Olives shine at Christmastime

Olives are the go-to ingredient this time of the year. Not only are the enticing black and green glossy fruits the hostess’s ultimate all-rounder for canapés (or for putting that final flourish to a festive martini), but olive oil adds a golding touch to the Christmas table, too. For those with a knack for crafts, olive branches make the most beautiful wreathes and table décor. And, of course, a jar of pickled olives is a gift most will happily accept.

Here, some visual inspiration for using the olive in all its wonderful incarnations for a dash of festive cheer…

Olive, Tomato, Mozarella and Rosemary Salad

Olive, Tomato, Mozarella and Rosemary Salad

Olive Branch Table Wreath

Olive Branch Table Wreath

Gift Jars of Marinated Olives

Gift Jars of Marinated Olives

Olive Santa Penguins

Olive Santa Penguins

If you fancy trying any of these fabulous ideas, don’t hesitate to drop us a line – we’ll make sure you get all the necessary olivey accoutrements you require before Santa arrives – even the leafy branches, if you’re ambitious enough.

Alternatively, see our great range of olive and olive oil products, which includes a limited offer Oil-and-Pickled Olive Hamper available at a special ‘farm gate’ price.

Watch this space for delicious festive recipes using olives and olive oil…

green-olive-branch-aquarelle-hand-drawn-33584894

Do you know your good fat from your bad?

In a groundbreaking move earlier this month, US food safety officials initiated steps to ban the use of trans fats, saying they are a threat to health.

Olive Oil

Trans fats, also known as partially hydrogenated oils, are no longer “generally recognised as safe”, says the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The regulator claims that a ban could prevent 7 000 deaths and 20 000 heart attacks in the US each year.

Industrially produced trans fats – created when hydrogen is added to vegetable oil, making it a solid – are used in processed foods and in restaurants as a way to improve the shelf life or flavour. Foods commonly containing trans fat include some processed baked goods such as cakes, biscuits and pies, microwave popcorn, frozen pizza and other refrigerated dough products, some fast foods, margarine and other spreads and coffee creamer.

Not all fats are created equal

That said, not all fat is bad. Nearly every nutrition expert agrees that a moderate amount of fat consumption plays an important role in maintaining a healthy diet. It provides our bodies with energy, is essential for growth and development, and is necessary for the absorption of vitamins.

A balanced diet should contain more unsaturated fat than saturated fat (the latter is found frequently in foods like butter, lard, chocolate, cakes, pastries and meat products, including sausages and pies). Most people eat too much saturated fat: around 20% more than the recommended maximum. A diet high in saturated fat can increase low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels (otherwise known as bad cholesterol) in blood over time, increasing the risk of heart disease.

Take heart

Due to its high concentration of monounsaturated fat — the primary fat source – olive oil can actually help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol. This ‘good’ fat is, in fact, a nutrient with important functions. Among them:

  • It’s a rich source of energy. Did you know that fats produce more than double the energy acquired from carbohydrates or proteins?
  • It’s a carrier for vitamins A, D, E and K
  • It provides linoleic and alpha-linolenic acid, essential polyunsaturated fatty acids.
  • It contributes flavour and a sense of “fullness” when part of an eating healthy diet.

Aside from being naturally free of cholesterol and trans fat, olive oil is also free of salt, sugar, and gluten. This, coupled with the fact that it’s rich in monounsaturated fat (that’s the good kind), is the reason doctors tout the health benefits of olive oil: it helps protect against heart disease, aids in digestion and has been known to promote healthy ageing.

Simply put, olive oil is one of the best ways to substitute the bad fat in your diet with the good fat. So why not buy a bottle right now?

From Tree to Table

Summertime and the living is easy. This means throw-together salads and easy bakes, all of which should feature olives and olive oil in a starring role. Here are some of the ways I’ve discovered to put the fruits and oils of our various olive varietals to delicious use… all light on both calories and prep work.

Watermelon, Cucumber, Olive and Feta Salad

Watermelon, Cucumber, Olive and Feta Salad

Watermelon, Cucumber, Olive and Feta Salad

This pretty-in-pink salad is the perfect showcase for our glossy black manzanilla olives. Usually the last to ripen, this year’s early cold snap brought our manzanilla on prematurely. We press the smaller fruits for their lovely mild oil, and pickle the larger olives in brine.

