Taste of Andalucía, Spain
A quintessential red-roofed, white-walled Andalucían farmhouse run by a Welsh/Japanese couple, Finca Las Encinas is popular with hikers exploring Spain’s Sierras Subbéticas natural park as well as with foodies. The latter group book in for wine- or olive oil-tasting classes or small-group cookery courses (three or six nights). Co-owner Clive teaches guests to make local dishes such as Córdoban almond gazpacho, quails with pomegranate sauce or poached pears in lavender syrup and honey. Ingredients are either from the grounds or bought from local farmers, and meat and seafood all comes from sustainable sources. A typical main course might be clams and sweet shrimps cooked in fino and topped with kombu seaweed.
• Doubles from €60 B&B, dinner from €22 for two courses, cooking courses from €380pp for three nights with two cooking courses, finca-las-encinas.com
Fika and baking, Sweden
Vaxholms B&B, on the island of the same name in the Stockholm archipelago, is run by home baker Linda Wahlström. Rooms in her 1930s villa come with kitchenettes, and Linda offers afternoon courses in cinnamon bun-baking. While the dough rises, she can provide local dining tips. For more of Linda’s cooking, time a stay to coincide with the occasional Sundays when she opens a cafe in her greenhouse, serving waffles, cinnamon buns, soup and homemade cakes (check website for dates). Or book as a group, and she will cook lunch or dinner (with a cook-along element on request) focusing on traditional Swedish fare, from smørrebröd (open sandwiches) to fried herring with mashed potatoes, lingonberries and pickled cucumber or pies with homemade vanilla sauce.
• Doubles from £102 room-only (breakfast basket £8pp), half-day cinnamon bun course £49pp, vaxholmsbedandbreakfast.se
From pizza to truffles, Italy
Fattoria Barbialla Nuova, an organic Tuscan farmstay known for its white-truffle experiences, has 10 apartments and villas spread around a 500-hectare estate, with an outdoor swimming pool, table tennis, a well-stocked farm shop and an open invitation to forage for blackberries, figs, plums, pears, cherries and peaches, or to collect eggs from the hens. Guided truffle hunts run in the autumn, but informal cooking classes with chef Serenella can be booked year-round (aimed at adults or children, they range from grandmotherly Italian recipes such as risotto alla milanese with saffron and bone marrow to making breads, pasta and pizzas).
• Self-catering apartments from €58 a night (two-night minimum), cooking classes from €70pp, truffle hunts from €60, i-escape.com/fattoria-barbialla-nuova
Haute Alpine, France
Owners Sandrine and Xavier used to run a restaurant in Nantes but relocated to Maison Cimes in Les Orres, high in the Apls close to the Italian border, to run this stylishly serene five-bedroom mountain retreat. Mornings begin with organic apple juice, homemade yoghurt, bread, jams, local cheeses, seasonal fruit (or fruit compotes) and freshly baked madeleines. A table d’hôte dinner is available by arrangement. It’s also possible to join the owners for an informal cooking class and dinner. Expect a step up from tartiflette and rustic mountain stews: typical dishes include haddock tartare with apples, cucumber and sauce gribiche; and poached rhubarb with a yoghurt and sorrel sorbet.
• Doubles from €130 B&B, cooking classes €80pp, maison-cimes.com
Catch your supper, Portugal
Style meets sustainable substance at Casa Mae, a white-and-blue hotel close to the beach in Lagos, in the western Algarve. Its 30 bedrooms are split between a 19th-century townhouse, a modern wing and three self-contained cabanas right beneath the city’s walls, with a garden and swimming pool. The garden provides produce for the restaurant, supplemented by the owner’s nearby farm, and farm-to-table cooking classes celebrating local fare are on offer too, as well as craft workshops. Guests can join a “sail, fish and grill” trip, spending an afternoon out in a boat then grilling or making ceviche with their catch (bass, sole, bream, mackerel or red mullet) the next day. Lunches and dinners at the hotel’s restaurant are equally on-message, with many dishes heavy on the veg (broccolini with confit tomato, goat’s cheese and black garlic, or braised octopus with sweet potato purée, broccoli and spinach), a zero food-waste remit and a natural wine list.
