One of the bizarre tastes my son developed as a two year-old was for olives. Initially I thought it was just curiosity rather than that he genuinely liked them, but I was wrong. It rather shook my preconceptions since I didn't enjoy olives until I was in my twenties and they certainly don't figure in your average list of finger foods for toddlers. Nearly twelve years on, they are still one of his favourite foods and we get through a lot of them. For preference, those big Mediterranean green "queen olives" are top of the list but big black ones go down a treat too. Pitted, or with the stones still in situ - makes no difference. H likes them stuffed with pimento, but I am afraid I don't. I am not so keen on those very concentrated-tasting, small ones either which are just a bit too acridly intense, for my taste anyway.
They get eaten just as they are, drained of their brine or oil, or I regularly add ladlefuls of them to chicken or lamb casseroles. But last year a friend gave me the following recipe for marinaded olives and for special occasions this is the way we like to have them. I must own up to Deep Suspicion about this recipe initially - it contains three things I think I Really Don't Like or which I Don't Eat.
Raw garlic for one.
Raw chillies for two.
Coriander leaves for three.
But despite the simplicity of the recipe, some kind of alchemy goes on and the individually suspect ingredients seem to lose their assertive identity. If you like olives, I guarantee you will like these and the shouty raw garlic, chillies and coriander do no more than whisper gently in a harmonious symphony. Think Strauss or Mozart not Janacek or Bartok! Apologies to you musicians out there but you know what I mean!
H and I made these together on Sunday afternoon - double quantities - although there was some "discussion" as to whether we needed to double up all the flavouring ingredients for a double quantity of olives! I am afraid I baulked at 8 cloves of raw garlic and 4 raw chillies! Call me chicken if you like, but there are limits!
The marinaded olives accompany a glass of wine, especially a chilled white wine, like a marriage made in heaven and you can mop up some of the flavoured oil, after (according to me), or before and after, (according to H), the olives have been eaten, with some good white bread. On Sunday there was still a bit of the Essex Huffer I made according to Anne's beautiful recipe here which was perfect for absorbing the greeny-gold oil and its dark central pool of balsamic vinegar. You may not need supper after these as pre-dinner nibbles though!
I say H and I made them together but this is not strictly true. H made them and I took pics! H's style of cooking is totally different from mine. He is flamboyant and doesn't like to weigh things out. He tastes as he goes and regards measurements as annoying limitations generally to be exceeded or at least departed from rather than respected. He refuses point blank to wear an apron even for the messiest jobs (I think it's a man thing) and generally approaches things in a more gung ho way than me. It makes for an entertaining and sparky time in the kitchen! Also a creative one because we balance one another out. Well, that's the theory!
What you need:
olives in brine either black or green ones, the bigger, the better, one 400g jar or two, well-drained
4 cloves of garlic (not 8 cloves-and-counting as H tried to persuade me!)
2 red chillies
a bunch of fresh coriander leaves (cilantro I think in US terms)
some good quality green extra-virgin olive oil
some good quality thick balsamic vinegar
freshly ground black pepper
What you do:
Peel the garlic and chop finely.
Put the chopped garlic and chilli into a big bowl. Snip up the coriander leaves and add.
Stir all the ingredients together to amalgamate and add some black pepper. Not Too Much because there is already heat from the chillies..... This fell on deaf ears on Sunday!
Transfer some of the olives for immediate consumption to a small bowl and the rest to a bowl with a tight-fitting lid to keep in the fridge. If the lid doesn't fit tightly enough you will find quite a lot of other things in your fridge taste of garlic, chilli and coriander. Those aromatic oils are volatile and frisky and go visiting!
The olive bowl in the pic was also made by H in his ceramics class and allows for extra oil and balsamic vinegar to be added through the hole in the handle to flow down and mingle with the olives once the initial quota of oil has been absorbed by your bread. Thinks of everything, that boy! I have to say that they were absolutely delicious. Chill your white wine and try them!