I received an email a few weeks ago from Roberta Muir (Sydney Seafood School Manager) announcing the 1st Armonia International Olive Oil Competition to be held in the Southern Hemisphere. The invitation was open to anyone who wanted to enter for a chance to compete. The condition was that olive oil must be the star ingredient and olive oil chocolate mousse immediately came to my mind. I was so excited when Roberta replied saying that I was in! I could hardly contain myself.
I made a trial batch of mousse at home and timed myself to make sure I could complete the dish within 2 hours and have it beautifully presented for the judges to taste.
When I arrived at the Sydney Seafood School on the 20th of November I met the other 9 contestants who were also passionate about food and cooking. The energy was building as we were ushered in to prepare and setup our equipment at the stations. I took all my own ingredients, except for the EVOO, and any special utensils and equipment needed including mum’s reliable old electric beater for good luck!
Gary Mehigan (MasterChef) and Alessandro Pavoni (Ormeggio at the Spit) were the judges and Mauro Martelossi (International Extra Virgin Olive Oil Agency Executive Director) and Giovanni Pilu (Pilu at Freshwater) welcomed everyone and opened the competition.
We tasted a variety of unlabelled EVOO and selected the ones we felt would work best with our dishes.
We began cooking and the judges circulated the room asking questions and marking us on various areas including organisation and cleanliness.
Gary took pictures of the dessert bowls I purchased especially for the competition. He was on the lookout for something to use at Fenix and said these would be perfect.
Once my mousse was in the fridge I walked around the room to see what the other contestants were preparing. My senses were on overload with the scents and sounds of salmon poaching, cake baking, prawns sizzling and spaghetti boiling. It was like a beautiful symphony wafting through the air.
Spaghetti alle Vongole was the first dish completed and Alese, the contestant who cooked it, shared some with us while it was being tasted by the judges. It was absolutely delicious!
My Olive Oil Chocolate Mousse was next.
I placed the bowls on the table in front of Gary, Alessandro, Mauro and Roberta and explained why I chose to prepare this dessert. “I don’t like very sweet desserts so I chose this because the olive oil adds a beautiful savoury element. The fresh raspberries add some tartness and the sprinkle of himalayan pink salt at the end brings out the notes in the chocolate and olive oil. I also added some pistachio dust and a drizzle of olive oil to finish.”
After I left the judges to try my mousse I ate some delicious poached salmon prepared by Kurt, freshly baked wholemeal focaccia and roasted vegetable salad by Antonella, salmon ceviche and octopus salad by Daniel, kale chips by Alison and olive oil cake by Katrina. The cake was so moreish and I found myself saying “this is my last piece” about 6 times!
Ross cooked a restaurant quality poached kingfish dish, Stefano made a seafood platter fit for a Roman king and Irena’s dish was a poached prawn salad that looked too good to eat.
We continued to eat and share recipes as we waited for the results. It was announced that we would find out at a ceremony held on the 3rd of December! We gathered together for some photos and wished each other good luck.
On the 3rd of December I joined my fellow food enthusiasts along with professional young chefs and olive oil producers. Awards were handed out to producers for several categories including packaging, organic and different varieties of olive oil. Congratulations to everyone but I must mention a few in particular.
Alto Olives which I see regularly at Eveleigh Markets on Saturdays,
The Little General which I have posted about before (when ever I bump into Nadia we end up talking about the Festa Delle Salsicce in Griffith, yum!) and last but not least, Rylstone Olive Press. This is the mystery olive oil that I used for my chocolate mousse. They were all unlabelled, numbered bottles so we had no idea of the varieties or brands.
One of the owners of Rylstone Olive Press, Jayne Bentivoglio, was at the ceremony and collected so many awards that I lost track! At one stage Jayne was asked by Joanna Savill (Director of The Sydney Morning Herald Sydney International Food Festival) to wait so she could collect a few awards at once before returning to her seat.
Jayne invited Alese and I to visit the Rylstone Olive Press farm during harvest season (April – May) next year and prepare our dishes again using their oils. 2013 is going to be an exciting time!
Congratulations to all the chefs!
