Alexis Thompson talks about recruiting Italian cook Mariella Bliss to teach her children's cookery classes.

With more than 20 years’ experience of teaching cookery between us, Mariella Bliss and I have joined culinary forces to bring cookery classes to the young, budding chefs of Oxfordshire.

Our great loves are people and food – so sharing that passion with keen students is what they enjoy most.

Mariella was born south of Naples, an area rich in culinary diversity, cultural influences, and beautiful produce. Family life centred around cooking, using lovely local ingredients.

When Mariella moved to Oxfordshire, she began reproducing those authentic Italian recipes, selling her bread, fresh pasta, sauces and biscuits. She soon discovered that people shared her passion and wanted to learn, so began running Italian cookery classes.

As a little girl, I loved cooking with my mother, an experienced cook. After appearing on BBC’s MasterChef, everything changed and following a stint in radio, I decided to retrain.

After taking my Cordon Bleu diploma, I launched Dancing Trousers Cookery School at my home near Burford where I teach everything from macaron making to vegetarian cookery and knife skills.

Cooking is one of life’s greatest skills – and the younger you start, the more likely you are to understand and appreciate healthy eating. So we introduced our own children’s cookery classes.

Held in Filkins Village Hall, between Lechlade and Burford, the classes are a big hit with 7-11 year olds.

The courses are fun and totally hands-on, the young chefs getting thoroughly involved in preparing a main course and dessert which they then eat together. Plus, there is always something to take away.

They tend to be Italian-themed (what else with a genuine Italian chef in the room?) and the first one involved 15 excited junior chefs making their own pasta from scratch.

They mixed and kneaded their dough, rolled it through a pasta machine, incorporated herb leaves into the pasta sheets and mixed different colours to get striped and patterned results.

They cut the dough into tagliatelle and formed it into neat nests to dry. They also learnt knife skills and used these to good effect to prepare a delicious fresh tomato and basil sauce. The teaching goes both ways too – the young chefs insisted on teaching Mariella and Alexis how to do ‘The Floss’!

On Saturday July 21 the children will be making fresh dough and choosing their own toppings for individual pizzas. For dessert they will be having authentic Italian strawberry ice-cream. On Tuesday July 31 the children will make minestrone soup with pesto, yeasted rolls and chocolate mousse.

The courses run from 10am to 1.30pm and cost £35.