Spanish Olive Masterclass with Omar Allibhoy
I DO love olives…so was more than happy to go along to an evening of cookery demonstrations and olive tasting put on by Olives from Spain.
We arrived at Waterstones to a fascinating range of different Spanish olives. There was a short talk by a representative of Olives from Spain about the different varieties and methods of preparing. Olives are not edible when they are picked from the tree; they have to be preserved by pickling in brine. For the most part green olives are picked that way and black olives are those left to ripen a bit longer on the tree but the preparation is essentially the same and is based on a brine fermentation. One thing that has always fascinated me is the difference in flavour of those very opaque black olives you usually buy already pitted for cooking or see on top of pizzas to regular green and black olives. Our host explained that these were popular in the American market and that their preparation was very different to other olives. The black colour is not due to ripeness in this case, but to the preparation method which cuts out the traditional fermentation and instead uses a solution of lye (caustic soda!) to preserve them and remove the characteristic olive ‘bitterness and which also blackens them. We also learnt that the most popular olive in Spain was the least popular here – olives stuffed with anchovies!
Then, Omar took to the stage. First he made us a tortilla with olives and chorizo. I’m planning on checking his suggestion that if you don’t have time to cook the potatoes, you can substitute crisps! It sounds like a great cheat to me. He went on to prepare a whole range of Spanish tapas dishes of which my favourite was Pan-fried sea bass with Spanish olives, piquillo peppers and dry sherry. We finished off with some fabulous black olive truffles, which I plan on trying myself. My thinking is that if you replace SOME of the cream in normal ganache with olives, it must be healthy…
Omar’s passion for Spanish food was obvious. He said that his patriotism had grown when he left Spain and realised that his country’s cuisine wasn’t well recognised. Essentially he demonstrated a simple but very flavoursome way of cooking that depended on a few store cupboard basics to create a Spanish dish. As an example, the Sea-Bass used olive oil, sherry, some garlic and parsley black olives, caper berries and a tin of piquillo peppers. A very simple accompaniment to the fish that created an authentic taste of Spain.