent made an unsolicited gift, and 35 percent of solicited donors who made a gift credited the event with why they made the gift. Fundraising events however do take a great amount of time, energy, and effort on the part of company staff, and can be challenging when event planning is not a development department’s forte.

Three things to keep in mind when throwing a cultivation event are the venue, the atmosphere and of course, the food. Why not hire a caterer that has the ability to gently guide you through all of these aspects? The Food Dudes for example are one company based out of the GTA who’ve exploded onto the scene in the last ten years, and have been recognized for their natural ability to impress through innovation. Their inventive cocktail menu — which you can check out at — can be customized to suit virtually any diet, and includes the city’s most interesting options from truffle beef sliders to liquid nitrogen popcorn.

Their event staff possess expert knowledge of their products and protocol, are familiar and enthusiastic about food, and are uniquely qualified to work the events they cater. Furthermore, they always bring a passionate and professional attitude to the work.

If you’re looking to throw your cocktail event at a private residence, the company can bring tailor-made equipment to perfectly compliment any evening such as regal wood platters for passed apps, burner covers, butcher’s blocks and more. For larger events with extensive guest counts, they partner with renowned rental groups that allow them to accommodate those numbers. Finally, they also have a relationship with many event venues around the city that they work from regularly, from small coffeehouses like Balzac’s Roasters, to bigger halls like those found in Wychwood Barns.

For not-for-profits to be sustainable, they need to keep donors engaged, interested and invested (both financially and emotionally) in the work. By hiring a caterer for your event that will put your guests’ satisfaction at the forefront, you can feel confident in knowing the people who keep your doors open will feel cared for by you and continue to give.

How To Enjoy Your Favorite Pasta Dishes With Less Guilt

Pasta is one of those meals where you like to pretend it’s good for you, since it does have tomatoes in it (and they have vitamin C in them, don’t they?), but you know it really isn’t all that good for you. Pasta can be pretty fattening and packs in a lot of carbs. Although, if you’re only indulging in pasta once a week or less then you’re at least doing something right.

If you want to feel a little better about your pasta consumption you can make some of the following changes to your cooking routine. Pasta can be an entire meal in one plate and can be a great comfort food, so don’t nix it from your diet just yet.

Look Into Organic Sauces

When you’re shopping for pasta sauces you should consider buying something organic. Tomatoes are commonly one of those fruits that are hit with a lot of pesticides since they have a lot of bugs that like to eat them. By going organic you’re also helping to ensure you’re getting fewer preservatives in your food, meaning it’s a bit fresher and has more nutrients.

You could also consider making your own pasta sauce. In fact, you could also consider growing your own tomatoes. Then you know exactly what’s gotten into them and onto them.

Try Whole Wheat or Wheat Free Pasta

There are good things about wheat and there are bad things about it. Wheat flour is often bleached, which can make it not so healthy of a food item if you’re trying to cut down the chemicals you’re getting through your food. You can avoid this problem by buying whole wheat pasta.

You might also want to check out some of the other pasta grain options. With the rise of gluten-free foods, you can find pasta made from corn, rice, and even ancient grains. Test them out and see which ones you like best. There are also grain-free options.

Add More Vegetables

Consider going meatless once or twice a week if you’re normally a meat eater. There are plenty of vegetables you can substitute for meat in pasta dishes. Some of them include squash and even broccoli.

Even if you stick with meat, consider adding more vegetable and less meat (and maybe even less pasta). The more vegetables, and the more of a variety of them, the better for your health!

Try A Different Meat Option

You could also switch what meats you’re using. Beef is high in fat and is known to be a culprit in clogging arteries. Sausage is also a common ingredient in pasta dishes and is also high in fat.

Try making pasta with chicken, even breaded chicken. It will give it a different look and a different taste that you may still enjoy. You could also try crab when having pasta alfredo.

Reasons To Take A Nutrition Class

You have been reminded since childhood to eat your fruits and vegetables and probably know the basics about what constitutes a healthy and nutritious diet.  However, you may be surprised at many of the benefits taking a nutrition class as an adult has to offer.  Almost every community college or adult education center has nutrition classes that are offered in any area of the country.  Here are a few reasons to take a nutrition class that could benefit you down the road.

