Sunday, 9 September 2012

Olives: like 'em or love 'em

Olives, olives, olives.  Along with cheese (by which I mean the Mont D'Ors and aged Stiltons of this world), they are one of the great definers of taste in Britain.  A simple, "no, I think I will pass on the olives" will often be met with a gasp, or worse, a knowing, smug, "oh I didn't use to like them either - I think it's something you pick up with age". But it needn't be so. They need not be the haven for the self-proclaimed "taste" conscious.  I am convinced that separating this wonderful, miniature fruit from references to long hot days holidaying in Tuscany would break the social stigma surrounding them.

Perhaps it is because I love them so. Perhaps they just got lucky.  But I was invited recently to an event organised by Taste of Spain - an organisation single-handedly trying to break down the norms surrounding olives, and, in particular, Spanish olives - the world's largest producer (who knew? not me).  Sat with the wonderfully friendly Big Spud and London Foodaholic, we were to be shown dishes by Omar Allibhoy, formerly of El Bulli, now owner of Tapas Revolution at Westfield, all of which incorporated olives.

A classic starter of sardines, olives, artichoke and radicchio went down a treat - fresh and full of flavour.

Next up was some Spanish tortilla and chicken thighs, cooked again with green olives.  The dish was simple - chicken fried then braised in a sauce of stock and sherry.  The olives worked okay here, although I think I would have added them a little earlier to soften them up and impart more flavour.

On to my favourite of the night, sea bass, piquillo peppers and olives.  This is something I will need to try at home before long.

Finally, after a feast of green olives we finished with a round of black olives in the strangest of places - truffles.  As with sea salt and chilies, the olives worked wonders with the rich, dark chocolate, a real treat.

Thanks to Storm Communications and Taste of Spain for a great evening - olives, already de rigueur for any sunny afternoon, will now need to be incorporated even further into my daily diet.

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