Transported to Italy at The School of Artisan Food

What better way to spend a sunny Sunday in July than cooking up some wonderful Italian dishes at the fabulous School of Artisan Food in north Nottinghamshire? Can’t think of many. The School of Artisan Food is a favourite of Great Food Club, located in the former fire stables of the Welbeck Estate in the heart of Sherwood Forest.

With its outstanding reputation for training, it attracts skilled artisan producers and practitioners from across Europe. The School offers courses in traditional techniques such as baking, cheesemaking, charcuterie, brewing, butchery and preserving. It also provides courses on how to start your own food business and puts on fascinating lectures on food culture and the history of food.

I was delighted to be invited to attend an “Italian Summer” hosted by Valentina Harris, an acknowledged expert on Italian food with over 30 books published. We were a small group, enabling everyone to get to know each other and allowing time for Valentina to regale us with anecdotes of her time growing up in Italy, as well as clearly explaining the recipes and origins of the dishes we were preparing.

Our menu for the day included panzenella, a traditional salad with bread, a spaghetti with Trapanese pesto with almonds, a traditional Sicilian baked aubergine dish with tomato and mozzarella, and a superb sea bass baked in a salt crust. We also made both fruit and chocolate semi-freddo. All the recipes were delicious and easily replicated at home.

Valentina is an engaging and enthusiastic tutor who can happily work with both experienced cooks and those who need a bit more support. She encouraged us to work together in pairs and as a group (never sliced and fried so many aubergines in my life!) and had time to talk to everyone, taste their efforts and offer advice.

I always comment on the quality of the in-house catering at the School, which is never less than superb. Today we were provided with a simple but delicious feast of home-made breads, local cheeses and salads to keep the wolf from the door, before we concluded our day feasting on dishes we had produced throughout the course.

Valentina’s “Italian Summer” is great fun and informative, and on sunny day on the Welbeck Estate we were transported to Italy with the smells and ingredients of Naples and Sicily. If you fancy trying your hand at Italian cooking, I would highly recommend this course, which currently costs £185 and includes all your ingredients and a homemade lunch. You can also enjoy some of Valentina’s hand-picked Italian artisan products from her online store, Valentina’s Selection.

Abby Brennan
The author:

Abby lives in Radcliffe on Trent with her family and several chickens. She is a former restaurant owner and now mentors food business start-ups, writes recipes, and blogs at The Fishwife's Kitchen.