Don’t get me wrong, I love cooking.
On television, that is.
I could spend hours watching everything from Masterchef’ to My Kitchen Rules and mouthing off at the contestants for their failure to master a soufflé or get the taste exactly right – from the comfort of my couch.
But when it comes down to actually rustling up something for dinner, I’m more of a Can’t Cook, Won’t Cook type of guy.
I have no problems eating out and love adventurous cuisine, but I lack the confidence and motivation to get stuck in. So many ingredients to get and it takes too much time. And there are always takeaways.
Enter, stage right, David Rice.
David is the award-winning chef at Ballinacurra House in Kinsale and he runs the Kinsale Gourmet Academy there. Who better to put me on the right culinary road, I thought?
Of course, it was one thing getting cooking lessons, but to be getting them from such a renowned chef had me really worried.
Thankfully David understood my anxiety over my lack of skills in the kitchen, and he reassured me that it wouldn’t hurt to give it a whirl.
The Kinsale Gourmet Academy is a purpose-built cookery school on the grounds of the stunning Ballinacurra House. Its bright and airy interior makes it conducive to cooking and their masterclasses and gourmet weekend workshops are proving very popular with private groups and those looking to do something different.
In fact, David was telling me that a group was coming that weekend for a 40th and they were going to cook at the school and eat their creations – a night out with a difference.
David has recently been appearing on RTE’s Today Show where his gourmet recipes have been exciting viewers.
He has extensive experience, having worked at Gordon Ramsay’s Claridges and Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen in Cornwall.
Just minutes into my tuition, I felt like I was a participant in Channel 4’s reality show From Burger Bar to Gourmet Star – such was my glaringly obvious lack of cooking knowledge, never mind gourmet cooking.
Before I arrived, David had asked what I was interested in cooking and we decided we might give curry a go.
Not one, but two – an Indian and a Thai Green Chicken curry.
And there was even a mention of naan bread.
Having never even attempted a curry before, the trepidation began to show on my face.
David calmly reassured me that I would be well able for the task in hand, and to just follow his lead.
And he was right.
By just following what he did, I was slowly getting into the swing of it, starting with the naan bread and working with the dough to shape it.
The sense of achievement in actually kneading the dough successfully was great.
Once we let it sit in a warm place for a few minutes, we then put teaspoons of mango chutney in the middle of the circles of dough and then folded one side over to make a semi-circle shape.
I had a result when, after grilling, the breads came out puffed and golden.
They tasted alright too, so double result!
But I was slightly worried that we were going to be attempting two curries.
Surely one would suffice, considering my lack of culinary skills, I told David?
But David suggested we work on the two at the same time, so nothing ventured and all that …
Surprisingly enough, we started with the rice, which I normally thought would have been the last step.
David measured two cups of water to one cup of rice, to ensure the rice was perfectly fluffy and not too starchy.
Next up, was getting the paste ready. I was now totally out of my depth.
This involved chopping garlic, ginger, spring onions, green chilies, which we then blitzed together in a food processor.
It was the chopping that I was most worried about, as I watched David plough through it all with relatively ease – a gift all TV chefs seem to possess.
But soon, I was actually enjoying the process and making sure I followed his very detailed instructions.
Next up – keep stirring both pots and then add the coconut milk, fish sauce and soy sauce.
The last thing added to the Thai Green Chicken Curry was the chicken, which we cut in long strips and then added some basil leaves for flavour.
As we plated up and presented the dishes, I was really impressed with how it all looked, and what’s more, it tasted great.
I was also delighted to learn that it doesn’t take that long to cook up a curry from scratch, and as David said, you really could have one cooked up by the time you got a takeaway ordered and delivered.
Thankfully, both David and the Ballinacurra kitchen were relatively unscarred by my presence.
It was a true pleasure to learn to cook with a master, and in such great surroundings. Now, who’s for dinner? Please form an orderly queue.
I just hope you like curry.
*For more, see http://kinsalegourmetacademy.com/ or call 021 4779040