Olive it! A Cookery Masterclass With Omar Allibhoy

 If you are a regular Nothing New reader you'll know that I love my food so when the opportunity recently arose to attend a cookery masterclass at Bordeaux Quay Cookery School, I of course jumped at the chance. 

The evening was run by chef Omar Allibhoy and presented by Olive It!, who together are on a mission to encourage people to cook with and eat more olives and are making people aware of the general awesomeness of these tasty little morsels. I'm a big fan of olives anyway and didn't feel I would have much to learn about their versatility beyond posh bar snacks - I use them in salads, pizzas,  cous-cous, my favourite putanesca sauce (blogged here), however I learnt three new recipes in the class that put a bit of a different meaning on the word versatility! I mean, have you ever thought about using olives in a dessert?!

The full menu to cook (and eat!) for the evening was three courses, each showcasing how olives can be used in different, delicious ways - starting with a Course Olive Paté with Manchego Cheese & Pistachios, followed by Queen Olive Stuffed Meatballs and finishing with Caramelised Black Olive & Cherries with a Goats Cheese CreamAfter being being welcomed into the kitchen class room with a glass of wine, we gathered at the top table to listen to chef. Omar, with his excellent accent and hair, is an automatically likeable character and was animated and passionate as he introduced the evening and set about demonstrating how to cook the two elements for the dessert.  I certainly didn't need much convincing that olives could work in a dessert - he had me at the salted caramel comparisons!
Once at our own work stations with all the ingredients ready for us we set about replicating the steps we'd just been shown, everything was simple and easy to follow and Omar made his way round the room to make sure we were all on track. Once the elements for our desserts were safely in the fridge to set, Will and I assumed our default roles in our kitchen partnership to make the main course, Will chopped up all the ingredients and I got my hands dirty to make the olive meatballs (remembering just in time not to get my engagement ring covered in mince!) What made this dish extra special was the ingenious idea to place a huge queen olive in the centre of each juicy meatball, they were then browned off and cooked in a rich herby tomato sauce. As the sauce also contained black olives there was double the olive goodness in this main dish! For the starters we simply combined olives, manchego cheese, pistachios, fennel seeds and paprika in a food processor with olive oil and lemon juice and blended into a course paste. This was so easy to make and is perfect as a starter or a dip with other party food or it can even be used a crust for meat or fish, which is something I'll definitely be trying soon!

When all was ready we got down to the important business of eating. Everything was delicious, the meatballs were perfect and I could eat that olive paté by the bucketload but the real star of the show for me was the dessert. Caramelised olives are amazing, a perfect combination of salty and sweet, which I love, and the goat's cheese cream was incredible. I especially enjoyed this course because it was so different to anything I've had before and I just love trying something new. FIY - I can't claim credit for the prettiness of the picture below as Omar chose my plate to demonstrate his cheffy skills - my quenelles need a bit of work!

The evening certainly proved how versatile olives can be as an ingredient and I think even people who aren't usually so keen on olives could be swayed by one of these dishes.
As well as discovering new ways to cook with them, over the course of the evening I also learnt quite a bit about Olives in general; their history, how the growing and picking process varies for different types and their health benefits. For example they are low in calories, a good source of vitamin E and black olives are a particularly good source of iron - so, great for cooking with but also a great snack to have on hand especially at this time of year!

All in all we had a great evening and learnt three dishes that we will certainly be cooking again and again, we also got to take home the brilliant Olive It cookbook so I look forward to learning even more recipes and I'll be sure to share my favourites. In the mean time if all this has got you hankering for some olives visit oliveit.eu for recipes and you can check out Omar in action in this video

A massive thanks to fellow blog club member Lily for putting me in touch with Olive It! - if you don't already read her excellent blog 'Lily Doughball' then check it out here.

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