Saturday, 9 July 2016

How Can Olive without You?

Olea europaea

olives on my tree
I spent more than 40 years wanting to like olives and it is only since I have grown and begun to process my own that I have truly begun to appreciate their particular appeal. We planted four trees in 3 varieties over four years ago and this year was the first harvest of more than one olive. The exponential potential of future harvests has me almost afraid of how many olives we can look forward to.
Once processed olives can be rather high in sodium which can cause pause for anyone watching their blood pressure. On the up side they are high in vitamins A and E, have some vitamin K. They are high in healthy monounsaturated oleic fat, omega 6 fatty acid and some omega 3. They add some dietary copper, iron and calcium as well as small amount of magnesium, selenium and zinc. The real nutritional power house is in the vast array of amino acid and antioxidants.

Olive Traditions and Mythology


olive branch
Athena, Goddess of justice and wisdom and protector of arts and literature had the olive tree as one of her most recognised symbols. 

Poseidon, God of the seas and Zeus' brother, coveted earthly kingdoms and so claimed the possession of Attica, driving his trident into the Athenian Acropolis which became a well of salt water. Later, Athena came to town and took it in a very peaceful way calling Cecrops, first King of Athens, as a witness. Athena made an olive tree spring from just next to the well. Poseidon, in anger, challenged the goddess, but Zeus intervened and ordered the formation of a divine tribunal to decide which of the two Gods should be enshrined in the city. Thus, the tribunal formed by the Olympic deities, after listening to the testimony of Cecrops decided to side with Athena. It was determined that it was she who had the right to own the land because she had given the city the greatest gift: the first olive tree. Thenceforth, the city adopted the name of Athens and the olive tree planted by Athena was revered for centuries in the Acropolis symbolising the victory. In Greece the olive tree symbolises peace and prosperity, as well as resurrection and hope. This was demonstrated by the events after the burning of Athens by the Persian King Xerxes in the V century BC. Xerxes burned the entire Acropolis city, within which was the centenary of olive trees of Athena, which was also burned. However, when the Athenians entered the scorched city, the olive tree had already grown a branch, symbolising the rapid recuperation and renovation of the Athenians in the face of adversity.

An olive branch was often given as a mark of atonement in many stories including the tales of

Orestes and Thesus and crowns of olive branches became traditional for warriors, magistrates, priests, athletes and winners at games and competitions.

As a symbol for protection and fertility it was often conspicuous at the door and in the home and farm.


Preparing Olives for pickling

leaching out the bitterness

Slit each olive with a knife or pit them.Put in a large vessel, cover with water and weight them down so they have air excluded. Change water daily for 2 weeks.

Drain and rinse well then make up a brine solution of 10% salt in water and weight the olives down in that for 2 weeks.

Estimate the amount of pickling liquid required by filling preserving jar(s) with olives and then to the top with water. Drain reserving the water and measuring. Adjust the pickling liquid with some to spare.

pickled olives

Olives, a more traditional pickle

Pickling solution:

700ml 10% brine solution
(630ml water +70gm salt)
70ml white wine vinegar
(additional vinegar if you like a strong flavour pickle)

Add herbs and spices to taste. Be creative.
(here I used 3 birds eye chillies and fresh bay leaves)

Bring the brine and vinegar to a simmer. Fill the sterilised jars with olives and herbs and spices. Pour the pickling liquid to cover and seal. Turn upside down any pop tops and allow to cool before storing for 4 weeks.

Olives, a cheat version on a frugal budget

perfectly pickled
Pickling solution:
500ml reserved jalapeno pickling liquid
200ml flat lemonade

400ml white balsamic vinegar
1/2 tspn each peppercorns, 

dill seed & fennel seed
1 dried Kashmiri chilli

1 fresh bay leaf

Bring the reserved pickle, lemonade and vinegar to a simmer. Fill the sterilised jars with olives and herbs and spices. Pour the pickling liquid to cover and seal. Turn upside down any pop tops and allow to cool before storing for 4 weeks.

Olive Tapenade 

Tapenade with sage flowers
200g whole black olives, pitted
3 tbsp pickled nasturtium pods (or capers)

2 anchovies, roughly chopped
1 fat clove of garlic, crushed
2 tspn fresh thyme, chopped
Juice of ½ lemon

5 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

Put in a food processor the capers, anchovies, garlic and thyme, and whizz to a rough puree. Squeeze in the lemon juice and, with the motor still running, add the oil in a steady drizzle.

Taste, and add pepper and more lemon juice if necessary.

Serve on small toasts or croutons, as a dip or stir through pasta

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Nasturtium please!

