Food and art in Tuscany

Guests who come to this water mill in north-western Tuscany hardly can decide whether they have come for the food or the art instruction. Most of them don't seem to care. They're too busy pinching themselves that they can enjoy both at once.

In true Italian fashion, food plays an important role in the creative holidays (painting and writing courses) at the beautiful Watermill at Posara in rural Tuscany, Italy. Inspire your mind, hone your talent and stimulate your tastebuds with superb local cuisine from Tuscany and the neighbouring regions of Liguria and Emilia-Romagna, be it gorgonzola soufflés, traditional Ligurian pesto using fresh basil from the garden or homemade tiramisu, all accompanied pre-dinner aperitivi and wines.

Among the most popular dishes is chocolate torta from Capri, a sumptuous cake made entirely without flour. Here's the recipe for a cake large enough for 10 to 12 servings.

CHOCOLATE TORTA

225 grams of plain chocolate (not less than 72% cocoa solids)
225 grams blanched almonds
225 grams granulated sugar
225 grams of unsalted butter
4 large eggs

Chop the almonds into small pieces (this can be done in a food processer but don't chop them too fine: you don't want ground almonds). Remove the almonds. Chop the chocolate to the same size. Remove the chocolate.

Cream the butter and sugar together in the food processor until fluffy. Separate the eggs.  Add 4 egg yolks to the butter and sugar mixture.

Whisk the egg whites to 'soft peaks'. Fold in the chocolate and the almonds into the butter/sugar/egg yolk mixture. Then fold in one large spoonful of whipped egg white to soften the mixture, before gently folding in the rest.

Line the bottom of a 20cm spring-release cake tin with greaseproof paper. Put the mixture into the cake tin and place in a pre-heated oven at 350ºC (180ºF). Cook for one hour.

Leave to cool, remove carefully from tin and slice. Serve with skinned, segmented oranges and softly whipped cream. Buon appetito!

The Watermill at Posara usually serves its homemade Capri chocolate torta at dinner on Thursdays during the painting holidays and creative writing courses. You can find out more about their painting holidays by clicking here. And about their creative writing courses, by clicking here.

The Watermill at Posara's 2014 programme includes 12 painting courses and three creative writing courses (crime fiction, TV scriptwriting and writing romance).  Three sample courses include:

Paintings that glow

It doesn't matter if you haven't picked up a paintbrush since school as all levels are catered for on this course (7-14 June 2014), led by sympathetic American artist Becky Joy. You'll be given the tools to create your own unique style through brushwork and colour. Your paintings will be filled with light when you discover how to make a painting glow. You'll head out and about into the Tuscan hills, using the local surroundings as inspiration. There's plenty of one-to-one tuition with Becky, and the week ends with an informal exhibition showcasing all of the students' work. Costs from - (GBP) 1,310 pp (two sharing)*.

Italian romance

They say that everyone has a book in them, and author Sharon Kendrick knows exactly how to extract ideas from her students. With more than 90 Mills & Boon books to her name, she's led six immensely popular courses at the Mill. During the week (3-10 May 2014), Sharon will guide you through the entire process, from the early days of plots, characters and dialogue, right through to selling your story and working with agents. Personable and enthusiastic, Sharon's passion for romantic fiction is contagious and she knows exactly how to bring out the best in her students. Costs from - (GBP) 1,310 pp (two sharing)*.

Paintings bustling with life

Self-taught English artist Trevor Lingard (20-27 September 2014) has won international acclaim for his watercolours, which are colourful and dynamic. Introducing figures into your work, he reckons, cold be the hallmark of success.Trevor's teaching is enthusiastic and informative and caters for artists of all levels. He aims to help students to build their confidence and encourages a loose approach to watercolours. On location, in the beautiful landscapes surrounding the mill, and in the studio, he'll demonstrate architectural, figurative, townscape and landscape compositions. Costs from - (GBP) 1,310 pp (two sharing)*.

*Prices include all tuition, seven nights' accommodation, all meals (including local restaurants), drinks and aperitivi, transfers (to/from Pisa), local transport, materials and a mid-week excursion. Flights extra.

 

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