Black olives, rosemary and a little preserved lemon

IMG_20150625_191353Last summer on a wine-tasting visit to Bellet in the hills above Nice I tasted and bought some of Domaine de la Source’s delicious pâte d’olives made with the local cailletier black olives.   The French term for this little treat in a jar translates into English as the rather less glamorous-sounding olive paste and, what’s more, sourcing olives from the Nice area here in the UK is not straightforward.

Never one to be deterred however, I have soldiered on making my own pâte d’olives since Domaine de la Source’s jar ran out within days of returning home last August, and I’ve used more readily available varieties of olive (couchillo, kalamata) with a reasonable amount of success.  Then a couple of weeks ago I had a lightbulb moment while researching the influence of North African flavours on the cuisine of Provence, which led me to try preserved lemons in the recipe to give a kick of freshness to the oiliness of the olives.

The results were impressive. This pâte d’olives is superbly moreish and ideal for spreading ‘neat’ on crostini for a traditional provençal canapé which is equally irresistible with an additional topping of mi-cuit tomatoes or prosciutto crudo.  

Taking this idea a step further, why not toast a few rounds of baguette on one side, top the untoasted side with a generous spoonful of olive paste and a slice of goat’s cheese then stick the whole lot under the grill for a few minutes until the cheese is bubbling and oozing all over the place. Served with a lightly-dressed green salad, you’ll enjoy a perfect lunch in no time. And bowls of spaghetti adorned with the olive paste and some prawns or squid always meet with happy faces and empty plates.

One word of advice though: if you’re looking for an olive-based sauce to accompany roasted lamb, I would go for the full-blown tapenade which includes anchovies and capers in the mix.

Pâte d’olives au citron et romarin
Makes one medium-sized jar and keeps in the fridge for a couple of weeks

200g good quality black olives in olive oil, stones removed
20g preserved lemons
2 tsps fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, crushed
20ml extra virgin olive oil

Put all the ingredients into a food processor with a metal blade and process until blended together.  I keep my paste quite chunky but you can blend it to a smoother texture should you prefer.


IMG_20150709_151300 (2)


Courgette Flower Fritters

CourgetteFlower2For the last few years we have successfully grown courgettes here in Dorset and I’ve enjoyed putting them to good use in many a Riviera-influenced recipe. This year, however, I have yet to harvest even one courgette from my three plants, but the beautiful, yellow courgette flowers have been prolific.

Ideas for stuffing this delicate crop abound and I have tried various concoctions including ricotta with herbs, pesto and even mozarella and anchovy.  But stuffing these beautiful blooms can be a fiddly business and sometimes all I want is something quick, easy and tasty for my current (almost) daily supply.

So here’s what I’ve come up with, using one of my favourite ingredients, chickpea flour.  Quick, easy and so moreish.

Chickpea Flour & Saffron Courgette Flower Fritters
(no stuffing)

20 courgette flowers, washed and dried
125g chickpea flour
175ml sparkling water
A pinch of salt
A pinch of saffron strands
Olive oil for frying

Make a batter by whisking together the flour, water, salt and saffron.

Heat the olive oil in a frying pan.

Coat the courgette flowers in the batter and drop them, a few at a time, into the oil.  Turn them over and then remove them from the pan once they are lightly browned and crisp.  Drain on kitchen towel and serve immediately.

A great canapé idea!