(Nicola’s Story) Tweaking traditional recipes at Cookery School for alternative diets

Similar to having a guest editor, a student blogger “Nicola” has once again kindly shared her Week 3 experience in our cookery school with me.  

Her experience is truly unique as she is adapting many of our standard curriculum recipes as part of her quest to explore paleo recipes. We’re all enjoying getting involved in this creative enterprise which has yielded some very innovative combinations such as Paleo Cauliflower Rice Paella to Quinoa Sushi!

The following is her week 3 student story from participating in our Cooks Academy Cookery School, 4 week certificate programme.

Sea Bream with sauteed cauliflower, currants and pine nuts

Nicola says:

Week 3 has passed me by in a blur!  This week I’ve had the opportunity to test out some fantastic dishes with ingredients I wouldn’t ordinarily have at my finger tips.

First up I had the opportunity to test out a crispy sea bream teamed with anchovy dressing and sauteed cauliflower, currants and pine nuts, infused with saffron. Wow – what a combination!  Incredibly delicious and packed full of flavour! I can definitely see the cauliflower making an appearance as a stand alone dish for BBQ season, everybody loved it!

This week really has been amazing for alternatives, on Wednesday we had a fantastic Vegan demo from James De Burca of the renowned Cornucopia Restaurant on Wicklow street, Dublin 2, where we were introduced to the Vegan lifestyle and how to cater for Vegans in the kitchen, from meat alternatives to desserts! James’ alternatives are incredibly creative and packed full of flavour, although it wasn’t long before the crowd was split over his innovative use of avocado in a chocolate torte!

Chocolate Torte with Avocado and Pecan nut base.

Avocado aside we were won over by his Tempeh fajitas!  Tempeh is a traditional soy product that binds soybeans into a cake form, through a controlled fermentation process, an ingredient none of the group had cooked with before but definitely something we would all try out now!

Tempeh Stir Fry

Staying with the alternative theme Thursday’s menu gave me the flexibility to create all paleo dishes while still keeping in line with the skills and techniques being taught, which was fantastic!

Paleo Satay, using homemade almond butter:

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Paleo Paella, (recipe coming soon!):

and Quinoa Sushi!

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Sushi making was without a doubt one of the highlights of the week! It was incredible to see everyone’s creations and get to cut our own sashimi, something I would never have had to confidence to do before! Check out all of the creations below:

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But surely they made some sweet stuff this week?! Don’t worry over the last 3 weeks I have managed to develop quite the sweet tooth!! What began as merely sampling a crumb for tasting purposes has spiraled into, dare I say a love of baking?!

This week’s sweet treats in order of appearance;  Pana Cotta, Rhubarb Granita, Cooks Academy Carrot Cake, Homemade Cookie Dough, Perfectly Moist Cupcakes with sugar craft and last but by no means least Pear & Almond Tart!

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Carrot Cake

Each one as delicious as the last! I have always thought of myself as someone who “didn’t do desserts”, bar one or two crowd pleasers I have developed over time, but boy has that changed! I could talk for hours about each of these desserts I’ve been truly wowed again and again over the course of the last 3 weeks by the skills, techniques and even the ingredients that form part of these creations!

What really stood out this week dessert-wise, has to be the sugar craft. We crowded around Tutor Darina to get a good view of how to make the elusive rose. 6 pieces, press down, smooth with thumb, lift, smooth? Pinch a twist! She made it look so easy! Sighs all around and I realised I wasn’t alone in thinking, I’ll never get this!! She went through it again and casually mentioned she had made 100 of them in a few hours before!! How could something so perfect looking be easy to make?!

Off we went down to our benches and thanks to Darina’s step by step guide, each of use managed to make our own rose! Delighted with ourselves we presented them for marking, and a quick photo shoot before taking them home to show off our hard work!

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Cupcakes and Sugarcrafted roses

Friday was a meat-lovers heaven. I’ll let the pictures do the talking!

Rib of Beef


I cannot believe that we are facing into our final week here at Cooks Academy, I don’t want it to end!!  Be sure to check back on Thursday for this week’s round up!

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