On Wednesday, I attended the ‘launch’ of Kirker Holidays’ latest addition to their Cultural Tours, gastronomy tours in Italy. Kirker for several years has operated many different small-group escorted tours including – opera, art, architecture, physics and science, gardens, battlefields and wine. The attraction for many is the small group sizes of between 10 and 20 people, although these are more on the opera and music festivals either at home or abroad.
The latest addition to their collection is gastronomy tours in Italy, designed and hosted by chef, author and broadcaster Valentina Harris. Known as the ‘Queen of Risotto’, she has actually just returned from her first tour to Emilia Romagna. This tour will be replicated next year, along with a new tour focused in and around her home city of Rome.
Our evening featured a masterclass of Italian cookery – including making pasta, the method of making Gnocchi as well as making the perfect Tiramasu. Valentina also gave us a demonstration of how to make a Mushroom Risotto, including the term ‘mantequilla’, where allowing the Risotto to rest comes from a direct translation ‘to butter up’. Mantequilla is the Spanish word for Butter. You can also see from the photo above, it also involved a huge amount of Parmesin!
Along with the demonstrations, we also sampled some of her recipes – including how she described her ‘Ragu alla Bolognese’ and how it had never seen minced beef or a can of tinned tomatoes. Instead, she uses four different meats (a mixture of steak, pancetta, and pork) hand diced, and a large amount of tomato puree.
Combining an interest such as cookery is a great way of exploring a new destination, or seeing somewhere you have been many times through different eyes. Valentina’s tours include a mixture of sightseeing, eating, at some cookery demonstrations to take in the whole of the destination.