I used to hate olives. The first time I had one was by accident at secondary school and I spat it out and hid it discretely under my pile of mashed potato. I can’t remember why. It was just a peculiar taste. Nowadays I could not be more opposite. I love them. The fridge always has a few jars full as they really are one of the most perfect healthy snacks but also a fab ingredient in the kitchen for all sorts of dishes.
Full of healthy fat
Olives are one of the most cited botanicals in western literature. They were as valued for their medicinal qualities in ancient times as they are now. They are a concentrated source of fat. 80-85% of the calories they contain come from fat and three quarters of this is oleic acid, a monounsaturated fatty acid. This has been associated by many in the know with a reduced risk of heart disease.
So as much as it seems like a contradiction in terms, these healthy fats have a positive effect on your body and protect you from the effect of bad cholesterol. They actually lower the blood cholesterol level, so protecting against heart disease. I also read somewhere that the Vitamin E they contain has been shown to help reduce hot flushes during menopause!
The other reason I love them is that they are full of fibre. About 100g is a third fibre content. No wonder they fill me up!
Produced on our doorstep
Sadly I don’t think there are many producing olive groves in England but it is good to know that this wonder botanical doesn’t need to travel far to get to us. The top three producers are Spain, Italy and Greece.
I was kindly sent some Spanish olives to try which were produced by Fragata. I love the story of this company. Hand harvested olives from trees planted by the founding family member Don Santiago Camacho Roman in 1897.
Tapas to satisfy late night munchies
Of course the Spanish are famous for their ‘tapas’ – mini, flavourful platters. I am a big fan. I love eating lots of mini meals instead of one main one. It’s so much fun trying and sharing.
So I decided to use the olives I was sent to make a couple of tapas style treats that would satisfy my late night munchies.
Super Quick Olive and Sunflower Seed Loaf
I had a tin of lovely garlic stuffed olives in my Fragata hamper so I decided to make a little Olive and Sunflower Seed Bread. Don’t be put off by the word ‘bread’. This recipe takes about 10 minutes to measure and mix and 20 minutes to cook. I had it with a glass of Rioja and some of the Fragata Piri Piri Red Peppers.
Lemon and Olive Jam
I recently had a session with Vivien Lloyd – preserve maker extraordinaire. She inspired me to have a go at unusual combinations and that’s how this little combo came about. I love lemon marmalade but it’s often too sweet so I sometimes sprinkle over a little sea salt. Olives are salty so I wondered if they would work. They did. This is a rich, lemony jam with a hint of the olive flavour and is just perfect with cheese. If you are a fan of damson jam or quince jelly then you might like it.
Now I have two delicious ‘tapas’ to satisfy my late night munchies – that are full of good fat and great flavour so I don’t need to feel guilty about the wine I’m having with them. (That’s the theory anyway!).