Our international cookery students this week…

This week our international cookery students produced two different dishes, a dessert and a main.

It just so happens that this week, Chef Greg came up with all the recipes for the students and it was very exciting to see how the students did with two dishes that both contained challenging elements.

Now, we know you usually don’t start your meal off with dessert, but in this case we are breaking the rules because we have a major sweet-tooth. For dessert was a delicious dish of poached pears in spiced brown sugar syrup, and then complemented with vanilla bean quenlles. Quenelle is a term which in days gone by, referred to a small and delicate dumpling made with ground meat or vegetables, which has then been seasoned and ‘bound’ with a paste that may have included eggs, fat, flour, breadcrumbs or cream.

This savoury dumpling was then shaped using two spoons in order to give it its distinctive shape. Nowadays the term quenelle refers mainly to the shape of an element and not its ingredients. When the students had a go at this after witnessing Trainer Chefs Greg and Heather deftly shape their own quenelles of vanilla bean cream, they soon found that it was not as easy as they made it appear. Shaping a quenelle is definitely a skill that requires practice, but by the end of the day both Chefs were thoroughly impressed with the students presentation of their quenelles.

The dessert the students produced in the end presented beautifully and spiced syrup really made the dish something special.

Going back to the main meal now, the students made an amazing dish consisting of handmade potato gnocchi and a deliciously herbed pesto. Making gnocchi from scratch can be quite a fiddly and time consuming process, but the results, if done right, are always worth the extra effort.

When making potato gnocchi, Chef Heather told us that it is very important to choose the right type of potato, making sure that it is a “floury” variety such as a Sebago potato. Another important thing to remember about making gnocchi is not to overwork your dough as this can cause the gnocchi to be very tough and chewy, and give them an otherwise unappealing consistency. After the students had finished preparing their own batches of gnocchi they got to work on making a basil pesto to accompany it. The primary elements of the pesto the students made were basil, garlic and Parmesan, but there are many other ingredients that can be added to pesto to give it different flavours and colours.

As a result of the students hard work and careful gnocchi making the final dish they presented looked amazing and tasted great too. The standout element of the whole dish was definitely the gnocchi itself as it was soft, well-cooked and carried of the flavours of the basil pesto beautifully.

All together this week of gnocchi making and quenelling was a huge success for the students, especially as they learnt some essential skills that will help them throughout their whole cooking careers. Great job everyone, we can’t wait to see what you make for us next week!

If you would like to have a go at making poached pears in spiced brown sugar syrup along with vanilla bean quenelles check out the recipe below…


Serves 4


1 vanilla bean, halved length ways (vanilla bean can also be used)

2 cinnamon sticks

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 cup firmly packed brown sugar

4 Packham pears or Buerre Bosc pears, peeled


  1. Place 4 cups of cold water, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and sugar in a saucepan over a medium-high heat, then bring to the boil.
  2. Reduce heat to medium-low.
  3. Add pears. Cook, partially covered with the liquid and turning occasionally, for 18-20 minutes or until pears are just tender.
  4. Remove from heat.
  5. Allow pears to cool in syrup, turning occasionally. Using a slotted spoon, transfer pears to a plate.
  6. Return syrup to medium-high heat and bring to the boil.
  7. Boil for 10 minutes or until liquid is reduced by one third.
  8. Serve pears with sugar syrup and cream or ice-cream quenelles.

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