Being More Informed

It is important to be well informed about the foods that you consume.  More and more studies are being conducted that show many nutritional benefits from curbing your diet to add more vegetables and fruit and consuming less meat.  Many nutrition courses focus on teaching students about the drawbacks of eating a high intake of meat and sugar.  You will also become more conscious of what you and your family are eating and you may even start reading the back of food packages for all of the nutritional facts and ingredients while you are in the aisles of your local grocery store.

Promoting A Healthier Lifestyle

If you are completely lost at how to begin to build a healthy lifestyle, enrolling in a nutrition class can be a great first step at a new life.  If you are someone who has struggled with weight their entire life and looking to be educated about food for the first time, or a recovering addict who wants diet tips to stay sober and maintain a clean lifestyle, signing up for a nutrition course can be a great way to promote a new and healthier life.


Not only do many schools offer nutrition classes at nights or on the weekends, which is convenient for those who work the typical 9 to 5 shifts, but there are also a huge amount of nutrition courses that are offered online that you can take at your convenience.  If you are worried about cost, you can even find some free online nutrition courses too.

You Can Teach Others What You Learned

The best part about taking a nutrition class is the amount of information that you will be able to pass on to the rest of your family.  The knowledge that you have will now be able to be incorporated into grocery shopping with your kids and cooking with your partner.  You will look at food in an entirely new light.

Learning about nutrition and food in a more formal setting will set you up for a healthier lifestyle and give you knowledge that you will use on a daily basis.  There are many positive reasons to take a nutrition course that will benefit you and your family for years to come.

Enjoying the BBQ Season, Whatever the Weather

When summer creeps closer, there’s one thing that gets everybody excited, and that’s BBQ’s. Whether you love barbeques because of the excuse to indulge in a whole spread of incredibly tasty foods, or simply because it’s the perfect time for a good get-together, barbeques are just great. The only downside to a barbeque however, is the need to plan, prepare and pray. Planning is essential, especially if you’re wanting a larger turnout. You need to inform your guests, decide on food and drinks and then purchase everything you need. Then there’s the preparation, getting the food ready, making the garden suitable and wearing the right clothing to keep warm but not too warm! Then you need to pray, pray and hope that the weather will hold off and the sun will shine for you, just for one evening. The weather can however be very unpredictable, with a beautiful sunny afternoon suddenly switching to an aggressive thunderstorm out of nowhere! For this reason alone, here are some tips on how you can enjoy your barbeque, whatever the weather, whether you’re indoors or out!

Once you know who you want to invite, whether you’re wanting some family time, or a friendly get-together, you can then get started on deciding exactly what you want to feed your guests with. Barbeques are amazing for the simple fact that you can choose almost any cuisine, yet tie it in perfectly with the barbequed foods of your choice. A range of hot and cold food is always good when hosting something like this, as you’re giving your guests the choice and hopefully meeting everybody’s needs. There are however some specific foods that always go down very well at a barbeque, and are often expected when attending one. Burgers, Sausages and Steaks are always a good choice. Any type of meet that can be cooked to perfection on a barbeque will go down really well, accompanied with a soft bread bun or rice. You then need to consider smaller bowls of food, such as Potato Salads, Coleslaw, Mixed Leaf Salads, Jacket Potatoes and other bits of food that people can have on the side of their plate to nibble on. Cheese and Crackers, Breadsticks, Olives and Sun-Dried Tomatoes are also very good choices. Keep in mind that if your able to enjoy the glorious sunshine and have your barbeque outdoors, you may not want too many hot dishes, as the weather will already be warm and the food may become too much. There’s nothing more refreshing than a fresh salad or yoghurt based dish on a warm summers afternoon!

