I am sad to be done the program, but satisfied. The last two weeks leading up to the competition was a big learning experience for me. However it was very busy, on top of working I was trying to develop my dish before work in the morning and during my break. So now that I am finished I have finally had a chance to relax a little. The requirement for the competition was to create a dish using some traditional Spanish products.
With this in mind I wrote the original recipe based on an experience I had in Barcelona. It was an expression of my journey, a few special products which have resonated with me. The first being the Torta de Oveja from La Antigua cheese factory in Castile-Leon. Normally in Spain the Torta de Oveja comes from Andalusia. However this product is much more pungent. The creamy texture and balanced flavour from La Antigua was amazing, something that I had not experience before. While in Barcelona I learned about it’s pairing with Oloroso Sherry from Enric Canut at the Tutusaus speciality shop. Where once I tried a Torta with Oloroso, I was speechless. I knew I must use these two ingredients together in the competition. The question was how to change something that is already so perfect, into a recipe. I couldn’t just open the cheese and put a glass of Oloroso sherry, although that would be a great dish. I needed to demonstrate what Spain has taught me. The idea grew more into plated dessert when I saw a beautiful blooming almond tree in the Catalonia country side after filling my stomach with so many charred calcots… what a good day. Ideas started blossoming in my head, I knew the direction I wanted to take the dish it would be a transition dish, from the savoury world to the sweet. La Leche de Una Oveja con Oloroso, Almendra Fresca, and Aceite de Oliva (Sheeps Milk, with Oloroso Sherry, Green Almonds and Olive Oil) became my dish.
However, after preparing it for the first time a few weeks before the competition I was disappointed, the original idea in my head was not being well represented. Therefore, for the stressful two weeks before the competition I would go in early to do trial runs and test new ideas. The final result was was to place the raw sheep’s milk cheese on the bottom of the plate, all other components were garnishes for the cheese to be eaten in progression. Using aromas, different temperatures and textures, the guests would experience the products in a new way. On top of the cheese was a warm olive oil almond cake, a smoked sheep’s milk ice cream which was smoked with the charred husks of the green almonds. A Oloroso and wild flower honey sorbet, and all garnished with Oloroso caramel powder and shaved fresh almonds.
It was ambitions because of my lack of experience in pastry, yet this was why it was such a great learning experience. However, there were a few last minute adjustments after conversing with my fellow ICEX comrade Jonathan Fisher who works pastry at El Cellar de Can Roca.
As I was presenting a pastry I was one of the last to put up my dish, so while watching every body present their creations I realized what a talented group I was part of. I was pleased but very surprised by my second placement in the final, everybody’s dishes looked great I just wish we all would have had a chance to try them!
Here is link about the competition and some of my participants creations:
I have chosen to stay in Spain a little longer and move into the Basque country side to learn from the grilling master Victor Arguinzonizwho owns Asador Etxebarri, whose dedication to quality products allows me to work with the best in the region!