Cucina Povera 2: an immersion in rural life- with Terroir
Thursday, 11th April to Sunday, 14th April 2024
This is our Spring Editon.
What will happen?
Three days in the kitchen or outside cooking on fires and foraging – everyone joins in if and when they want to. Meals are always convivial and we will also invite other people to participate in events. Surprise guests may arrive. A picnic at our vegetable garden hut with spit roast lamb.
In all my years living in rural Italy and travelling the world, the best food I have eaten has always been what in culinary literature is known as ‘Cucina Povera’ - ‘poor’ cooking. The adjective is certainly misleading as it refers to something currently celebrated as good and wholesome. It has become very expensive in restaurants all over the world! Not ‘poor’ at all but plain, simple, seasonal, salubrious and unpretentious in its essence. The irony is that Cucina ‘Povera’ has become the fashionable, expensive ‘cucina’ internationally and considered the best for your health.
Cucina Povera is really about using things from the land you have around you with care and respect, never wasting anything – so ‘povera ma buona’. Frugal but delicious, healthy and in modern terms sustainable.
Yes - we may use the famous ‘cucina economica’ which is like an Italian Aga – a wood burning stove used to warm the home and guess what! you use the same heat to cook the meal and vice versa! A good example of rural intelligence.
‘Cucina Povera’ is the style of food that now we have come to recognise as ‘Italian’ rather than the ‘Cucina Ricca’ once prepared for the nobles. Coming from ostentatious courts – like the Medici’s in Florence – the ‘Ricca’ version was exported to France by Catherine de Medici when she married the French King Henry II. A branch of it was absorbed into what we now recognise as ‘French’ cuisine. She apparently also introduced the fork to France!
When doing some research into the difference between the Povera and Ricca kitchen, it appears that the basic recipes often have the same origin but gradually more and more expensive ingredients get added in parallel with increases in wealth, trade activity, prestige and the desire to indicate status and being ‘Ricca’. As always to put on a fancy show – ‘La Bella Figura’. Same old story. Showing off.
‘Cucina Povera’ was usually passed down and developed by women who ran household supplies and the pantries, women responsible for the rationing, preserving and preparation of food for survival of the family and friends. There was always immense admiration in the community for the woman of the house’s special secret recipes. It was how you could sustain your kindred so they could flourish, work, provide, get married well and increase. A matter of pride and accomplishment. Who makes the best tortelli or pumpkin pickle? Still much of an argument in many villages now. Intrinsically this is about good nutrition, the most effective use of your resources and is found in different cultures all over the world
As we often get this type of cooking filtered through ‘chefs’ in less modest forms, I thought it would be interesting and quite frankly just a lot of fun to pay tribute to the manifold generations of women who have created an extraordinary and ancient tradition.
This weekend would be a hand’s- on, pile-into-the-kitchen cooking jamboree. In this day and age, we have many things to learn from common sense, thrift and skill. (The brilliant Pasta Grannies series gets a big-hats off from me as this expertise definitely needs passing on, saluting and documenting.)
To be engaging with these people whilst preparing food and see them work – something which is not usually accessible as family recipes are practically trade secrets and these cooks are not ‘restaurant’ professionals – is a very special opportunity - in fact - a privilege. There is always an insightful and comic story to relate about how, who and why. Kitchen gossip is often as delicious as the food.
Saturday night there will be a feast or ‘merenda’ accompanied by the local polyphonic mountain singers The Cardellini del Fontanino who are great friends and recently featured in Paramount’s series The Offer about the making of The Godfather. And sang at Potentino for Andrea Bocelli.
There will be optional nights and meals if you want to stay longer.
To whet your appetite... a quick video.
Charlotte Horton is co-owner and winemaker at the castle.
Judy Harman is head chef at the prize-winning Groto de Corgnan in the Veneto and has
dedicated herself to the local cuisine of the Valpolicella region.
Luisa Gozzi is an accomplished cheesemaker and is currently making cheese at the castle and ageing it in a cavern under the cellars.
Monica Patino is an internationally acclaimed cook from Mexico who has moved near the castle and runs a small hotel and restaurant.
Fabio Borgoni is a great friend and our local butcher. His charcuterie is top-notch and traditional.
Ervelina Palushi our castle angel is
from Albania and knows how to do everything and will be part of the kitchen team. She is an excellent cook.
Day 1 – Thursday, April 11th
Arrive Afternoon at Castello di Potentino
Dinner and introduction to the history of the region and wine with our host and winemaker Charlotte Horton.
Traditional dishes from the Veneto with Judy Harman – Groto di Corgnano
Day 2 – Friday, April 12th
Foraging Walk to Potentino’s vegetable garden and open-air cheese-making with local cheesemaker Luisa Gozzi
Picnic lunch at ‘Orto’ with food gathered from the vegetable garden.
Return to Castle
Free time to explore the grounds.
Mexican cucina povera with Monica Patino – La Pietra
Day 3 – Saturday, April 13th
Albanian cooking with Ervelina Palushi
Tuscan Butchery with Fabio Borgoni - Sausages and all the rest
Feast or ‘Merenda’ with local mountain singers Cardellini del Fontanino
Day 4 – Sunday, April
Big Breakfast of local
Optional extra day
Depart after breakfast
[We reserve the right to make changes to this
timetable if necessary]
If you are in the area and would like to join in for the cooking and meals, you are more than welcome- please contact Charlotte for prices. email@example.com
Board and lodging at Castello di Potentino
All cooking sessions
What's not included
Transfers to and from Potentino (can be booked as an extra)
Prices vary by room choice and number of guests sharing the room.
A single person from € 1050.
Two people sharing a room from €900 per person.
Three people sharing a room from €850 per person.
If you would like to pay a deposit
The payment system asks for payment in full. If you would rather pay a non-refundable 25% deposit at the time of booking, please enter the code DEPOSIT25 at checkout. The final payment will be due one month before the start of the course.
If you have any issues booking
Sometimes, it takes a few attempts to clear the cart if you need to make any changes to your room selection etc.
If you have any issues at all, please contact Alexander Greene firstname.lastname@example.org