With an estimated 300 million olive trees nationwide and a history with the fruit spanning some 6,000 years, Spain is the world’s leading producer of table olives. Delicious olives available from your local supermarket most likely grew under the warm Spanish sun .. a hot, seemingly endless summer season perfect for ripening. An excellent source of vitamin E, fiber and iron, Spanish olives are thought to alleviate the symptoms of all manner of ills from arthritis to colon cancer. With so many types of Spanish olives on offer, their versatile yet distinct flavours offer a whole host of snack and meal options. From which variety to toppings and sauces - we’ve got the pick of the olive crop.
Which variety and colour?
The most common types of Spanish table olive are the Manzanilla, which translates from Spanish as ‘little apple’, Gordal .. delicious green olives as big as quails eggs, Hojiblanca, Carrasqueña and Cacereña.
All olives actually start out green - the color and class of the olive corresponds to the ripeness of the fruit when picked:
* Green - olives picked when ripe
* Olives turning colour - olives picked before they are completely ripe, and can be dark red, pinkish or brown
* Black .. olives that are picked when not totally ripe and cured following which they take on their characteristic black colour.
Enjoy Spanish Olive all the year round
Serving styles and suggestions
The main serving styles for Spanish table olives are as follows:
* Whole - olives complete with the pit
* Pitted - olives which have been pitted
* Stuffed - pitted olives stuffed with one or more ingredients such as pimento, onion, tuna, anchovy, salmon, almond, etc
* Salads - olives which are pitted and cut in pieces or slices. Can have capers or other ingredients for stuffing
* Slices - pitted or stuffed olives which are cut in cross-section to form rings of similar thickness
* With capers - whole or pitted olives, with or without stuffing, generally of a small size, and accompanied by capers.
* Loose - olives which are not placed in order, but rather allowed to fill a container at random.
* Place-packed - olives which are fit snugly into the packaging or dish, following a symmetrical order or forming a geometric shape.
Spanish table olives make a great snack or crudités straight from the jar, but why not try some of these simple serving suggestions-
Stir it up
Spanish olives bring added texture and flavour to most dips, sauces, soups and stews. Mix in tapenade (olive paste .. see recipe below), sliced, diced or even whole olives to ..
Dips: mayonnaise based dips such as Aioli; guacamole; hummus; salsa; taramosalata; tsatsiki - even ketchup!
Sauces or sauce based dishes: béchamel; bolognaise; chaser; cheese, chili (con carne), cock-o-van, enchilada, hollandaise, gravy, onion, pesto, mushroom-the possibilities really are endless. And if you are feeling adventurous try making your own:
- 300g pitted Spanish olives (washed in cool water)
- 2 anchovy fillets, rinsed
- 1 small clove garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons capers
- 2 to 3 fresh basil leaves
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tsp of rosemary and 1 tsp of thyme (optional)
Blend all the ingredients together for one to two minutes in a food processor until the mixture becomes a coarse paste. Can be served immediately or left to marinate over night.
Black olive and Rosemary bread
- 300g warm water
- 25g yeast
- 500g strong flour
- 12g salt
- 125g black olives, pitted and chopped and dried with kitchen paper
- 1 tablespoon chopped rosemary
Mix the flour and salt in a big warm bowl and then add the water slowly. Knead well, and once it is a good consistency, mix in the chopped olives and rosemary. Place the dough on a floured table top and shape it as you wish, making a few cuts in the top with a sharp knife.
Place it on an oven tray and then spray with some water to give the crust a nice crunchy edge and golden colour. Finally, cover with a kitchen cloth and leave to rest for half an hour until or so until the dough has doubled in size. Once it has risen, bake in a preheated oven (220 degrees) for approximately 30 minutes.
Top toppings and flavoursome fillings
Spanish olives are an absolutely delicious way to top-off and fill hundreds of your favourite dishes from pizzas to pastas, jacket potatoes, salads and pies.
Baked dishes: pizza; jacket potatoes; pie (fisherman’s, sheppard’s, cottage, steak and ale); lasagna; pasta-bake; hotpot; grattan; moussaka and cauliflower or macaroni cheese.
Other dishes: salads; stuffed pastas like tortellini; scrambled egg; mash potato; nachos; sandwiches; burgers and even baked beans
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