Anyone else a fan of olives? I think they’re one of those things you hate until your tastebuds change (or decay, perhaps?!) as you get older, alongside red wine and coffee. I love them now but they’re often a bit of an afterthought for me. I don’t cook with them a lot but when I do they’re just chucked into a pasta dish with little thought or reason. I’d never considered what types of olives I should use or how I could use them more creatively. And I definitely never thought I’d eat olives in a dessert… until now.
A few weeks ago I was invited to a cooking evening by Olive It taught by tapas restaurateur Omar Allibhoy. The event was all about how to use olives more creatively in cooking. My friend Cat and I went along and rolled up our sleeves to get our hands dirty and drink a glass of wine (or three!) in the process.
Omar began the evening by explaining a little about the history and culture of olives in Spain. Ninety per cent of the world’s olives come from Spain and there aren’t different types of olive trees that give you different types of olives, there’s just one type of tree and olives are just picked at different times in the season to give the different colours. And did you know olive trees can live to be a thousand years old? You see, I’m full of interesting olive trivia now…
We were set up at little cooking stations and worked in pairs to make a number of simple dishes. We made two different marinades for olives – one was green olives marinated in oregano and chillies and the other was black olives marinated in ginger, cinnamon and cardamom. I had never thought to use sweet spices with olives before.
Not only that, it had never crossed my mind to even make an olive marinade before but but both were so nice! They were dishes that’d be really good to make up for an evening with friends – simple but tasty and they don’t take long or need much effort.
My favourite dish of the evening was definitely the main event though. It was a salad called a Catalonian Xato Salad.
Here’s the recipe:
Catalonian Xato Salad
1 Frisse lettuce
100g tinned tuna in oil
1 tin of black olives
20 salted anchovies
For the romescu dressing:
1 head of garlic
½ red pepper
20g of blanched hazelnuts
1 slice of bread
3 tb sp of sherry vinegar
1 tea sp of table salt
3 tb spoon of Spanish olive oil
For the romescu sauce, place the tomatoes, garlic head and the half red pepper in a baking tray with a drizzle of olive oil and bake in the oven for about 30 minutes at 180 degrees. In the last 10 minutes add the slice of bread and hazelnuts to toast as well.
Place all the ingredients in a glass blender and squeeze the pulp of the garlic into it, discarding the skins of the tomatoes and pepper as well. Blend into a coarse puree.
Wash and dry the lettuce and chop into medium size pieces. Place the black olives, anchovies and tuna on top of the lettuce and dress with the romescu sauce. Drizzle with a bit of extra virgin olive oil and serve.
We used lamb’s lettuce instead of Frisse lettuce. It’s not the most pretty of dishes but it was so delicious! I’ll definitely be making this one again.
For dessert we had candied pitted olives and cherries with goats cheese in a sweet sherry wine. It sounds like it shouldn’t work but it was so good! There was only one oven and set of hobs so Omar made this while we watched (thank God, there’s no chance in hell I would have been able to make it) and it was again, delicious.
It was a really fun evening and definitely got me thinking about how to cook with olives a bit more creatively!
I was invited to review the evening but all opinions are my own.