Saf’Olé: An evening of Spanish-Punjabi Fusion

Ever since I found out that Saf’s Kitchen and Olé Tapas Bar were collaborating on a fusion pop-up, I have been VERY excited. Not going to lie, I didn’t think that Spanish and Punjabi are not two cuisines that naturally fall together. However, this event proved that Punjabi and Spanish are in fact, a match made in foodie heaven!

Now, if you have followed me for a while, you’ll know that Saf of Saf’s Kitchen is now a good friend of mine and Dan’s, so we are very willing to support (and eat!) anything she does. She’s one of the best street food vendors in MK and I’ve not met a single person who doesn’t adore her food. Together, Saf and her husband Ish are the Desi Dream Team!

Olé Tapas Bar is also one of my favourite places to eat in Milton Keynes and the head chef and owner, Juan and his wife, Beatriz, are truly lovely people and huge supporters of what I am trying to achieve with my blog. They even let me host my first Sophie’s Supper Club there back in September! Juan is a fantastic chef and a huge advocate for collaboration between independent businesses in Milton Keynes so I wasn’t surprised when he said he was getting Saf on board to collaborate on a fusion night.

Juan and Saf behind the counter at Ole Tapas Bar

As soon as the date was announced, Dan and I were on it as I knew this would likely be a sell-out. Tickets were priced £40 per person and there were two sittings on a Sunday afternoon: 12pm and 3pm. We opted for the 3pm one which turned out to be a great decision. Our session was a full-house and I believe there were only a few tickets remaining for the other!

We arrived promptly (read: early) and sipped on a glass of Rioja each. We had absolutely no idea what the menu was (Saf had sent me a sneak peek of their test run!) so we were pretty excited and hungry as smells of spices started to fill the restaurant.

To kick off the fusion meal, we were served a basket of bread and mini poppadoms with three pots of dips: Mango chutney, aioli and Saf’s famous red onion chutney which is just SO good. It’s got a real kick to it and goes so well with any kind of deep-fried or carbohydrates. The poppadoms were fresh and salty and weirdly, they went extremely well with garlic mayo.

Boards of pakoras, butter chicken croquetas, masala aubergine, and padron peppers

Next up was a feast for the eyes – and stomachs! The first platter of food consisted of butter chicken croquetas, tandoori masala prawns, pakoras and Padron peppers. If you haven’t tried Saf’s pakoras, you need to. They are so tasty. And for the occasion, she had made some special ones with beetroot and carrot which were slightly sweeter than the usual potato ones. These were crisp and delicious and were great for dipping into the tandoori masala prawn sauce.

I didn’t know how much I needed butter chicken croquetas in my life until this week.

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If you’ve been to Olé Tapas Bar before, you’ll know the gambas al ailijo (garlic prawns) are one of the best dishes on the menu. This Punjabi version was made in a very similar way so the prawns were infused with flavours.

The star of this platter (and probably the entire evening) were the butter chicken croquetas. Yes, they were every bit as delicious as they sounded – light, crisp batter surrounding a soft, buttery centre. Honestly, these were genius! The croquetas were topped with aioli and onion chutney which again, weirdly worked. I didn’t know how much I needed butter chicken croquetas in my life until this week.

Another popular dish on Olé’s menu is the deep-fried cod. Of course, this got the Punjabi treatment too and ta-dah – tandoori cod in a spiced batter served with aioli and onion chutney. This was really tasty though the batter could have been a little crisper and it was quite salty. Saf said that the seasoning they use can often make it taste saltier. Regardless, this dish was definitely a hit judging by the comments on Instagram following the event!

Plates of Tandoori Cod at Ole Tapas bar

Patatas Bravas is a very classic tapas dish and it turns out they work incredibly well in the form of chaat masala bravas. There were so many incredible textures on this dish, it was everything I wanted it to be and more. Soft, lightly spiced potatoes with mango chutney and topped with puffed rice and pomegranate. So many flavour and texture boxes ticked off: sweet from the pomegranate, spicy from the chutney, crisp rice, soft potatoes.

Plates of Chaat Masala Bravas

Next up, was a chicken kofta meatball topped with half an egg. Saf and Juan also kindly sent out the aloo kofta balls vegetarian alternative to this dish so we could try it too. Both were incredible!

The meatballs totally melted in the mouth and the spiced sauce was so delicious. Using chicken instead of beef or pork was a great shout as the meat was so tender. The aloo kofta was like one big potato bhaji and had cumin seeds laced through the potato inside making every bite a fragrant one. The sweet tomato sauce these were served in made this dish even more enjoyable, as did the addition of the egg. I’m a total convert to eggs in curry now – thanks Saf!

Chicken Kofta and aloo kofta

The final main course of the night (I know – there was a lot and we were feeling pretty full by this point!) was a Bombay Aloo biriyani paella made with chickpeas. This was so tasty – all the creamy texture of paella but with some seriously good spices thrown in. I only wish I was less full so I could have eaten more.

And finally, it was time for dessert. We had a trio of desserts, all with a slight twist. Of course, it being a Punjabi night, you have got to have Golab Juman! It is a spongey Indian dessert soaked in syrup. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but the more I eat it the more I love it. It’s soft, sweet and some were rolled in coconut which was even more enjoyable.

The rice pudding served at Olé Tapas Bar is very popular but this one had a slight Saf twist and was made with coconut milk. It was so delicious – rich, creamy and with a crisp sugary top. This was another one of our favourite dishes!

The churros also had a slight twist and were rolled in coconut sugar. These flavours didn’t come through too much, but I quite liked the subtly of the coconut. And to be honest I really like churros.

A board of gulab jamun, churros in coconut sugar and rice pudding

What an amazing idea for an event. I’ve never been to a fusion night before and as I said at the beginning of this post, Punjabi and Spanish are not two cuisines that are a natural match, but the talent and attention to detail that both Saf and Juan had when creating this menu, made them seem like the most natural thing in the world.

I loved that the base of each dish was inspired by traditional Spanish tapas like croquetas, bravas and gambas but each got a Punjabi twist. Indian food has so many dominating spices and flavours, it made perfect sense to let these flavours take centre stage whilst the dish was shaped by the Spanish element.

A photo of Daniel Roberts, Beatriz De Juan, Juan Carlos, Safia Ali and Ishraz in Saf's Kitchen's van outside Olé Tapas Bar

Saf and Juan are very talented chefs who are willing to push their cooking and experiment to produce something that is equally exciting, innovative and delicious!

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Saf’Olé was a huge success and I really hope this paves the way for future events like this in Milton Keynes. A huge well done to Saf and Juan, Ishraz and Bea and Chef Daniel Roberts at Olé Tapas Bar who I know also had a huge input in shaping the fusion menu. Saf and Juan are very talented chefs who are willing to push their cooking and experiment to produce something that is equally exciting, innovative and delicious!

You can find Saf’s Kitchen at various street food events across Milton Keynes and she also does monthly takeaway nights. Follow Saf’s Kitchen on Facebook to stay up to date.

Olé Tapas Bar is in Wolverton and does brilliant tapas. Visit www.oletapasbar.co.uk to view menus and book a table.

Let’s hope Saf’Olé returns again as it was a real treat to experience this!

Did you make it to Saf’Olé? Have you ever been to a fusion night before?

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I'm Sophie, a 20-something Milton Keynes food & travel blogger helping you to discover great eats and adventures in MK, Bucks and beyond.

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