Tag Archives: olive

Spring Pea & Thyme Risotto with Manchego and Olive Tapenade

18 Jun

When we were in South Africa, one of the most memorable meals, for me was at Makaron at Majeka House in Stellenbosch. Having visited, and eaten in, about thirty restaurants in nineteen days it takes something quite special to stand out from the crowd.

In a sea of  mainly white, minimal, distressed wood interiors (which I love, by the way), this was a welcome diversion.  The bar has an opulent gentleman’s club/hunting lodge feel, with dark navy and gold upholstery and lighting. It manages to be eccentric and elegant at the same time. It is quirky and doesn’t take itself too seriously which is very refreshing.

 The Washer Up was very pleased (understatement) with the fact that they have a beer pairing with each of the dishes as well as wine pairings. This is the first time that I have come across this and think it is genius, especially as they are promoting local microbreweries at the same time. I have read in numerous publications recently that Beer is the New Wine and that some restaurants have started hiring beer sommeliers but this is the only place I have seen it in action.

 There is a sense of humour in the food that compliments the quirkyness of the restaurant perfectly.

The bread was brought out on a slate (my favourite thing) and included a beautiful braid, crispy lavash, homemade butter, anchovy mayonnaise, olives, figs, lavender & rosemary. The Amuse Bouche was a Peppadew Popper in beer batter with guacamole & sour cream.

For a starter we ordered the Caprese Terrine, tomato cloud, basil gelee, semi dried tomatoes, olive oil powder which was beautiful and delicious. And the Garden Pea Risotto, garlic espuma, smoked olive tapenade.

The main courses we had were an Open Duck Egg Ravioli, young artichoke, asparagus, truffle caviar, which was amazing, I loved the little beads of truffle caviar. And a Mushroom & Roasted Corn Open Lasagne that the chef Tanja prepared especially for us.

All the food was excellent but the stand out dish was the pea risotto with olive tapenade, it was stunning, and I don’t even like olives. This dish changed my mind. The pea risotto tasted like the best mushy peas you have ever had, the flavour intense & the texture comforting. There was a deliciously creamy garlic & parmesan veloute with it and the olive tapenade just took it to another level taste wise. Such a surprisingly good combination, even if you think you don’t like olives, like me.

Unfortunately I couldn’t get the original recipe from Tanja because she is a very busy lady working in Paris at the moment sharpening her skills even further at Alain Passard’s restaurant L’Aperge. But when I picked up some of these beautiful fresh garden peas in my organic veg box I couldn’t wait any longer and I had a go at it myself anyway.

I love the mixed mauve colours of these olives, so pretty with the bright green peas. A match made in heaven, believe me.

I used a mixture of fresh and frozen peas. I made a puree with the frozen and kept the fresh ones whole. You can use all fresh if you have that many, or indeed all frozen if you have no fresh. I used brown short grain rice to make my risotto but you can substitute arborio for a creamier finish and a lot shorter cooking time. It will also make the finished risotto look more green than mine.

Summer Pea & Thyme Risotto with Manchego and Olive Tapenade

Serves 3, vegetarian, gluten-free

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 150 gr frozen peas (or fresh if you have that many)
  • 50 gr fresh peas (podded weight)
  • a handful of fresh parsley leaves, chopped
  •  a few sprigs of fresh thyme leaves removed & chopped plus extra for garnish
  • 1 litre (up to a litre & a half for brown rice) veg stock
  • a little freshly grated nutmeg
  • 50 gr manchego (or parmesan) grated plus 1 tbsp to finish
  • salt & black pepper
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 250 gr arborio (or brown) rice
  • 200 ml white wine
  • 1 tbsp cream cheese
  • a squeeze of fresh lemon juice

For the tapenade:

  • 75 gr good quality olives, buy with stones in, then remove them if possible (better flavour)
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped (or to taste)
  • fresh thyme leaves
  • a squeeze of lemon juice
  • salt & black pepper
  • extra virgen olive oil

To make the tapenade, put all the ingredients except the oil in a blender and blitz to a smoothish puree. Drizzle in the oil a bit at a time, blending until you get the desired consistency. Taste and adjust salt, lemon or garlic as required.

Cook the 150 gr frozen peas in two ladles full (just enough to cover the peas) of boiling veg stock with the parsley & thyme for about 5 minutes until soft. Puree this (stock & peas) with the grated cheese and season with salt, pepper & nutmeg. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Put the veg stock in a small pan over a medium low heat to keep warm but do not boil. Heat the olive oil in a large pan over a medium heat then cook the onions for 4 minutes with a pinch of salt, add the garlic and cook for another minute. Do not brown. Stir in the rice and coat in the oil, add in the wine and cook until most of the liquid has been absorbed.

Add the hot stock a one ladle at a time waiting for each ladle to be absorbed before adding the next. Keep doing this until the rice is cooked and you have a soft soupy risotto. This should take about 20-25 mins for arborio, longer for brown rice. If you run out of stock add hot water.

After about 15 minutes add the uncooked fresh peas, then when the rice is nearly cooked stir in the pea puree. When the rice is cooked add the cream cheese, tablespoon of grated cheese and squeeze of lemon. Put on the lid, remove from the heat and leave for 2 minutes.