Tropaeolum majus

nasturtium flower
These cheerful, sunny, herbaceous garden inhabitants are underestimated in their charm and culinary value. The ease with which they grow and self propagate as well as their sweet and pepper flavours make them a must in so many ways.

A native of South America it's natural antibiotic properties were used to treat urinary tract infections and the Meso-Americans valued them for their aide to kidney health. Their use to prevent scurvy also points to them being high in vitamin C, in fact they contain approximately 92mg/100gm.

Some other uses that may be of health benefit is as a tea of the buds. Rubbed on the skin it may improve surface circulation and even promote hair regrowth as well as treat excessively oily skin as is mildly astringent.

A poultice of nasturtium leaves and buds may be useful in treating minor cuts, abrasions and mild acne due to it's antibiotic, antiseptic, and antifungal properties.

Nasturtiums also supply small amounts of vitamin D.

Nasturtiums also contain lutein and zaexanthin, compounds that can help protect your eyes from age-related disorders.

Nasturtiums help deter aphids, squash bugs, white flies, cucumber beetles and a host of other pests. Plant them along side veggies such as tomatoes, cabbage, radishes and cucumbers as they are great garden companions.


Brined Nasturtium "vine" leaves

nasturtium leaves
20 large nasturtium leaves
1 cup water
2 tbsp rock salt

Trim the stem close to the leaf and place slightly of centre on top of each other in a row and roll tightly into a cigar and place in a clean sterilised jar with as little gap at the top as possible.

Bring the water and salt to a simmer, turn off and fill the jar and seal. Place the jar on it's lid to cool.

Brine the leaves for a week before using.

Nasturtium Dolmades

nasturtium dolmades

20 brined nasturtium leaves
1 cup cooked quinoa
1 tbsn chia
tbsp water
2 green onions, finely sliced
4 sprigs fennel frond, finely chopped
1 tbsp coriander, finely chopped
1/2 tspn dried mint
1/2 tspn lemon rind, finely chopped
salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
juice 1 lemon, some pulp

Soak the chia in the water for an hour, mix with the quinoa, green onion, herbs and seasoning
place 1/2-2/3 tspn of mix on each leaf and roll neatly and tightly.

Place the rolls in a pan large enough to have one layer and cover with oil and juice mix. 

Poach on a very low heat for 15 minutes.

Serve warm with Greek yoghurt or keep cold in the poaching liquid for a week in the fridge.

Stuffed Nasturtium Leaves

stuffed nasturtium leaves

20 Nasturtium leaves
1/2 cup chicken mince
1/2 cup brown rice, cooked
1 tspn chia seed
4 fresh sage leaves
50 gm feta, finely crumbled
1 tbsp lemon rind, finely shredded
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup roasted tomato sauce or passata

Mix the chicken, rice, chia, sage, feta and rind well and season.
Place a small teaspoon on mix on the central star of each leaf and wrap and roll tightly. Lay open edge down in a greased oven proof dish that has a lid. Layer until all leaves are done.

Mix the tomato and stock, season and pour over the nasturtium rolls until covered. place the lid and slow cook in a moderate oven for half an hour. remove lid and allow the sauce to thicken.

Serve as a side, on croutons with a drizzle of olive oil or as a snack


fakers - faux capers
(Pickled Nasturtium Pods - Faux Capers)

1/2 a cup of nasturtium buds & pods, washed and dried
250ml rice wine vinegar
1 tsp salt
1 clove garlic
10 peppercorns
1 bay leaf

Put the vinegar, salt, garlic, bay and peppercorns into a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Simmer for two minutes, then remove from the heat. Fill a small sterilised jar with the pods and buds then pour the pickling liquid over the buds and pods until the jar is full. Put a lid on the jar and leave for a couple of weeks in a cool place. The buds and pods will be ready to eat when they have sunk to the bottom of the jar. You can keep adding new buds and pods to the liquid.

Use the buds in dressings and salad creams. Use the pods in any recipe that calls for capers.

Green curry paste ingredients

Green Curry Paste

Curry pastes are a "to taste" kind of creation for me and my green curries are a blend of what is in my garden at that time as well as what I have preserved from past harvests.

Adding green nasturtium pods was a natural progression with their sweet peppery flavour.

This is just one of the combinations I have played with to great effect. Don't be shy to try your own.

Nasturtium Flower

add nasturtium to salads

Any green, garden or leafy salad will be lifted to another level of wow with the inclusion of nasturtium flowers
garnish with Nasturtium

Use Nasturtium flowers to add vibrant garnish to any meal