Food in Tuscany: a journey into a repeated miracle of simplicity

Cooking is a civilized  way of communication,  it is a special way of taking care. The pleasure of  the eye and taste is,  in Tuscany,  increased by  grace and elegance because here cooking breathes life into  the even  simplest ingredients.  Just a drop of olive oil  on top of a slice of plain  bread finds its legitimacy as natural dressing,  far from blunting the natural savour.  It has been turned into a noble addition.

Verify the meaning of that,  turn the words into experience paying  a visit to the ”Bottega di Cuoco” of Paolo Bindi at Monte San Savino, Arezzo (for directions enquire at www. tuscanyholidayrent.com)

Get inside,  you will find yourself  in an extremely simple place,  a  dining hall with a large table for twelve  people.  All  guests sit together,  often they come from different countries,  they meet by chance but surely share a common taste for genuine and simple food.  You are  welcomed by the owner , Paolo,  who  turns from time to time into the cook or the waiter.  A former Latin  teacher (just for a very short time actually)  and  antiquarian, this  cultivated guy is  able to prepare  and offer his guests  excellent food  in a  convivial atmosphere. The pleasures of the table are accompanied by friendly talks.  In his Bottega di Cuoco,  whose name reminds us of medieval memories,  he has for ten years been preparing  old  recipes of the Tuscan countryside.  A fixed menu with  the best quality produce,  coming directly from the surroundings.  A gorgeously simple meal,  accompanied by generous Chianti wine  at an extremely cheap price.

Among the successful dishes we strongly recommend, the peposo stew from the most established Tuscan tradition.  Its  main ingredient is patience, in the past  its cooking could take up to eight hours.  Nowadays, in a more accelerated lifestyle,  three hours do.  Originally  the recipe goes back to the watch furnace lads working at Impruneta,  in the hills behind Florence, who used to keep an eye for the whole night on the wood-fired oven where the famous earthenware pots, bricks and vases were cooking. They cleverly  exploited the situation,  placing pots of peposo stew at the mouth of the oven,  where the red terracotta was hardening at a slow and even heat.

Try the recipe on your own.

For 4 servings:

– 500g/14oz beef stewing steak

– 6 cloves of garlic

– 3 ripe tomatoes

– 4 slices of  toasted stale Tuscan bread

– salt and pepper

Place the cubed stewing meat in a deep saucepan with chopped garlic and the tomatoes, previously  skinned and roughly chopped. Season with salt and pepper, much pepper(  a full tablespoon at least). Thence its name peposo.  Add cold water in order  to cover completely the meat. Now let it cook very slowly,  stirring from time to time. It will be ready in three hours’ time.  The secret is its slow simmering which  makes the spell of  such simple ingredients.  The stew has to be served boiling hot on crostoni,  that are the grilled slices of Tuscan bread.

Very amusing,  but having it at the bottega del cuoco at Monte San Savino is something more.

It  is a thrilling experience,  in an unusual setting,  in company of   random  fellow guests.

Another kettle of fish.

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