If the weather doesn’t go as planned and you find yourself faced with a heavy downpour just hours before your guests arrive, don’t panic. For many, the main attractions of a barbeque are the beautifully barbequed food, the hours of catching up and the general social atmosphere. The sunshine is often just a bonus! So, to ensure your indoor barbeque is just as good as you planned, make sure your foods are cooked the same. For example, remember to still grill your meats, and cook things the same way you would if you were outdoors. How you present the table is also key, as for a barbeque outdoors you tend to have your dishes spread out like a buffet for guests to pick their food as they choose. Keeping this relaxed feel to the indoor barbeque will ensure you keep things the same. Having your food spread out across a table gives people the chance to choose food as they please, and go back for more if needed. It’s also much easier to socialise when you can float around the room with your plate, instead of having to sit in a seating plan at the table! If you decide to make additional plates of food or even desserts, you can simply keep them fresh with Clingfilm and keep them neatly placed on your kitchen units, until you’re ready to bring them to the table.

How you present your outdoor or indoor areas is really important to creating that perfect barbeque atmosphere. Summer is a time for colour and fun, so purchasing some bunting or colourful napkins will help to brighten up the table and add to the summery feel. It doesn’t matter if your indoors or out, you can still incorporate your summery additions to your area and create a fun, welcoming atmosphere. Candles are another great feature to add to your barbeque, as they create a beautiful atmosphere and add a relaxing, calming touch. Music also very important when creating the perfect atmosphere. If you have your barbeque outdoors, a portable speaker is a great way to keep the music flowing whilst everyone enjoys the food and great company. Similarly, if you’re indoors, you can have your music playing softly in the background, as background music is always good for filling any silent moments and simply keeping the positive feeling strong.


Tools Every Griller Needs To Get Ready For Barbecue Season

Barbecue season is finally upon us. That means it is time to gather up those grilling tools, find some meats, and fire up those grills. It might also be time to purchase some new tools for your collection. Or maybe you haven’t even started your own collection of grilling tools.

Maybe you don’t even have your own grill yet. Whether starting from scratch or just updating your arsenal, there are some essential grilling tools you will need to start this season on the right foot. Here are some of the most important grilling tools that no aspiring grill master should live without.

The Grilling Spatula

Even Spongebob Squarepants understands the importance of a quality spatula when it comes to flipping burgers. Having the right spatula handy can either make or break your grilling experience. Spatulas come in all shapes and sizes. It often comes down to a battle between simplicity and available features.

On one hand, you have the traditional long-handled spatula. Many grill masters still prefer to keep this trusted tool nearby. They may also have a few specialty spatulas available if the need arises. For example, there are spatulas that combine several tools into one, such as a spatula, fork, and tongs, to make your grilling experience easier.

As for the traditional spatula, you will want a long handle that is slightly offset. This lets you easily slide the spatula beneath the food without fighting. The long handle is there to protect your hands from the heat. Choose either silicone or metal for a tough spatula that is easy to clean.

A Press And Store

Flipping hamburgers is easy enough, but actually forming and storing perfect patties can be somewhat difficult. Luckily, they have these neat tools called press and stores. The are cylindrical in shape and stand vertically. They are the perfect tool for anyone who grills a lot of burgers and is tired of struggling to get uniform patties.

You simply place the hamburger meat into the container up to the measuring mark. You then use the press device to apply pressure to the meat. This spreads the meat out into the circular shape of the container. Most presses will come with disks you use to separate the patties. Place the disk on top of the patty and then put more meat on top to repeat the process.

Not only can these be used to create perfect, uniform patties, but they are also ideal for storing and transporting the patties. You can keep extra burgers for a few days until you’re ready to fire up the grill again or even remove and freeze the patties for a later date.

The Unique Branding Iron

This is more of a novelty item, but it is still a great addition to any grilling tool set. You work hard on your delicious dishes. Wouldn’t you love to brand them with your initials? You can purchase unique monogrammed branding irons for a fairly low price online or at specialty grilling stores.

Using the branding iron is pretty simple. You just heat up the end in the fire of the grill and then press it into the meat. Then, everyone who takes a bite of your steak will know just who the artist was behind its creation.