Taste for seasoning before serving with a quenelle (or dollop) of the tapenade, a few fresh thyme leaves and some shaved Manchego.

Things That Made Me Smile Today…….

Jacarandas, I love their pretty purple flowers, like a tree full of droopy bluebells…..

And Oleanders in soft apricot…..

Or electric pink against the bright blue sky….

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Andalucian Extra Virgin Olive Oil (and a tricolor salad)

8 Dec

We have picked up our bottles of the olive oil we helped to harvest here a few weeks ago and it is amazing. The flavour is so far superior to that of anything I have ever bought, I want to put it on everything. Its viscous, cloudy, golden greenness is a joy to behold. I think  that this olive oil and the bouganvilla flower should become the emblems of Andalucia, they represent the beauty and flavour of the region perfectly..

And I’m going to put it on an Italian salad! Oh well, these are the ingredients I have in my possesion: avocadoes (loads of them -windfalls!), juicy Spanish tomatoes (full of flavour right now), mozzarella cheese & our homegrown basil. What would you do?!

Andalucian Tricolor Salad

serves 2 vegetarian

  • 1 ripe avocado, sliced
  • 1 large spanish tomato, sliced
  • 1 ball mozzarella, sliced
  • a handful of basil leaves
  • extra virgin olive oil (Andalucian preferably!)
  • Jerez- sherry vinegar (or balsamic)
  • salt & black pepper

Alternate the slices of tomato & mozzarella around the plate and top with the avocado slices in the centre. Sprinkle the tomatoes with salt & sherry vinegar and tear over some fresh basil leaves. Drizzle the olive oil generously over the salad and crack over some black pepper..

Serve with some rustic toasted bread drizzled with more healthy, fabulous olive oil… Enjoy!!

The Day We Helped With The Olive Harvesting

16 Nov

Our friends Andrew & Margarita have an olive grove. Some of the trees are really old and some of them they have planted themselves 10 years ago “to fill in the gaps”. About this time every year they ask for volunteers to help with the olive harvesting and in return you receive a bottle of gorgeous green, organic, first press olive oil that you helped to harvest. How fabulous is that!

This is one of the older trees, isn’t it beautiful? Apparently you can tell the age of an olive tree by counting the number of people who can stand around its base holding hands. Its 100 years for every person. Some of these trees are over 500 years old. You can understand the great sense of privilege & responsibility Andrew & Margarita feel to be looking after these trees. Most of the trees they have are of the “Manzanilla” variety.

This is our friend Chris and Rufus walking down to the olive grove. Look at the view, and we had perfect weather for it, such a beautiful day..

There are two main ways to harvest the olives. The first way we used for the trees with less olives was with a kind of bib/basket hanging round your neck to catch the olives as you pick them with your hands.

Here I am with Rufus modelling the olive catcher..!!

This is The Washer Up, Chris & Ole demonstrating the other method, for trees with more olives. A large net is placed on the ground around the trunk of the olive tree to catch all the olives as you rake them off the branches.

The olives fall onto the net and, when the whole tree has been harvested, the net is collected up, so that the olives are all in one area.

This is The Washer Up with Andrew picking out any twigs and leaves from the olives..

The olives are then tipped into crates. I love the colours, you just don’t expect olives to be so bright and candy coloured..

The Washer Up, up the tree to get the highest olives down with the little rake.

At 2 pm Margarita prepared a lovely lunch for everyone which included an Olive Tapenade aperitivo which was delicious. I don’t usually like tapenade (or olives!) but this was really good, it tasted  more like a pesto because of all the fresh herbs she used in it.

Margarita always serves a jug of water with fresh mint from their garden which I think is a beautiful idea, one I will be using in the future definitely!

Margaritas Black Olive Tapenade

  • prepared black olives
  • garlic
  • lots of fresh herbs (margarita used basil and sage I think)
  • fish sauce (or salt)
  • really good olive oil

Put all the ingredients in a food processor or use a stick blender and pulse until smooth- ish. I haven’t included measurements for this recipe as I don’t know them and anyway I think that tapenade, like pesto, is one of those recipes that you feel & taste as you go along and create to your own taste.

Here is Margarita and the rest of  “The Olive Harvesters” enjoying a fabulous lunch on the sunny terrace. As well as the tapenade Margarita cooked a lovely Pumpkin, Chickpea & Acelgas Stew using the pumpkin & acelgas (chard) from their vegetable plot. The pumpkin she used was a variety called “Onion” beacuse that’s what it looks like. It has a bright orange flesh and delicious texture and flavour when cooked. She added a little pimenton picante (hot paprika) to spice it up a little which was perfect.

For dessert we had some fresh Moscatel grapes from the vine. The grapes have been covered in newspaper to protect them from flies etc.

The grapes were sweet and delicious, the perfect end to a lovely lunch and a brilliant day, thanks Andrew & Margarita. I can’t wait to try the olive oil that we helped to harvest, expect lots of dishes using extra virgin olive oil coming up ..!

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