As regular readers of this blog will have noticed by now, I love my food. I love to eat - at super smart eateries, at cheap and cheerful Indians and at friend's houses, but most of all I love to eat in, I love to cook for people, and the most satisfying way of cooking of all for me is not to plan elaborate glamorous feasts (although I quite enjoy that too if I'm in the right mood and it's for the right people), the best way is to forage in my larder for the goodies I keep for either every day use or for a bit of a rainy day (and we get plenty of those). I'm convinced that the key to being a successful 'home' cook is all down to your larder/cupboard/fridge/freezer.
If we have people dropping in, which happens surprisingly often, I always search out something to nibble. I know for sure that I never have crisps or biscuits in stock but can always knock up a nice little savory snack. My constant on the spot nibbles are nuts and seeds quickly fried in a little olive oil and sprinkled with some Maldon salt, smoked pimenton and rosemary, a quick hummus from a tin of chickpeas (which takes about three minutes in the blender), some pitta bread thrown in the toaster from the freezer and the easiest of the lot, olives. I adore olives, black, green, purple, big, small but always with their stones in unless they are replaced with almonds or whole garlic cloves, I really dislike olives which have been left heartless or stuffed with a slimy slither of red pepper, I hate the dry wrinkly ones which remove the surface of my tongue and the ones coated in so many dried herbs and flakes of chili that you can't taste any olive.
What I love is my Olive Pot and to be reminded of holidays in Greece and Spain. I've had an Olive Pot on the go for years now, and it's basically a tall Kilner jar filled with tasty olives, extra virgin olive oil and some judiciously chosen flavours. The olives last for a very long time, becoming stronger and more and more fragrant as time goes on, if there are lots of bits other than olive in the jar and it's around for some time, you do get a rather unappetizing layer of olive compost at the bottom and then it's time to replenish and refresh. This time came today!
The pot was almost empty, with just a few green Queenie's sitting at the bottom with some rather sad looking lemon slices and olive cloves. So this is how you bring your Olive Pot back to life.
Line a sieve with a sheet of kitchen paper and suspend over a glass bowl, pour the remaining oil and olives into the sieve and wait for most of the oil to filter through, how long this takes will depend on how much gunge is at the bottom of The Pot.
introduce any foreign bodies to your lovely fresh oil. If the filtered oil looks nice and clear it can go back into the Pot after you've given it a good wash in hot soapy water. So you've got a couple of inches of salvaged oil and some sort of clean olives.
Put your brand new olives into the pot after you've soaked them in fresh cold water for a little while to get rid of some of the residual salt from their stay in brine. I've garnished my new Pot with slices of lemon, squashed peeled cloves of garlic and some big sprigs of rosemary from my mum's garden.
Give the olives (old and new) a good mix up with your seasonings and top up with extra virgin olive oil - it doesn't have to be the best cold pressed single estate oil, but you may wish to do as I do and use the oil in dressings and so on, so you really want something that you'll be happy to eat. Make sure the olives and bits and pieces are totally covered with oil, otherwise you risk fur growing on any poking out bits.
Once your Olive Pot is replenished it will be a thing of beauty in your larder and you'll always have something tasty to nibble when the mood takes you and something impressive for the table. The olives will take a while to pick up the flavours, they'll be yummy straight away if they're nice olives, but wait for a bit to get the benefit of the extras.