• Doubles from €90 room-only, afternoon cooking classes from €65, four-hour fishing tour €110, casa-mae.com
Field to fork, Italy
Ca’ de Memi is a 10-bedroom agriturismo in the Veneto, 40 minutes from Venice by train, run by three generations of the same family – Ottorino taking care of the land, his wife Michela the kitchen, their daughters Elena and Giulia doing the marketing and nonna Francesca overseeing it all. The kitchen is at the heart of the home – and of the visitor experience. Breakfasts include homemade cakes and jams, eggs from their own hens and local cheeses and meats. Lunch and dinner are available by arrangement, as are hands-on cooking classes with Michela, where guests pick herbs and vegetables from the garden for the full field-to-fork experience, with a focus on making local classics such as risotto with hop shoots and radicchio, braised chicken with polenta or apple and cinnamon cake.
• Doubles from €88 B&B, cooking classes from €65pp for around three hours, including lunch or dinner, cadememi.it
Striking oil, Greece
Five chic villas with views of vineyards and olive groves, a biodynamic vegetable garden to raid, wine tastings and cooking classes, animals for children to feed, beaches 35 minutes drive away … Eumelia farm in the south-eastern Peloponnese is the perfect place to relax. At its heart are the olive trees: there are over 1,000 of them, and Eumelia employs two in-house oil sommeliers to share their knowledge with guests, who can join an olive oil tasting, eat it on dishes such as orange and fennel salad and feta pie in the restaurant (lunch and dinner by arrangement) or, in November and December, help with the harvest. Longer gastronomic stays are possible, from a five-day olive oil experience to a week-long culinary tour with classes, meals and visits to other producers in the Laconia region.
• Doubles from £125 B&B, olive oil experiences from €65pp, eumelia.com
Balkan bites, Slovenia
Fifteen minutes’ drive from the Slovenian capital, Ljubljana, the Trnulja organic estate produces olive oil, wine and flour (which it uses in its restaurant and sells in its shop). Guests can stay in five apartments built with the estate’s own timber and natural clay plaster – and enjoy olive oil tasting and organic cooking classes. The restaurant serves lunch and dinner at weekends: dishes might include roasted carrots with walnut oil, goat prosciutto, gnocchi with basil and hemp sauce and struklji (traditional pastries) with walnuts and honey.
• Apartments for two from €89 room-only, olive oil tastings from €20pp, cookery classes €90, trnulja.com
Moro masterclass, Spain
Emma and David, British owners of Las Chimeneas, a collection of village houses plus a restaurant in the Alpujarras, Andalucía, have an intimate knowledge of the local area and its cuisine, having lived here for over 20 years. You can just stay in their B&B rooms or apartments, but one-week culinary breaks are popular. This autumn’s courses include a masterclass with Moro owner Sam Clark, and a breadmaking workshop led by E5 Bakehouse owner Ben MacKinnon, taking in everything from ciabatta to bagels. Guests can also help at the property’s organic farm, joining the olive harvest in January, picking oranges in the spring or gathering almonds, figs, grapes, pomegranates and walnuts in autumn.
• Doubles from €90 B&B, self-catering from €350 a week for two or €550 half-board with cookery demos and outings. Specialist courses from €1,075, laschimeneas.com
Mindful eating, Ireland
The main business of Macalla Farm on Clare Island, off County Mayo, is yoga retreats, but when they aren’t running, visitors are welcome to stay on a B&B basis. It also hosts food courses, including eating mindfully and veggie cooking. Those staying two nights can opt for a two-hour, one-on-one skills session – choosing from veggie cooking, fermenting and preserving, sourdough baking or organic gardening. All food is provided, some of it to make a DIY meal, some cooked for you (wholesome veggie salads, stews and home-baked breads).
• Doubles from €70 B&B, skill session stays €120pp pn in a single room (though if you’re a woodworker or soap-maker they’re open to skill swaps). macallafarm.ie
Rhiannon Batten is the travel editor of olive magazine
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