Cooking with Olives: An Evening with Olive It!

My experience of cooking with olives pretty much extends to putting them on top of a pizza....

Or eating them straight out of the jar, which usually means I am intercepting their journey to the top of pizza.

I was therefore intrigued when I received an invite from Olive It to come and try cooking with olives at the Cheshire Cookery School, as it was obvious that my olive repertoire could benefit from expansion!

It turned out that our introduction to oliveology (© Bethan Vincent, 2015) was to be led by Omar Allibhoy, founder of Tapas Revolution and burgeoning TV Chef!

Omar and chef José Pizarro have become involved in the campaign to spread awareness of innovative ways to cook olives through sharing family-trusted recipes that have passed down generations. 

Before we began cooking, Omar first explained to us why olives make an excellent addition to a meal and why he is trying to get more UK cooks to use them creatively!

So what did we learn about the humble olive?

  • Olives are in fact actually a fruit (this was one of those moments where I thought "how did I not know that!?")
  • The colour of an olive is not down to variety, but is due to ripeness! Black olives have been matured for longer, which is what gives them a different look and taste.
  • You can also get pink and brown olives due to this maturation process! They also have slightly different flavour profiles.
  • Olives are high in Oleic acid - a monounsaturated fat, which studies indicate is good for heart health
  • Depending on variety, there are on average 150 calories in 100g olives, which is great for those who are watching their waistline.
  • Olives are also high in Iron and vitamin E

After Omar had given us a solid background to olives and their benefits, he jumped straight in with a demonstration of what was decisively the most unusual recipe of the evening - 

Candied pitted olives and cherries in sweet sherry wine.

That's right, olive dessert.

Now this is the point where I suspect I will loose your faith in olives, bear with me here, this recipe actually worked!

Omar explained that the rich flavours of the olives could be softened and sweetened with sherry, then contrasted with a slight sharpness, which came in the form of cheese cream. 

Let me tell you, the result was delicious! 

We then went on to make our starters and mains, all of which used olives in ways that were new and pretty damn tasty, including olive tapenade and meatballs.

I have included all the recipes from the evening below - I really would urge you to give them a go! Even if you aren't a big olive fan, you might surprise yourself, as these are recipes which use olives in a subtle and harmonious way.

Omar and I with our finished dishes!

Coarse Pate of mixed olives, manchego cheese and pistachios

Coarse Pate of mixed olives, manchego cheese and pistachios
Coarse Pate of mixed olives, manchego cheese and pistachios

Ingredients

100g of pitted green and black olives

30g of manchego cheese

30g of pistachio kernels

50g of extra virgin olive oil

Juice of ½ a lemon

½ teaspoon of fennel seeds

A pinch of sweet pimento

Method

1.

Blend all of the ingredients into a coarse mix with the help of a food processor.

2.

Serve on toast with any other ingredient you like: piquillo peppers, tuna in oil… or use as a garnish for a pan-fried fillet of sea bass or even use it as a crust for a baked leg of lamb

Queen olive-stuffed beef meatballs with tomato and olive sauce

Queen olive-stuffed beef meatballs with tomato and olive sauce
Queen olive-stuffed beef meatballs with tomato and olive sauce

Ingredients

For the meatballs

100g of pitted queen green olives

3 slices white bread

100 ml milk

500g minced beef

¼ onion, finely chopped

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

1 tablespoon freshly chopped flat-leaf parsley

1 egg, beaten

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the sauce

50g of pitted black olives

5 tablespoons good-quality olive oil

¾ onion, finely chopped

4 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 small carrot, peeled and finely chopped

2 tablespoons freshly chopped thyme

1 tablespoon freshly chopped rosemary

1 teaspoon sugar

1 glass of white wine

1 x 400g tin chopped plum tomatoes

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method

1.

To make the meatballs, soak the bread in the milk and leave for a few minutes. Put the minced beef in a large shallow dish or baking tray and add the onion, garlic, parsley and seasoning. Squeeze the excess milk from the bread and add to the mixture, along with the beaten egg

2.

Knead the mixture with clean hands for a couple of minutes until the ingredients are well combined (don’t over work it or the meatballs will become rubbery). Roll the minced mixture around each of the pitted queen olive to make balls and place in a shallow roasting tin. The traditional way of cooking these is to fry them in batches in a little olive oil over a medium heat but I prefer to do it the easy way and roast them. Simply drizzle with a little olive oil and cook for 10 minutes in the oven at 180°C/gas mark 4

3.

Meanwhile, make the sauce. Heat the oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat and add the onion, garlic and carrot and cook for a few minutes until the onion is translucent, but not coloured. Add the whole black pitted olives, thyme, rosemary, salt and pepper, sugar and wine and flambé by setting light to the pan using a lighter or some long matches. Simmer until the wine has reduced by half and then add the chopped tomatoes.

4.

Cook for a further 5 minutes, then add the meatballs and cook together for another 15 minutes until the meatballs are cooked through

Tip:

If your pan is too wide, the tomato sauce may evaporate too quickly and become dry. If this happens, just add a little water to the pan.

Queen olive-stuffed beef meatballs with tomato and olive sauce
Queen olive-stuffed beef meatballs with tomato and olive sauce

My "please don't burn little meatballs" face

Candied pitted olives and cherries in sweet sherry wine

Candied pitted olives and cherries in sweet sherry wine
Candied pitted olives and cherries in sweet sherry wine

Ingredients

50g of pitted black olives

100g of cherries

1 cup of caster sugar

1 cup of water

1 glass of sweet sherry wine

For the cheese cream

400ml of double cream

1 teaspoon vanilla essence

50g of goat’s cheese

50g of sugar

2 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil

Method 

1.

Place a small sauce pan over high heat and add the sugar, water and olives. Let it all form a syrup and reduce down to a golden caramel

2.

At this point add the glass of sweet sherry and the pitted cherries and let it all boil together for an extra 5 minutes. This will keep in a tight container for more than a month

Cheese cream

1.

Bring all ingredients to the boil while whisking until fully dissolved. Chilled for a couple hours and whip with the help of a whisk.

an evening with olive it
an evening with olive it

I would like to thank the team at Olive It and Omar for what was an extremely enjoyable and very educational evening! We have actually gone on to making the recipes again at home with great success.

To view the full Olive recipe book, go to the www.oliveit.eu website!

You can also follow the campaign on Twitter and Facebook:

@Oliveit_UK

www.facebook.com/oliveit_uk

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