Cheese Cacao and Dessert workshop at Matthew Kenney Culinary


So I decided to come back. I wanted to learn more. To see if I can transform some of my dishes that has dairy into vegan, without losing the character of the dish. I was eager to find out how to make the  fermented and aged cheese, how to temper chocolate and make raw chocolate bars and prepare desserts, using plants only, for cream, pastry sheets or dough. This post a short summary of my experience. Please come back to see my recipes and instructions in the future using fermented, unfermented cheese and making plant based desserts.



I highly recommend any of the courses at the school, it will open your eyes, show a totally different way of cooking that can be partially or fully implemented in your everyday cooking, making healthier dishes all the time.

I love cheese. And I do eat cheese. A lot. And I am also a chef. A very open one. And I do respect all kinds of views on diets. I may not see them right, may not share them but respect them. The reason I am interested in vegan and raw cooking is not because I am planning to convert myself. It is rather my curiosity for everything in the culinary world and my desire to create delicious, enjoyable and beautiful food using different ingredients.

So when I heard about fermented tree nut cheese production I was totally intrigued. Fermentation is a favorite thing of mine. Mainly because of the taste. Kombucha, kimchi, love them all.



In the previous class, ( )  we already learnt how to make unfermented cheese. You can make a vegan cheese using any kinds of nut trees however it is rare that walnuts or pecans would be used and they are not suitable for fermentation at all.

During this workshop we made both fermented and unfermented cheese. Started off making an unfermented cheese using macadamia and prepare a raw beet ravioli for lunch with this ricotta like tree nut cheese.

Walnut pesto and  basil oil was also added to the dish and resulted in a beautiful, colorful plate of food.



You can try making this ravioli with any kinds of root vegetables. In any case you have to slice the vegetable very thin on a mandolin and drizzle with salt and olive oil and let it rest for 10-15 minutes.




As opposed to unfermented cheese, the fermented one will have a pungent flavor and does require time for fermentation 24-48hours, not longer to avoid molding. A dehydrator is used for fermentation, however it can also be done in your cupboard 🙂 at a constant temperature, not cold, not hot. Without introducing bacteria fermentation will not take place so for this reason you will need to add some probiotics to the cheese if you want to ferment it.

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Then in 1-2 days when you open your little bag of fermented tree nut cheese, crust will be seen on the surface,


and your fermented cheese is ready to be seasoned, formed, eaten or ready for ageing if that is what you want.

At the workshop we made a macadamia and cashew fermented cheese and rolled it into a log, coated with chopped herbs and it is the vegan version of an herbed chèvre.


On second day, after 24 hours of fermentation we used this chèvre to make a simple salad for lunch which consisted of arugula, apple, candied walnuts and a sherry vinaigrette. A fresh, flavorful salad, which has a good balance of sweet, tart and savory.




Cacao. Chocolate. These are the words that make everybody say hmmmmmm. Nobody I know has problems eating them. But there is a difference. Difference between processed, not raw, or even milk chocolate. I know many people love them. I also used to. But not anymore. Quite a few years ago I started eating dark chocolate. It was a very important part of my diet and that was almost the only sweet thing I consumed. Gradually my taste buds adjusted completely and since then I can not eat milk chocolate.

So I was really excited to see how raw chocolate is made and taste something which was so pure, natural and had amazing taste and also so good for us.

There was a cacao tempering demo by Alice and we had a chance to make our own raw chocolate “bars”. It was soooo good to put what I wanted in my chocolate bar instead of putting up with someone else’s choice when buying the chocolate at the store 🙂 So I made one for myself with pink peppercorn, goji berries and pumpkin seeds and also made my husband his favorite flavors, sour cherry with pistachio. Not only tasted good, looked insanely pretty but also it is pure goodness for you.



On day 1 we mixed together  vanilla almond macaroons and after these pretty little things spent a day in the dehydrator we took them out and enjoyed the quenelles of pure raw goodness at home. I must admit. I was not overly excited about this one. But oh, how good these were with my coffee in the morning!!! And provided all the necessary energy for the start of the day.



And then this happened. My favorite part.

I love cooking and I am a chef. So for me making complex dishes is fun. This Napoleon here is not the dessert that you will mix up in 10 seconds and that’s it ….ready…. Oh no. As you can see there are a few things going on on that plate.


First off. The Napoleon has layers of “pastry” sheets. These sheets were made with cashews and macadamias and the binding agent,  as pretty common in vegan baking, is flax meal. Pictured below. It was hard to believe that this will hold, but the flax meal and the dehydrator definitely made a good job!

macadamia pastry

In between the layers there is a chocolate sheet too, which is pure cacao powder and cacao butter with some flavoring. To make the dessert a bit lighter, this Napoleon has fresh strawberries and also served with a simple puree of strawberries. And that perfect scoop of ice cream looking thing is chantilly cream made with cashews, coconut meat, almond milk and flavorings. It is the tastiest vegan thing I ever tried, for sure!



