Results tagged “olives”

Mackerel escabeche

italy, spain
This recipe is adapted from one by Thomasina Miers. Escabeche usually refers to a technique of frying fish and then marinating it in a vinegary liquid with onions, spices and herbs. Flavourings vary enormously from country to country; escabeche is popular in Italy, Spain, Latin America and the Philippines.

smmackerelescabeche0009.jpgThis dish is a relative of good old fish and chips, which is not as British as one might think. They share origins in a dish beloved of the Shahs of Persia some 1500 years ago - sikbāj - sweet and sour stewed beef. This later made its way around the Arabic world, with fish replacing beef in Christian parts. The amazing history is told by Prof Dan Jurafsky on his blog, 'The Language of Food'.

Dan writes: "The word escabeche came to Spanish from Catalan, which acquired it from its neighbour, Occitan, who got it from the Genoese, who stole it from the Neapolitans, and so on, back eventually east to the Arabic of Baghdad and the Persian of Ctesiphon." And the story continues with the Jews being expelled from Spain and Portugal and going to northern Europe, taking their fish dishes with them. Finally, in England, Belgian frites were married with battered and fried fish doused with vinegar: fish and chips.

Sicilian orange and onion salad

This bright salad is perfect on a steaming hot day, to kick off or punctuate an otherwise heavy meal, or to accompany roast or grilled meat.  The dressing needs no vinegar due to the acidity of the oranges and onions, but do make sure you use excellent olive oil. 

smSicilianorangesalad0001.JPGYou could omit the onion, olives and mint if you wish, and/or add in some sliced celery or shaved fennel.  And you could garnish with fennel fronds if you have them, or even toast and grind some fennel seeds to sprinkle over.  Fennel and orange are perfect partners, and fennel is typical of Sicily, where it grows wild along country roadsides. 

In Sicily you will even find this salad made with lemons instead of oranges.  And blood oranges make a particularly stunning platter.

Chicken, lemon and olive tagine

This is such a great dish - you must try it!  In Morocco we probably had it at least five times.  My first tagine instructor was the lovely Fatna, who helps our friend Maggie in Tangiers.  Fatna likes to keep the olives separate and use them as a garnish, having cooked them with minced garlic, preserved lemon, parsley and coriander (cilantro).  I have simplified; one of the wonderful things about most tagines is that you can put everything in together at the start and then leave it to work its magic largely undisturbed.  It couldn’t be easier.


Oil, vinegar and phonological assimilation

morocco, spain

Some olives in Morocco. Although they could
just as easily be in Spain.

I'd always wondered why the oil and vinegar seemed to be labelled wrong in Spain.  If, like me, you're more familiar with Italian than Spanish, and you see two bottles on the table, one labelled "aceite", you'd be pretty sure that was the vinegar.  You'd be wrong, though - although admittedly you'd work it out pretty sharpish if you saw that the other one was labelled "vinagre".  Or just tasted it, I suppose.

The Italian aceto (vinegar) comes from the Latin acer meaning 'sharp' or 'sour', and that's where we get English words like acid and acetic from too.  (Even the word vinegar comes this way, in fact, via the French vin aigre or 'sour wine').  Similarly, the word for 'oil' seems to have Latin origins in most European languages - the Latin oleum gives us oglio, oil, Öl, huile and so on.  So why would Spanish (a Romance, i.e. Latin-based language) be so different, and where does their word for 'oil', aceite, come from?  Well, now that we've made it to Morocco, all becomes clear ...

Black and green and red all over

Smbarnabyoliveshower0001.jpgToday Barnaby was sitting under a tree in Morocco, minding his own business, when what should hit him but a shower of olives!  

Way back in May in Turkey, he'd seen little flower buds on the olive trees.  By the time he got to Greece the flowers were out.  Then in Italy he saw actual olives, although they were way too small and hard to eat.  Even in Spain in September, they looked ripe but weren't quite ready.  Finally, he thought - they're falling off!

Smbarnabyblackolives0001.JPGBut when he took a closer look he realised they weren't.  There were wrinkly black ones, shiny fat purple ones, and hard green ones - all coming from the same tree.  And in fact, there were ladders.  With people up them, pulling the olives off the branches by hand.  He thought maybe they were picking them too soon, but when he asked, they told him that it's best this way - they wanted all three colours to cure and to make tasty olive oil with.

And when he tasted one, he found out they're still too bitter to eat!  He's just going to have to wait until they're cured.

Olive harvest

Smoliveladies0001.JPGLast night we were staying at Le Bled, the organic farm which supplies the excellent Marrakesh restaurant Dar Moha.  As luck would have it, it was time for the olive harvest, so we spent the morning with the hard-working ladies around the olive trees - helping a bit, but mostly watching and learning from Ibrahim the head gardener how to pick and cure the various kinds of olives.  Here's a recording, of people chatting and olives plopping onto the ground.

Smolives0001.JPGClick here to listen.

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Culinary Anthropologist