Other Essential Utensils

A long set of tongs is the perfect way to get those hot dogs off the grill without them rolling right onto the ground. You will also need a basting brush to add the barbecue sauce when your meat is almost done. Of course, it should be long handled so that you are protected from the heat and any flare-ups. You should always end the cook-out by scraping your grill with a metal brush. These come in a variety of styles and work best if used when the grill is still hot.

Don’t Overlook The Grill

None of these tools will really help if you don’t have an awesome grill to use them with. Grills are available in a huge range of designs, features, shapes, sizes, and fuel sources. Be sure to find the grill that really resonates with you and has the features that you want. Once you have found the grill of your dreams and have the right tools for a successful barbecue, it is time to send out the invitations and get your grill on!

Roger Lehman writes and plays music in his spare time. He runs a site, that gives you the latest reviews and information on blenders to help you make the right choice.

Important Techniques for Easy Desserts

Dessert can be as simple as a plate of fruits or a piece of chocolate, or warm baked goods that can take hours to prepare, something sweet to conclude a meal. There are a bunch of easy dessert techniques you can learn such as baking, candy-making, whipping, mixing, melting, tempering, glazing, frosting, piping, decorating, plating, freezing, sifting, topping, layering, flambéing, and frying to make a wide range of desserts and sweet gourmet recipes including cakes, cookies, ice creams, sorbets, pies, tarts, pastries, gelatins, custards, biscuits, candies, crepes, and puddings.

Baking a cake is one of the first things any homemaker or cook should learn to make a special and easy dessert for family and friends. Chocolate cake is one of the most popular types of cake and never fails to impress. Basic gourmet recipes for chocolate cake consists of flour, sugar, water, eggs, melted chocolate, vanilla, salt, shortening, and sour cream. The ingredients are mixed and blended together, placed in a greased and floured cake pan, and baked for 30 to 45 minutes. The cake is cooled completely and covered with chocolate frosting made with melted chocolate, sugar, butter, sour cream, and vanilla.

Baking methods

When baking, it is important to follow the recipe as precisely as possible. The dry ingredients must be sifted and measured then leveled. A weighing scale may also be used to get accurate results. Once you learn how to bake a cake you can easily follow recipes to make different flavors as well as cupcakes, petit fours, and other kinds of cakes like airy sponge cakes or dense cakes.

Measuring techniques

While you can get away with making estimates and adjustments by adding a pinch of this or subtracting a little bit of that during cooking, with baking you need to pay extra attention to the quantity of each ingredient that the recipe specifically calls for or you will get disappointing results. Make sure to use the correct measuring techniques for the dry and liquid ingredients. Sift the four when the recipe requires it to make it fluffy, light, and airy, getting rid of lumps and increasing volume. Some recipes may require you to measure the flour first before sifting while others may require you to sift first before measuring. The order of these steps makes a difference in the final amount of flour and the end result of the recipe.

Dry ingredients

The ‘scoop and sweep’ method is one technique for measuring dry ingredients. You scoop the ingredients into the cup straight from the bag so that the cup is filled to the brim and then sweep off the excess at the top with a spatula or knife to level it off. Another method is to lightly spin the ingredients into the cup and then sweep off the excess with a spatula or knife so that there is better aeration, ideal for measuring light and delicate ingredients like flour.

Liquid ingredients

For liquid ingredients, use a liquid measuring cup and pour the ingredients carefully into the cup until you reach the desired amount. Make sure to place the measuring cup on a flat surface and read the measurement at eye level.

Getting Foods to Stick!

I don’t know about you, but my house has some picky eaters. A lot of the time dinner turns into meatloaf, chicken fingers, mashed potatoes, or any other type of food you can douse in ketchup. Plus I’m always stretched for time, and there are a lot of nights when the kids have to eat food on the go because they have after school activities.

One night I was driving my kids to one of their various activities and I hate to admit it but they were eating frozen corn dogs I pulled out of the freezer.  I thought to myself, there has to be a way to get them to eat better but still eat food they would like. After all, I had given them corn dogs that night because they like them and I don’t have to worry about the kids making a mess in the back seat. I mean, it’s on a stick! So that’s when I decided that I could give the kids full meals – and on a stick!

