Friday, 2 December 2011

Olives from Spain - A well-rounded delicacy


A few weeks ago I received an email from a PR asking whether I would be interested in sampling some olives from Spain and perhaps doing a little piece for my blog. I was tempted to tell her that there was no need to send me anything to get me writing about olives (I already wrote about my love of these mini green drops of happiness in a previous post). But I'm glad I did accept them as I was sent something that I had never tried before, olives stuffed with piquillo peppers, which have now become a firm favourite right behind anchovy-stuffed olives. I need to find out where to buy them.

I was surprised when I first arrived in England many a moon ago that all olives seemed to be “different” to what I was used to (and I was used to a lot of them!). In Spain whenever you order a cold drink in a bar they tend to bring you a little dish with olives and who would say no to a nice few olives with a coke or a beer? The reason why the olives seemed different was because they weren't Spanish, strange as Spain is the biggest producer of these green drops of savoury heaven (a fact that is well-known to all of us proud Spaniards). 

Olives stuffed with piquillo peppers with lomo and tomatoes

Things have changed though and now it's easy to find good Spanish olives, in fact next time you're at your local food market, look for an olive stall and make sure you take home olives from Spain to enjoy with a glass of wine, a beer or a coke; couple them with crisps (no funny flavours though!) for the bar effect and a good selection of Spanish cheeses and cold meats (chorizo, iberico ham, lomo). If you don't have a good food market near you, just head to your nearest supermarket or deli, you are sure to find some there.

Now Olives from Spain is running an initiative to let the UK know about this wonderful Spanish product, led by a Spanish "young man" (oh I sound old!) who is determined to revolutionise the cooking world, bringing the best of Spanish food to the UK. His name is Omar Allibhoy and he wants to address the misconception that the majority of the world's olives are produced in Greece and Italy, when in fact Spain accounts for 40% of the world's total. Not just that, olives have excellent nutritional properties that make them a healthy food.

I first heard about Omar last year, 2010, when he was travelling all around the UK on a moped with a mate. Think the Ewan McGregor of Spanish cuisine although with less dosh to invest on a motorbike. In their travels they drew a T across the mainland of the UK, parking their mopeds along the way to cook Spanish food for the deliciously shocked passers-by. By the end certain establishments were requesting their presence. I remember following their journey through their Facebook page and being disappointed that they weren't going near Cambridge (come to Cambridge Omar!).

I had the chance to ask Omar a few questions (via email through the PR, that is until Mr Tapas takes me on a date to Tapas Revolution to sample his fare and talk to him in person!). 
 
Q. As a fellow Spaniard who gets asked why on earth she lives in the UK quite often, I would be interested to know why the UK? 
A. The weather, haha not really. I like the fact that you can experience all different types of cuisine here. It's also incredibly easy for Brits to get hold of almost any kind of ingredient
 
Q. I would love for you to tell my readers about the different types of Spanish olives and, especially, which one is your favourite. I personally love anchovy-stuffed olives (I used to bring tins of Hero back from Spain when I first lived here and I couldn't find olives anywhere). And where is your favourite olive bar or place to eat good olives in the UK. 
A. I'm also a huge fan of olives stuffed with home-cured anchovies! I can eat a whole bowl of them, I'm also a huge fan of manchego stuffed olives - check out my video for a great recipe. I prefer the olives in tapas restaurants as you get much more choice, try somewhere authentic like my restaurant Tapas Revolution. ;) 
Q. What, in your opinion, are the main differences between Spanish olives and Greek or Italian olives. 
A. The main difference is of course the country where they're produced. Spain actually produces 80% of the world's olives so it's a common misconception that they are an Italian or Greek delicacy. Greek olives tend to be a lot fruitier than Spanish olives, whereas the Italian ones are quite mild in flavour. I believe that Spanish Olives have the most flavour!

Q. And finally, I missed your tour of the UK in 2010, I had just had a baby (una gran excusa), will you come to Cambridge some time soon if I ask really really nicely? 
A. Haha what a shame - well I'm very busy at the moment championing Olives from Spain but may do another food tour soon... perhaps! Watch this space.

So there you have it, olives from Spain, a well-rounded delicacy. Make sure you check the Olives from Spain website for recipes and come back soon as I will be posting my grandmother's famous Carne con aceitunas recipe soon, a simple Meat with olives dish for all of you to try at home.
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