Take a slice of Spain, a pinch of Morocco, a dash of Greece and what do you have? The perfect recipe for learning about the ancient and modern cuisines of the Med, says Jenni Muir

Rosemary Barron's Greece - Ancient Flavours Modern Tables

If you think Greek food is just olives and ouzo, a week experiencing the island of Santorini through Rosemary Barron's eyes and palate will prove differently. "The cuisine has many inexpensive dishes that also have complex flavours," she explains. "It can be labour-intensive, but a lot can be made the day before. And it's a very colourful, practical cuisine."

You don't have to be a budding chef to enjoy this course - health nuts and history buffs will find plenty of stimulation too. "Classical Greece was the first time food was intellectualised and threads from those days live on in modern Greek cuisine," says Rosemary.

Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, understood the relationship between food and health. Now contemporary science is catching up, recognising that some of the best greens native to the Eastern Mediterranean - rocket, purslane, watercress - are packed with nutrients. "Greek oregano, which is different from the Italian, is very high in antioxidants," says Rosemary. "The Greeks use it by the handful."

Contact: www.tastingplaces.com, Tel 020 7460 0077. Cost: Week-long holidays from £1,420 including accommodation, all meals, drinks and excursions.

Refúgio da Vila Hotel and Cooking School, Portugal

Some may dismiss Portugal's cooking as a mere shadow of Spanish cuisine, but without it there would be no Japanese tempura, Goa would not have its vindaloo curries, Brazil would be lacking rice and eggy desserts, and dining in Macau would not be so fascinating.

The Alentejo, which stretches from the Tagus River at Lisbon down south to the Algarve, is one of Portugal's most picturesque regions. In Portel, a small town outside Évora, lies the Refúgio da Vila hotel, which runs cooking classes based on traditional local dishes. You'll work with aromatic herbs, wild flowers, vegetables and fruits. A special session is devoted to fish and olive oil. You'll sample wine at the Esporão Wine Estate. In downtime, relax on the patio, swim or explore.

Contact: www.refugiodavilla.com, Tel: +351 266 619 010. Cost: Single class with meal and wines €70. Week-long gourmet holidays from €1995 including all meals, wines, accommodation and excursions.

Gourmet, Granada

Granada in Eastern Andalucia was the last Spanish city to fall to the Catholic Monarchs and the Arab influences remain. Accommodation is primarily based at a former 18th century mill, now a charming rural lodge with organic restaurant and bakery. You'll travel through valleys lined with olive and orange trees, visit an ancient stone oil mill, enjoy a tapas tour, and take cooking lessons with popular Granadian chef Diego Morales of Restaurant La Pesqueria. There will time to go to the beach and the old spa town of Alhama de Grenada.

You'll learn to combine Andalucian ingredients and recipes in well-balanced menus, and how to prepare gorgeous dishes such as almond soup and Almanzor figs, filled with pastry cream and dipped in chocolate.

Contact: www.gourmetontour.com, Tel: 020 7396 5550. Cost:Week-long holiday from €2690 per person based on two people, including accommodation, several meals, three cooking classes, and excursions.

Culinary Adventures, Spain

Culinary Adventures is one of many private and tailor-made gourmet tours and cooking classes. They offer a wide range of itineraries across Spain. In Madrid, Gabriella Llamas shows how to produce authentic dishes such as potatoes "a la importancia" with clams and paella. In Seville, Australian Ruth Roberts, who's cooked professionally in Spain for over 20 years, will guide you around the central market then help you prepare tapas from the your purchases. The guides allow plenty of time for sightseeing and relaxing.

Contact: www.atasteofspain.com, Tel +34 915 316 489. Cost:Half-day cooking lesson from €140-250 depending on region, based on two people.

Dar Liqama, Morocco

Dar Liqama is a modern oasis a short drive from the walled city of Marrakech. Designed to reflect traditional Moroccan architecture, the villa has modern facilities such as spa, tennis courts, and eight spacious en suite bedrooms.

Its cookery holidays are a perfect introduction to North Africa and its aromatic dishes. You'll see the vast Djemnaa El Fna Square with the snake charmers, acrobats and food stalls. You can take eight or nine classes in traditional Moorish dishes including salads, lamb and, of course, couscous.

Contact: www.gourmetontour.com, Tel: 020 7396 5550. Cost: Week-long holiday from £1197 per person including accommodation, all meals, house wine, eight or nine classes and excursions.


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