Vegetable/Side Ideas

Luckily I have my kids convinced that peppers and onions are delicious, so on a stick they shall be! We just need to work on some other vegetables too. I dress these sticks up with different sauces as well, like Dijon. I’ve also been tricking them into eating celery and carrots but skewering them and then sprinkling small amounts of buffalo sauce and blue cheese. I think these caprese skewers sound absolutely delightful! I have my kids convinced on the tomatoes and the basil, I’m just a bit worried about it being a little bit outside their picky zones. We might try it this week!

Main Meal

I thought this would also be a good way to open up their horizons and try something new, but at the same time, I didn’t want to shock their taste buds all at once. Most of my main course ideas still involve chicken, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be a little healthier. If I’m skewering chicken for the family, I’ll try to add some different sauces. So far Greek dressing, honey mustard, and pesto seem to be going well. I’ve also tried making beef teriyaki and roasted pork, which have all seemed to go over well. I also really want to try these spicy Moroccan chicken skewers, but I feel like that’s for when my kids reach the expert level, and right now we’re still beginners.


And of course I have to do some dessert for my kids. They both have quite the sweet tooth! For a healthy recipe, I have been layering strawberries, oranges, bananas, melon, and blueberries on sticks. They love the fruits and it’s very colorful!

But sometimes you want something chocolate-y for dessert, and I’ve found that cake pops are a HUGE crowd pleaser.  My cousin Shannon used to send us cake pops from Shari’s Berries.  The kids would tear open the box and devour them.  So I will have to practice making these when they are asleep and hide them so I can enjoy them myself.

Remember! Have some fun with it! March 28th is “Something on a Stick” Day so what better time to play around with food on a stick than in the month of March?!


Secrets of Cooking Shrimp For the Best Results

Shrimps are quick and easy to prepare and an affordable choice of seafood compared to other gourmet items like crab or lobster but can taste just as amazing when cooked perfectly. The quickest and simplest way how to cook shrimp is to fill a large saucepan with lightly salted water and bring it to a boil. Add the shrimps to the boiling water and cook for one to three minutes depending on the size, or until the shrimp turn pink and opaque. Drain the cooked shrimp immediately and rinse in a colander under cold running water to stop cooking. You can now peel the shrimps and enjoy as easy appetizers or cocktail. You can also add the cooked and peeled shrimps to salads, soups, pasta, noodles, pizza, rice toppings, toast, wraps, or sandwiches.


Fresh shrimps are deliciously sweet even with little or no seasoning but you can also prepare them in various ways. Some of the most common ways of how to cook shrimp include grilling, sautéing, frying, broiling, steaming, and poaching. Butter and garlic are a classic combination for sautéing shrimps. Serve shrimps sautéed in butter or garlic on top of toast for quick and easy appetizers or toss with pasta and you have a light and unforgettable meal. You can also season the shrimps with lemon juice, white wine, and fresh herbs like parsley, basil, thyme, or coriander.

South American-style

Different cultures have their own ways of preparing and serving shrimps. Shrimps tacos are very quick to make and can also be healthy. Instead of using ground meat, use shrimps along with shredded lettuce, tomato salsa, onions, cilantro, avocado or mango and shredded cheese as filling for tortillas. A popular South American dish, ceviche, can be made with fresh shrimps seasoned with lemon juice, salt, dried or fresh chili peppers and garnished with onions, bell peppers, cilantro, parsley, and cherry tomatoes.


Grilled shrimp is a popular backyard party food and takes only a few minutes to cook. You can thread the deveined shrimps onto skewers to make shrimp kabobs and grill over medium coals until pink and opaque. Grilled shrimps are perfect served with pilaf or couscous. You can also serve them with grilled pita bread together with mango salsa.


Stir-fry shrimps with vegetables like bok choy, asparagus, or snap peas and season with orange or lemon juice, soy sauce, ginger, and chili-garlic to make a quick and delicious Chinese meal. Serve on top of noodles or rice.