Although I am not vegan I totally respect the decision of people who decide to follow this route. Everything that I learnt at Matthew Kenney Culinary helped me to see and understand how tree nuts can be used to transform dishes into vegan and how amazingly endless opportunities these nuts provide for vegans. It is an exciting revelation for me because it will let me create freely in the vegan world the same way as in any other one. And yes, sometimes my dishes look too pretty to eat them, but look! Pretty even while eating! 🙂





A day in the world of plant based, raw cooking

Do you think this plate of food looks appetizing? Would you like to eat it? I most certainly hope your answer is yes.

Plant based raw cooking is not only about chewing on carrot  sticks and drinking smoothies. “It is a diet comprising naturally grown wild or organically and sustainably raised fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and occasionally sprouted grain. Raw foodists do not consume chemically processed or pasteurized ingredients. And finally, most significantly, nothing is cooked above 118 degrees F to preserve the enzymes and nutrients” – Matthew Kenney, RAW

You might think that this sounds very limiting and eventually might lead to a very boring diet. After spending just one day at the Matthew Kenney Culinary School in Venice, my creative culinary mind is already in fast thinking, and I am wondering about how to translate my favorite, vegetarian dishes into a vegan and possibly raw alternative.

This is definitely an interesting step for me. My cooking is about great ingredients and beautiful aesthetics. So trying to achieve the same results with some limited cooking methods, and create food that can help people see and experience the flavor and beauty of raw food is definitely challenging and hopefully will be rewarding in the future.

I have not turned into a vegan, just yet. But yesterday opened a door for me and I will definitely be bringing you my ideas on stunning, delicious, vegan and/or raw ideas.

If you have any questions about the recipes or how to make something, let me know. Also, Matthew Kenney Culinary has locations in LA, Miami and Belfast in the US. I highly recommend attending his workshops if you live in the area.

And in case you were wondering what is she really talking about? What happened during that workshop?

morning smoothie with dates, banana, raw cacao and homemade almond milk

For a few people making their almond milk at home is a no brainer. Well, I am lucky enough not to have any food allergy or sensitivity. So I do drink dairy and use it in my smoothies so never thought about making my own nut milk. I actually hate the almond milk you buy at the store. Just like most things, that has added ingredients that you so do not need in your life. So the first thing I learned yesterday how incredibly easy to make your almond milk, how great it tastes and we started off our day with a smoothie of almond milk, raw cacao, dates and banana.

raw cacao


Next comes avocado. Living in California, I eat it every single day. It is part of our lives, and probably there is no day going by without it. In my world it is my butter. I spread it on toast, wrap and add my other breakfast ingredients with my favorite breakfast veggies tomato, pepper and radish. I also use them in salads, make it into puree and so on. I did know that you can use it instead of cream cheese in vegan cooking. But I just never tried it. So making a Creamy carrot soup using carrot juice and avocado was new to me. In this instance you want to get your herbs to make your soup taste yummy, balanced and elevated. I think you have quite a few possibilities which way to go with the seasoning, in this instance we added ginger, lime juice and cayenne and finished off with cilantro oil. The picture below is the plated soup of our Chef, Alice MacKinnon, decorated with borage flowers (my favorite, you know:) )and amaranth micro greens.

raw carrot soup


I think for me the hardest step to become a vegan would definitely be in saying goodbye to cheese. I am sure this is the reason for vegans trying to find the way substitute cheese and make their own version using plant based ingredients. I am planning to attend another workshop which is all about making cheese because I think the knowledge in that area will make me be more creative and come up with great dishes for vegans and raw diet followers.


Yesterday we made a very simple macadamia ricotta which is simply blending soaked macadamia with the help of some other ingredients into a texture that resembles to ricotta. I am not going to lie here. It does not taste like ricotta. But it will definitely give you the texture and it does taste good.

The Heirloom tomato lasagna, which is a signature dish of Matthew Kenney Culinary, has macadamia ricotta and it is a great example of creating a flavorful, stunning dish which is 100% plant based and raw.

It has layers of thin zucchini slices, heirloom tomato and 3 different kinds of “sauce”.  A pistachio pesto, a macadamia ricotta and a spicy red pepper marinara. A burst of flavor and color that shows the power of raw, plant cooking.

heirloom tomato lasagna


Finally back to that avocado. You can use cream cheese in desserts too, right? Yippee! So here comes your avocado, replacing cream cheese in a Key lime tart. This dessert was definitely much easier to make than its original sister, with flour crust and cream cheese. I am more like a savory kind of person than one with the sweet tooth, but I loved this filling. Maybe because it has avocado? and lime? and date paste?


The crust is a macadamia and cashew nut based one with some other natural ingredients held together with a little bit of healthy coconut oil.

I was really full by the time we got to the dessert, so I didn’t eat mine. Brought it home, made it pretty and took a picture of it.

raw key lime tart

And I concluded my day with full tummy, still feeling light and good and excited about this newly acquired “taste”.

Have a great day Everyone!