Chef John Quinn
With little information about the course on the website, I wasn’t sure what to expect from my baking course at Tennent’s Training Academy. I was lucky enough to have had a peek at a couple of cookery demonstrations by chef John Quinn at the 50 Plus Show in Glasgow in November last year (I was exhibiting, not attending!) and had chatted to the staff on the stand about the courses they offered so I was delighted when I found vouchers for the Academy in my Christmas stocking.
As a home cook and baker (who may want to branch out into something more professional in the years to come!) who is eager to learn as much as possible, one of John’s mottoes stuck with me:
“Become a cook before you become an artist”
Well said! I always have an idea of what I want my cakes to look like but if they happen to be slightly lopsided, a tad caramelised or a wee bit different to my expectations, as long as they taste amazing and bring a smile to the faces of everyone eating them, I’m happy! It’s for exactly this reason that John’s courses highlight three things: flavour, flavour and flavour. It’s all well and good attending a course and learning how to create gourmet food with all the gadgets of a professional kitchen if you then face the frustration of not being able to recreate the same product at home. With that introduction, the day got off to a very good start!
I must admit that I spent the first 15 minutes just looking around me but unfortunately have very few photos to show. On display around the kitchen are not only the fresh, vibrant ingredients used for the more savoury courses but also an array of state-of-the-art kitchen gadgets including Kitchen Aid mixers, Magimix food processors and a hand blender that looked big enough (and powerful enough) to power a small boat. I was lucky enough to be the only person taking part in the course and as such had very little time to stop and capture the moment.
Shortbread and raspberry tower between two lemon ricotta cakes topped with homemade lemon curd and fruit
The concept for the day was an Afternoon Tea in Miniature with classic recipes perfected and reduced in size. On the menu were:
Foccacia (which was made into goats cheese, tomato and basil sandwiches)
Parmesan pastry (for mini chicken pies – by far my favourite thing we made!)
Lemon ricotta cakes
Chocolate fudge cakes
Lemon meringue pies
Meringue with a brandy snap, chocolate croissant, lemon ricotta cake and fruit filled brandy snap basket
John had certainly set up a challenge to get through all of this in just 7 hours but we succeeded! My favourites from the day were undoubtedly the mini chicken pies with parmesan pastry and the lemon ricotta cakes. I can’t describe how unbelievably tempting the parmesan pastry smelled as it was cooking and all the way home as it sat next to me on the bus. As my first attempt at making pastry, I can guarantee that I’ll be making this one again. The lemon ricotta cakes are equally delicious. Despite having a distinctly heavy feel, they are in fact gloriously light and very moreish!
Goat's cheese and tomato foccacia, mini chicken pie, lemon meringue pie and a brandy snap
A very happy pupil!
I was given all of the recipes that we made on the day to take home and hopefully recreate in equal splendour but I won’t be sharing them on here. If you’re keen to know how to make the dishes above, you’ll just have to go and see John yourself!
As well as their trade courses and more intense leisure courses, the Academy has also branched out into a more accessible form of cookery courses, including Cook, Curry and Comedy, Cupcakes and Cocktails and Saturday Night is Steak Night. These shorter courses combine creating your own culinary masterpiece with having a few drinks with friends and even heading out on the town. Perfect for those who are looking for a different night out.