Classic Southern fried shrimps are made with a batter mixture of flour, egg, cream, and cornmeal. Cover the peeled and deveined shrimps in the batter and deep-fry. For a Cajun flavor, cook the shrimps in stewed tomatoes, peppers, garlic, wine, Tabasco sauce, and other spices. Make shrimp jambalaya with rice, tomatoes, garlic, ham, chopper vegetables, shrimps, and southern seasonings. Shrimp Creole is made with celery, onions and tomatoes and served with hot cooked rice. The popular southern staple shrimps and grits is made with stone ground grits and fresh shrimps. It can be topped with bits of bacon and cheese or other flavorful garnish like parsley and green onions.

How a cooking vacation in Tuscany re-kindled a passion for cheese

How often do you hear a writer bemoaning our processed, plastic diets? How far have we strayed from simple ingredients which now appear distant, rare and expensive like jewels. We once cast them aside in search of convenience. Now we are beginning to value nature’s true worth.

Why am I waxing lyrical in this way? I have just returned from a cooking holiday in Tuscany that began as one thing but has actually had a profound transformative effect on me. I booked it for a laugh. I fancied learning a little more about Italian food with a couple of girlfriends and Tuscany seemed a great choice of destination.

I didn’t bargain for having a road to Damascus moment in southern Italy, that’s for sure. We were sitting around in the cooking holiday villa during an al fresco lunch, eating our homemade ravioli we had just produced. The conversation, perhaps unsurprisingly turned to the Italian passion for cheese. One of the chefs suggested we visited one of his family members who makes organic Pecorino cheese. To be honest I was interested but not gripped but went along with the idea.

Watching the flock of sheep wandering in from the Spring countryside across the Tuscan terrain was one thing. Being seduced by the rhythmic milking of contented ewes was quite another. This is not a tale of romance and the impracticalities of cheese making in Surbiton. May I hasten to add, his is not a cri de Coeur. I am not bemoaning the fact we have largely forgotten the simplicity of using fresh produce to make unadulterated and extremely fine cheese on a day-to-day basis. It’s just a polemic for how we must appreciate the simple ingredients in life.

The farm we visited actually uses large cavernous vats and enormous whisks which rush through the milky white curds. They direct whey into another vat where ricotta is made. This is semi-industrialised production. Yet it is evident cheese making is a labour of love and part of an historic tradition that has never been lost; although it did come close in the 1960s.

Natural cheese making is really a miracle. The moisture is expelled by the cheese itself and forms a mould on the top that is scraped away. It’s not something you can hurry or transform; it is what it is and there’s an end to it.

Gone are the days where mani calde or warm hands, were necessary. Still, cheese making requires experience, knowledge and understanding. Things I began to acknowledge would make a difference to my own relationship with food. Certainly I never expected a simple cooking holiday to have such a philosophical impact on me.

I realised many Italians in the country still keep sheep and goats and make their own soft, ricotta style cheese every day which they serve in the afternoon with quince preserve, walnuts or just with fresh rustic bread. Too often we are looking for the latest trends, something different, something exotic. I believe quite strongly that sometimes we should just seek out the best, freshest and simplest ingredients.

Pecorino is aged in cellars and the cool, slightly sweet musty air signals all is ripening well. Balze Volterrane cheese has its rind rubbed with oak ash and olive oil. It has a reminder of the artichoke seeds that are used in the wild artichoke rennet which is used traditionally all over the Mediterranean.

The cheese I ate in Spring in southern Tuscany was something more than product. It spoke of the people, of the terrain of the knowledge and passion of this region. If you import and pasteurize milk you make a bland cheese if you allow the cheese to live and breath you have something very different.

I guess it’s not just the cheese that needs to feel like this. It’s strange what a cooking holiday in Tuscany can unleash. Don’t be shy why not book one and see just what you might discover about yourself and things you may well have taken for granted.


Flavours Holidays is a passionate, specialist tour operator offering quality cooking holidays in handpicked Italian locations.