Excited that I would be meeting the young and talented Chef Omar Allibhoy at the Launch of his Book called Tapas Revolution at his Tapas bar by the same name I couldn’t wait to get myself to The Balcony at Westfield,Shepherd’s Bush. The district Line managed to live upto its reputation of being the most non trustworthy of all the tubes lines with delays and finally after 3 changes I managed to reach the venue! Gaah!
Any feelings of angst soon vanished when the I saw familiar faces at the Tapas Bar. A few of the food bloggers I met at FBC’5 were there and as the evening progressed I met some more interesting foodies. It’s the best part of being a foodies, talking food with like-minded people and feeling totally normal discussing spices,ingredients, chefs and cookbooks, never a dry spell in conversation I say.In all we were a group of about ten to fifteen food bloggers invited to Chef Omar’s book launch – TAPAS REVOLUTION – 120 simple CLASSIC Spanish dishes.
What followed was an evening of great food, lots of Sangria (for me), an insight into Spain’s rich culinary traditions and of course lots of picture-taking,posing for pictures and in my case eating some foods I have never dared to try until now!
If one thing is apparent as I watch Chef Omar effortlessly dishing out one plateful of flavour after another is his passion for food. All of 29 this young man has taken it upon himself , a mission of sorts to revolutionize the Spanish Tapas and put them firmly on the U.K Map and as Tom Parker Bowles of the Mail on Sunday has said ”….with this talent,passion and dedication the revolution’s in good hands” and mind you all this and his Charm and good looks is a perfect combination for success! Lucky for us especially knowing the humble beginnings of Tapas which literally meant ‘tapa’ or ‘to cover’ and according one of the theories of their origin they were served free to cover one’s drink and save it from flies!
Chef Omar and his cheerful team orchestrated the whole evening well ,after all not a mean task to serve 14 different dishes perfectly plated and all this while ensuring that our glasses never ran dry!
Some of the mouth-watering delights we tucked into :
Jamon (Ham) Ibe’rico – Ibe’rico ham gets its rich nutty flavour from the pigs that roam freely in the woodlands of Spain eating acorns and herbs.
Salmorejo – Bread served with Chilled and divine Tomato dip called Salmorejo – a chilled tomato dip traditionally from Seville. I am not ashamed to admit that I wiped off every last drop of the Salmorejo dip off my plate and all this with a very innocent face and while making polite conversation;)This dip is very similar to the cold cucumber soup or Gazpacho because it is served chilled.
BOQUERONES – Anchovies Marinated in black olives,red onion,paprika and cumin (Image on the top of collage)
Pimientos De Padron‘ – Fried Padron Peppers (Image on the bottom of collage)
Tortilla De Patatas – Spanish Omlette with Charlotte Potatoes served with a dip called ALIOLI or Mayonnaise made with – get this MILK!
I was now feeling like a true Spaniard and was thanking the generous crew with my new favourite Spanish word ”Muchas Gracias” though instead of the quick and correct way in which they seem to gently throw this word, my tongue doesn’t oblige me and as a result I get a puzzled look to my strange-sounding word.I still firmly maintain that this is going to be my most loved word in Spanish after Jamon and Pimientos.I plan to land these words on unsuspecting subjects all of next week (shall have to refrain from doing that in public particularly on the tube for fear of getting whacked by shocked commuters who would assume I was saying naughty abusive words in a foreign tongue to make them squirm in their seats while I try to balance my errremmm not so slim self un-gainfully around the pole with 5 other people trying to get their paws on it for support) hummm
Pulpo a la Gallega – Steamed octopus with potatoes and Pimenton – This dish looked so tempting that I happily ate it and only when I was home and typing this up did I realise that it’s the first time ever I have dared eat an Octopus after a singularly scary episode of eating one years ago and breaking out in a rash before I could blink, I have since steered clear of this delicacy to avoid turning into a puffer fish and scaring fellow diners away.But no any more, Tapas Rule woohoo!
Calamares fritos – deep-fried baby squid (Image on the right)
Pollo en pepitoria – Moorish Chicken. Chicken in saffron, cumin and vegetable sauce, honestly not my favourite but still great depth of taste because of the saffron and cumin together some notes of taste would be similar to that of an Indian curry but with many other levels of flavour.
By now our gastronomic journey had traversed from simple to exotic in about 3 platefulls and this juicy beef skewer was supremely satisfying on all counts, the sea slat hits the palate after your teeth has sunk into the meat and the spices have enveloped your mouth in an avalanche of taste – this is my clear favourite and only the Tortilla and Alioli with its surprise ingredient – Milk manage to scrape their way in as close second favorites.
Pinchos morunos con mojo picón – marinated beef skewers with a spicy dipping sauce.Everything about this dish including the dip was so perfect, I could eat this everyday and not get bored.
Breaking bread with fellow foodies today over Sangria and some Bubbly Cava ,it seemed natural to chew on a Pimento now and move onto more complex and vibrant flavours. Now am quite stuffed and happy and chatting with Li and Dee (nice ring there huh,almost musical !) and am secretly hoping no more food but they don’t seem to stop wanting to feed us!And its too good to resist anyway…
Papas Arrugadas Con Mojos – Wrinkled Potatoes with Mojo – This is the Chef’s hand me down family recipe and how they do potatoes in the Canary Islands, again another spectacular dip with coriander , very tasty and appealed a lot to my Indian taste buds a lot.
Croquetas de jamón – deeped-fried Iberico ham croquettes, these look innocent but are little parcles of delight as they go from cripsy to gooey soft full throttle taste machines as you bite into them,Advance Warning – Seriously addictive and I did try and steal more than my share from the sharing platter ….obviously Unsuccesfull and a bit let down, the crew wouldn’t have it, so they served me some Cava!!
The clear winner for me though was the Pinchos morunos con mojo picón which has rich, robust and full bodied taste. I am certainly going to try and cook that sometime very soon. I see a Tapas party at mine happening soon enough with a few good friends some time soon, all they need to do is bring the Cava 😉
Oh wait, just when I was about to put my camera away, we were served Crema Catalana – Catalonian Custard Pots and Churros con Chocolate.OMG! Those custard pots are bits of perfection with a crunchy caramelised top and a creamy smooth custard with hints of vanilla. And those Churros….oooooo, instantly transported me to sunny shores on a perfect summers day.It took all of me to resist not dipping my finger into the liquid chocolate.
Helen, thanks for patiently letting me attempt clicking a picture of the Churros dripping chocolate while Chef Omar urged us to give the churros a generous dunk into this brown liquid goodness.
Mind you I left the venue a convert,with Spanish Cuisine demystified and Tapas explained,many firsts for me here:
- First Time I dared eat Octopus Yeah!
- Best Calamari I ever ate
- First ever Book Launch
- 3 glasses of Sangria and was able to walk in a straight line – all thanks to how stuffed those deceptively small platefulls can make one feel! Wow
Armed with a signed copy of Chef Omar Allibhoy’s wonderful new book – TAPAS REVOLUTION (with food pictures that give me weak knees) ,I am confident that even a novice like me can make a valiant attempt at dishing up some of the delightful tapas and learn some fun tricks along the way. The beauty of the book lies in the fact that one can source these ingredients very easily in their local supermarket or simply raid their kitchen cupboards to create something absolutely wonderful. No fuss ,no do-dah. Just pure and simple Food – for each one of us to create a Revolution.
Muchas Gracias to the organisers for inviting me to this wonderful evening of food, fun and tipples and watch the charming Chef Omar cook us Tapas!