Friday, 13 June 2014

A day in the life of Nick Nairn Cookschool Aberdeen

What do you buy the foodie who has everything for a Christmas present? Clearly a problem faced by my husband! Plotting took place behind my back at the launch event of Native by Nick Nairn. Come Christmas Day I was presented with a gift certificate for "The Foodie Quine Experience". How exciting!

Anyone who's been to the Nick Nairn Cookschool and been taught by John Webber knows that he's the best in the business. The fact that he was awarded Best Tutor at the British Cookery School Awards is testament to this. I knew that I would indeed be dazzled, inspired and educated. I wasn't so keen on the exhausted part. Not sure what time his key unlocked the door on the morning of May 23rd but I reckon he was probably already on his third cup of coffee by the time I reported for duty at 9am.

First class of the day was "Fabulous Feast of Fish" which ran from 9.30 - 4pm in the upstairs kitchen. Deliveries to check and mise en place trays to prepare before the class arrived. John immediately put everyone at ease running through the format of the day, the layout of the kitchen and most importantly what was on the menu.
Time to meet our fishy friends and have a chat about what to look out for when buying fish and learn about different ways of preparing and cooking it. The first dish that John demonstrated was Seared Soy Glazed Tuna Loin which needed time to marinate throughout the rest of the class. The Salt Cod to be used in the next dish had already been prepared but we got a demo of how to do it ourselves in order to make Crispy Fillet of Sea Bass with Garlic Salt Cod Mash and Sauce Tartare. The class paired up and headed off to their cooking stations to recreate the dish for themselves.
Everyone did a great job and I assisted where I could with any cries for help. Think I almost managed to blag my way as knowing what I was doing. It helped that I've been at the cookschool on many previous occasions so I knew my way around the kitchen and how to work the induction hobs which can be a bit bamboozling at first. No dish of my own to eat but I managed to nab a decent amount of John's before it vanished to the back kitchen to be devoured.
Fillet of Sea Bass with Garlic Salt Cod Mash and Sauce Tartare
Whilst the class ate it was a quick cleanup, wipe down and reset of the kitchen for the next dish which was monkfish with a chickpea and potato stew. By this point I think John realised that I might have some idea of what I was doing so he let me loose to prep the salmon, tuna and scallops for the three fish tartare and slice up the tuna loin and pull together the Asian Crunch Salad. Best perk of the day was getting to eat the end slices of the tuna. Definitely my favourite dish of the day.
Roast Monkfish Tail with Pancetta, Chickpea and Potato Stew
Seared Soy Glazed Tuna Loin with Asian Crunch Salad
Three Fish Tartare 
The day class finished and as they left the participants thanked John for a fantastic day and shook his hand. I must have done a half decent job as an imposter as some made the effort to seek me out and thank me too. I felt somewhat of a fraud. No rest for the wicked though as a quick turn around between classes. Less than 2 hours to clean up, wipe down, reset and prep for the 3 hour evening class.
Full house of 24 for a corporate 3 hour class from 6-9pm. Prosecco on arrival and wine and beer on tap throughout. I do like to cook with a glass in hand but had to stick to coffee and water on this occassion. The evening menu was Perfect Steak Sandwich followed by Lemon Tart.
John remained cool, calm and collected when one guest advised that she was Coeliac. A KP was dispatched for gluten free bread and I was set to making a Lemon Posset for her desert. I honestly don't think anything could get him in a flap. He has the patience of a Saint. 
The Ultimate Steak Sandwich with Basil Aioli and Grilled Vegetable
Following John's demo the class each cooked up their own steaks in their preferred way with Thermopens to ensure each was cooked to perfection. A Lemon Tart demo followed which we then plated up as the steak main courses were enjoyed. Top tip gleaned was counting the number of bumps round the edge of your flan dish to ensure even slices. A bit of blowtorch action, raspberry sauce smearing and icing sugar sprinkling and 24 plates of desert were ready to serve.
As the evening class departed time again to clean up and scrub down ready for the next day. After 13 hours I was certainly feeling the promised exhausted but I'd also been very much dazzled, inspired and educated. I headed home and put my feet up with a large G&T meanwhile John was all set for more of the same bright and early next day.

Huge thanks to John for welcoming me into his domain and to Julia, Kath, Claire and Nick for enabling it to happen. Shout out too for Foodie Loon who schemed up the idea in the first place. Can't wait for this years Christmas present.

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