Last 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.