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¡Viva la Revolución!

Penelope Walsh talks to Spanish chef and self-styled revolutionary Omar Allibhoy

Written by . Published on November 17th 2011.


¡Viva la Revolución!

WITH focus on Ferran Adrià and the ecstasy over El Bulli, Spanish gastronomy is gaining recognition amongst global gourmets. Now, a new generation of chefs and home cooks are looking to Spain for inspiration and innovation. Taking up the challenge of raising Spanish cooking’s profile in the UK is young Spanish chef and restaurateur Omar Allibhoy. A previous disciple of Adrià’s, Omar is preaching his own revolutionary word at a grassroots level.

Omar’s agenda is to change the face of Spanish cooking in the UK, not by revolutionising the basics of the cuisine, but by promoting awareness of it.

Positioning himself as the Ché Guevara of Spanish cooking, Omar Allibhoy’s journey on the road to revolution also began with one good comrade, a motorbike and a road trip. Frustrated that British home cooks happily prepare Italian, Chinese and Indian, but not Spanish food, Omar begun to ask himself why. With the realisation that quite simply, ‘no one has shown them’, Omar took it upon himself to do so. Drawing a 'T for tapas' in the map of England, stretching from Liverpool to Grimsby, and down to the Isle of Wight, Omar and his good friend Dani set off to spread the word of Spanish cooking, demonstrating and serving tapas dishes to young, old, rich and poor along the way. 

Pan-Fried Sea BassPan-Fried Sea Bass

Omar’s agenda is to change the face of Spanish cooking in the UK, not by revolutionising the basics of the cuisine, but by promoting awareness of it. He is, however, no stranger to experimentation and credits Ferran Adrià (under whom he trained at Nhube in Madrid) with inspiring the tendency toward innovation in his own cooking. Omar describes his style as fundamentally Spanish, using the cuisine’s background flavours, techniques and ingredients, but with a modern and creative twist.

One such twist is Omar’s use of English ingredients in a Spanish context. “To bring Spanish flair, flavours and attitude to the produce here; that’s what I like most, because it is challenging, new and something nobody has done before,” he explains. English ingredients rarely used in Spain include horseradish, cabbage, butternut squash and (not to cheat you out of Omar’s charming description) “massive, ugly potatoes,” also known as parsnips. This fits neatly with current concerns over seasonality and local produce. Even so, Omar points out, in his own country, these terms do not enjoy the high profile they have here, because in Spain they are simply a given.

Chocolate %26#38%3B Olive Truffles LrChocolate Olive Truffles

Where Spanish food differs significantly from its Mediterranean neighbours, Omar says, is the Moorish influence, particularly evident in the use of spices. Key ingredients include those brought back from former colonies in the Americas, such as potatoes, peppers and tomatoes. “Our most beloved animal is the piggy,” Omar laughs. Not just any pig though, this is the Iberian pig.

A variety of pork cuts and treatments are consequently used in Spanish cooking, such as Omar’s own signature dish of braised pork cheeks in Spanish red wine. “The starting point of most dishes,” Omar adds, “is olive oil, and along with onions and garlic.” These represent a Holy Trinity of Spanish cooking. 

 

 

To continue reading and watch a video of OMAR IN ACTION click here

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AnonymousNovember 17th 2011.

Hello lover... I'd let this man cook for me any day!

AnonymousNovember 18th 2011.

Viva La Revolución. Yum!

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