In November I entered a competition. It’s unusual for me because I have become nervous about entering competitions. Have you noticed that most competitions these days are a bit of a popularity contest? You enter, display your work and then you have to start campaigning for votes, like being in high school….so not fun.
I am not sure how it happened but I was asked to enter the Armonia Competition. Basically this is a competition to showcase olive oil from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. It’s a world wide event but this is just the Australian part of it. The competition involves cooking an original recipe with olive oil and another chosen ingredient. This year that ingredient was Acquerello rice, Northern Italy’s’ most famous carnaroli rice. I wasn’t really sure what to expect to be honest, I didn’t even really know what it was about; it’s just that somebody asked if I would like to cook for the day instead of go to work…..what?
So, after the oils are blind judged by a panel who know them by number only, the cooking begins. I put my apron on and went into the kitchen at The William Blue college, where they offer diplomas, and degrees specialising in hospitality, tourism and business management along with commercial cookery. The competition is aimed at young chefs, which I clearly am not…but I am a blogger and that’s why I have been invited to compete. There are 3 “food enthusiasts”, like myself and the others are trainees and students.
Although I have no clue as to the seriousness of this competition I haven’t been stupid enough not to at least practice the dish I want to cook. It’s based on a dessert I recently had at LuMi Dining in Sydney and I wanted it to look as beautiful as their dishes, so hunted I down the bowls below from Reward Hospitality in Camperdown, ( Sydney) to serve it in. They are called Luzerne, Black Swirl, aren’t they beautiful? I made Vanilla risotto and used the olive oil to make a cherry emulsion (kind of like a zabiglione) with some Amarena di Cantiano sour cherries in syrup.
The oil I used at home was a very punchy, fruity, bold oil by Alto Olives (robust) and so I was looking for a similar. Of course I had no idea which oils were which and didn’t have much time to try and choose one. You pour several oils into the tasting palette and then sniff and taste, till you find the one you want. Really it’s not that easy under pressure, but the one I chose No 56, it seemed to be a nice fruity green oil, robust as I wanted and a little spicy. Later at the presentation to the winners we will discover who’s oil we have used and where it has come from and if it has won any awards in the competition.
The cooking part of the competition itself is run over 3 days with heats and different sections. Age groups and experience factor into the days of competition. Their are some swoon-worthy judges including Colin Fassinage, Giovanni Pilu, Valli Little and Federico Zanellato.On my day, day 2, Valli Little was one of the judges and I was like a pathetic teenager. I just think she is amazing. I had plenty of time to make my dish and in fact spent a little time talking to the Chef de Cuisine at William Blue College kitchen about Instagram while the other food enthusiasts sweated through hours of making little sauces and rolling and stuffing little arancini balls and making ice cream. I just wanted to keep mine simple and I wanted all of the Italian elements of my dish to love each other in the purest way (yes I am talking about risotto rice pudding…)
So I made the emulsion and put it in the fridge, then I made the hazelnut praline for the garnish followed by chopping some cherries for under the rice and grating some Amedei Chuao chocolate and refrigerating it so it wouldn’t melt too quickly once added to the rice at the end. The last thing I did was cook the rice before taking it out to the panel of judges – 8 in all. I sat next to Valli while she tasted my rice and then all of the judges asked questions. How did you make the cherry olive oil emulsion, what kind of cherries are those, how did you cook the rice?. It was great. I was pleased. I just wasn’t sure of myself when I saw what the others were making, but now I am glad that I stuck to what I thought was best .
1. These are the competitors tasting the oil 2.Valli Little, Food Editor of Delicious magazine and Mauro Martelossi Armonia (Irvea.org) Italy and Australia
Here’s how my cooking looked….
We wouldn’t find out the winners for two weeks. Here is how I made my dish.
Vanilla Risotto with Cherry Olive Oil Emulsion and Chocolate
- 125 gm carnaroli rice acquerello
- 500 ml milk (2 cups)
- 250 ml cream (1 cup)
- 50 ml milk extra (1/4 cup)
- 40 gm caster sugar (2 Tablespoons)
- 1 vanilla bean
Cherry Olive Oil Emulsion
- 3 egg yolks
- 100 ml cherry syrup (I have a thick Amarena cherry syrup)
- 100 ml olive oil Alto robust
- 5 gm beetroot powder (1 teaspoon)
- 50 gm dark chocolate (Grated)
- 20 gm cherries extra
- 40 gm hazelnut praline (optional) https://www.mykitchenstories.com.au/how-to-make-hazelnut-praline/
- Start with the emulsion. Put the yolks and the cherry syrup into a bowl and beat till pale and very thick and creamy. This is very important. (I used my kitchen aid mixer)
- Gradually add the olive oil until it is combined and you have a nice thick mixture. This will be a light fluffy mixture that will change to more of a thick emulsion once cooked.
- Put the bowl over simmering water and add a teaspoon of beetroot powder to the mixture then beat continuously. Do not leave over the heat without beating as it will separate and curdle. The mixture should become glossy and start to look a little different as it cooks. Never let it get hotter than you can touch. The mixture will be cooked when it looks like a thick custard or mayonnaise. Take off the heat and pour into a container and refrigerate. It will set to a thick emulsion once cool.
- Put the rice into a pot with the milk and cream the sugar and the split vanilla bean. Stir well and bring to a simmer then reduce the heat and leave till the liquid is evaporated. Test the rice. It should be just soft. Stir in the extra cream and put the lid on and let stand while you prepare to serve.
- Put a couple of teaspoons of very finely grated chocolate on the bottom of the bowl and a sprinkling of praline.
- Add a spoon of warm rice then sprinkle with a little more chocolate. Spoon some of the emulsion on and finish with a couple of well drained cherries in syrup and some crushed hazelnut praline
Hazelnut Praline recipe here
The awards ceremony 2 weeks later @ William Blue Hospitality College Restaurant
The ceremony at the college is for both the Olive Oils and for the competitors that have cooked the winning dishes. I certainly don’t expect to win anything and I am delighted that Valli Little is here to present the prizes. This is when I tell her that it has been worth entering just to meet her. Yeah, I know, don’t say anything, OK?. Still she gives me a hug and poses for a photo with me.
There is some very elegant canapes and a well organised event with the immaculately trained students serving food and drinks. Things are going along very well indeed – I have a sparkling wine in one hand and a small cone of salt and pepper squid in the other . What could be better than that?. Apparently winning a prize is just as good as that, well at least it feels that way at any rate, when my name is called AND I win second prize!
I won an 8 course degustation at the 4 in Hand Restaurant , and an olive oil sensory course at William Blue College. I am over the Moon. I certainly didn’t expect to win anything let alone second prize. The olive oil I used was Lowannas Paddock, Homeleigh Grove Intense and Fruity and from Canberra. It came first in its sensorial evaluation. I picked a winner!
Wagyu Beef Carpaccio with Miso and ginger was the hit of the night
This is the wining dish from my section. Jessica Fernandez ( also last years winner) did battle with this cracker of a dish. Here’s a picture of Jessica putting the final touches on her dish with the chef looking on. The risotto balls are stuffed with cheese and deep fried in Olive Oil and have little injectable red pepper emulsion sauces with a side of Olive Oil liqueur. Very clever.
These are the official awards for the Young Chefs.
Thanks to William Blue for hosting and providing such a great venue, atmosphere and great food.
Thanks to Irvea.org for working with William Blue in Australia, have a look at some of the photos from this years competition in Australia. Finally thanks to Acquerello for supplying the stunning carnaroli rice
This post is not sponsored or supported in any way