IT is cold, grey and damp outside - so the prospect of a day sampling the sunshine flavours of Rome sounds like just the tonic.

I've been invited to join a group of enthusiastic foodies who have signed up for a full-day course at York College's Cookery School, which first opened this summer.

The course - A Culinary Tour of Rome - is run by York College head chef Gio Achenza and is just one of many being offered by the institution over the coming academic year, with prices from £20.

At 9.30 on the dot, Gio appears in the college atrium and leads us into the professional kitchens where hospitality hopefuls are put through their training and where tutors and students run the popular college restaurant, Ashfields.

We are all given aprons and blue hair nets, led to work stations, and then gather round the demo area at the front where Gio talks us through the menu of the day.

Inspired by the flavours of Rome, we are to make Pollo alla Romana, a chicken dish with peppers, tomatoes and herbs, followed by a proper carbonara, and finish by baking some, Fave dei morti, Italian almond biscuits.

The cold of autumn is soon forgotten as the professional hotplates and ovens fire up and we are warming ladles of olive oil in our pans to fry our skin-on chicken thighs to an appetising golden brown colour.

York Press: Our tutor Gio puts us through our paces on our flavours of Rome cookery dayOur tutor Gio puts us through our paces on our flavours of Rome cookery day

As they cook, we prepare the rest of the sauce: parboiling fresh tomatoes so their skins come off with ease and thinly slicing red peppers so they will eventually melt away in the heat.

We are told we are to cook our own lunch - spaghetti carbonara, made the true Italian way, without cream.

I am intrigued when I look at the ingredients list: just bacon lardons, spaghetti, eggs and parmesan. How will we not end up with a horrible scramble?

All is revealed as Gio shows us how to make the silkiest of carbonara sauces by adding the eggs and parmesan to a pan of drained, cooked spaghetti (using the same pan we first used to fry off our bacon lardons). Off the heat, we add spoonfuls of cooked pasta water to the egg, parmesan, and pasta concoction, stirring all the time to prevent the sauce from clagging.

Once ready, we pile the spaghetti into bowls and take it through to the next-door Ashfields restaurant and gobble it up hungrily. We all agree it was delicious and easy to make - when you know how. A ten minute supper, mastered.

For our final recipe, Gio shows us how to make little Italian biscuits flavoured with almonds and cinnamon.

As they bake away in the oven, the room is filled with festive aromas.

There is time to chat to other students, wash up the used dishes, and make plans to come back for another course.

York Press: Maxine's spaghetti carbonara - made without creamMaxine's spaghetti carbonara - made without cream

It is a brilliant day. Everyone seems to have really enjoyed it and Gio is friendly and helpful, keeping an eye on all of us and our pans and trays, and sharing some great tips that we can all take home and apply in our every day cooking.

Besides the one-day workshops, the Cookery School is offering a series of classes that run over five consecutive weeks including plant-based cooking, pasta making, and desserts.

The courses are targeted both at complete beginners (note the five-week course titled 'Kitchen Disaster to Culinary Master') and those who have existing culinary skills but want to build on their confidence in the kitchen.

With course fees ranging from just £20 to £35, which includes the provision of ingredients, the Cookery School also represents great value for money.

Click here for more information on the Cookery School and its courses.

Please email or call 01904 770253 for more information on future events or to make a booking.