1st Kevin Nguyan – Quay Restaurant (Confit of Bass Groper Cheek, Shaved Calamari, Shitake, Speck & Olive Oil Broth, Olive Oil Emulsion)
2nd Alexander Joslyn – Ormeggio at the Spit (Olive Oil & White Chocolate Mousse, Olive Oil Powder, Biscuit, Yoghurt & Rhubarb Jelly)
Grand Mention Diplomas
Elizabeth Fiducia – Jamies Italian, Sydney (White Chocolate and EVOO Risotto with Rosemary, Roasted Peaches and EVOO Pistachio Crumble)
Kyu Wang Lee – Balla Restaurant (Poached Olive Oil Sword Fish with Asparagus Puree, Heirloom Tomato)
John Javier – Quay Restaurant (Scampi, Macadamia, Chamomile and Olive Oil)
Peter Gilmore (Quay Restaurant) and Ross Lusted (The Bridge Room) were there to present the awards with Giovanni Pilu. Kevin was overcome with emotion when he realised that he was off to Italy for a week to attend the ALMA cuisine school. My eyes filled with tears when I saw how passionate Kevin was about the work he does with food because I feel the same spark.
I’m not a chef but food stimulates my senses and makes me feel alive. The sensation of dough between my fingers, the fragrant notes in olive oil, the textures of food on my tongue – these experiences are as important to me as the breath in my lungs.
Alexander Joslyn showed me a picture of his dish which was an Olive Oil & White Chocolate Mousse (as mentioned above). We had much to talk about! I can’t wait for the upcoming “Young Chef’s” Showcase Dinner when I will have a chance to savour the dishes prepared by the chef contestants. I’ll be sharing a post about this special event in the coming weeks.
Finally, the food enthusiast awards were announced.
3rd Alese – Spaghetti alle Vongole
2nd Ross – Olive Oil Poached Yellowtail Kingfish with Asparagus and Lime Vinaigrette
1st my Olive Oil Chocolate Mousse
I couldn’t believe my ears when it was announced. In 2013 I will attend a 5 day Professional Olive Oil Sommelier Course and cooking classes at Sydney Seafood School as my prize.
I’m grateful to have been involved in such an amazing competition and to have met so many people who share my love of cooking and food in various capacities.
My passion for olive oil is not new but my interest to learn more about this complex natural ingredient is growing. During my holiday to Spain back in 2010 I visited an olive oil museum and went nuts! Everyone that I bought presents for received tins of olive oil and its surprising that customs didn’t stop me for questioning due to the high volume of oil I packed into my suitcase. No, not shoes, olive oil.
I’ve experimented with my Spanish olive oil in recipes like Zucchini, Cocoa, Olive Oil and Walnut Cake. So by this stage, one question that may be on your lips – how did I make the mousse? The answer is…
150g good quality dark chocolate (I used Callebaut 53.8%)
100g extra virgin olive oil (again, make sure it’s a good quality oil. I used a medium fruity Rylstone Olive Press EVOO)
250g pouring cream
Pistachio dust (finely ground pistachios)
Himalayan Pink Salt (fine)
A little more EVOO to drizzle at the end
Slowly melt the chocolate in a bowl over a pot of simmering water. When smooth and glossy, mix through the olive oil until well combined. Set aside to cool slightly while you whip the cream until it reaches soft peaks.
Gently fold the cream into the chocolate and olive oil mixture. Don’t mix it too much or you’ll knock the air out of the cream and your mousse won’t be as light and fluffy. Serve at room temperature or put in the fridge to chill for an hour. If you leave it in the fridge for longer it will set firmly and the texture will become grainy due to the fat molecules in the olive oil solidifying. It will melt in your mouth but the texture won’t be smooth and silky.
I spooned the freshly mixed mousse straight into the individual dessert glasses before putting into the fridge. To serve, sprinkle with pistachio dust and just a little salt to bring out the chocolate and olive oil notes.
A few raspberries are perfect to add some tartness and cut through the richness of the mousse. I prefer to use fresh berries picked from my mum’s garden when there are enough of them ripe at once.
Drizzle with a touch of EVOO. Enjoy!
The professional photos I’ve shared in this blog post were taken by Lyndon Marceau and can be viewed here.
You can view a full list of the winners and awards here.