For the salad:
• ½ small watermelon
• 200g feta cheese
• 2–3 radishes, thinly sliced
• ½ cucumber, cubed
• 60g manzanilla olives
• a small bunch of mint

For the dressing:
• 4T extra virgin olive oil
• 2–3T lemon juice
• 1T
 honey
• 1T toasted sesame seeds
• sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Cut the watermelon into squares or use either a melon baller or a tablespoon to create balls of the flesh.
2. Toss together the watermelon, feta, sliced radish, cucumber and olives.
3. To prepare the dressing, combine all ingredients in a jam jar. Pop the lid on and give it a good shake.
4. Drizzle the salad with the dressing and garnish with fresh mint.
Serves 4 as a starter or side

Spinach Tart with Olive Oil Crust

Spinach Tart with Olive Oil Crust

Spinach Tart with Olive Oil Crust

Our frantoio oil olives ripened early with the result this year’s is a milder oil, more mellow in flavour and not overly ‘grassy’, perfect for using in bakes. The easy-to-make olive oil-based crust of this spinach tart, which I picked up from a back issue of Martha Stewart, offers a brilliant use for a milder olive oil – it’s also a great option when entertaining vegetarian guests.

For the crust:
• ¾ cup whole-wheat flour
• ¾ cup cake flour
• 1 t coarse salt
• 2 T sesame seeds
• ⅓ cup mild extra virgin olive oil
• ⅓ cup water

For the filling:
• 700g spinach, trimmed, rinsed
• 1T extra virgin olive oil
• 1 small shallot, finely chopped
• 1 clove garlic, minced
• ¼t red-pepper flakes
• 50g feta, crumbled
• 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
• ½t coarse salt
• ½t sesame seeds

1. To make the crust, preheat the oven to 220°C. Whisk together the flours, salt and sesame seeds, then stir in the oil and water and knead to form a ball. Roll out the dough into a 30cm round and fit it into a 25cm tart tin with a removable bottom. Trim any excess dough, then prick the bottom all over using a fork and bake until the crust is golden brown and crisp, about 35 minutes. Allow to cool on a wire rack.
2. To make the filling, reduce the oven to 180°C. Place the spinach in a large pot (if spinach is dry, add ¼ cup water) and cover. Cook over a medium heat, stirring occasionally, until just wilted, about 6 minutes. Transfer to a colander to drain. When cool enough to handle, wrap in a kitchen towel and squeeze to remove the excess water. Coarsely chop and transfer to a bowl. Wipe the pot dry and heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic and red-pepper flakes and fry, stirring, until the onion has softened, about 4 minutes. Transfer to the bowl with the spinach, add the feta, eggs and salt and stir to combine.
3. Pour the filling into the crust and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake until just set, 30 to 35 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Serves 6

Green Olive, Walnut and Pomegranate Potato Salad

Green Olive, Walnut and Pomegranate Potato Salad

Green Olive, Walnut and Pomegranate Potato Salad

Manzanilla olives (the word means ‘little apple’ in Spanish) are harvested while green-yellow, then sorted by hand (our workers wear cotton gloves to minimise the risk of damaging the tender fruits) and sent for pickling. Firmer and denser than its ripe black counterpart, with a far more piquant flavour and a delicious texture, these beauties shine in a cold potato salad.

• 1kg Nicola Mediterranean potatoes, scrubbed, then halved (quartered, if large)
• 1 cup mayonnaise
• ¾ cup sour cream
• sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
• 
3 spring onions, finely sliced
• ½ cup roughly chopped parsley
• ¼ cup torn basil leaves
• ½ cup pitted manzanilla olives
• 50g walnuts, toasted and roughly chopped
• 
Seeds of 1 pomegranate

1. Place the potatoes in a large pot of boiling water and cook for 5 to 10 minutes or until just cooked through.
2. Drain and cool to room temperature.
3. Whisk together the mayonnaise and sour cream and season to taste.
4. Spread half of the mayonnaise onto the base of a serving platter. Top with cooled potatoes, half the spring onions, half the parsley, half the basil, half the olives, half the walnuts and half the pomegranate seeds, then spoon over the remaining mayonnaise. Top with remaining ingredients and serve.
Serves 4 as a starter or side