Supermarket Olive Oils

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I was thrilled the other day when my Spanish teacher asked me where she could buy decent EVOO for everyday cooking here in Cardiff and I didn’t hesitate to recommend a Spanish EVOO from Aldi (the first one reviewed below).  Whilst Aldi do sell some very lovely looking EVOO – mainly I think from Italy and I’ll review their ‘special’ oils in another post but for now, for the next month, I’m going to use exclusively Aldi Olive Oils to cook with.  I’ve got four in my kitchen to choose from:  three are Solesta – Extra Virgin; Olive Oil; and ‘light in colour’ Olive Oil plus their Kalamata Extra Virgin Olive Oil and I’ve taste tested each one.

First up we have the Solesta Extra Virgin Olive Oil (£2.39 for 750mls), described on the front label as Product of Spain and on the back label as ‘Produced in Spain using EU extra virgin olive oil’.  Which brings me to a point worth mentioning.  Supermarket EVOOs such as this one are usually a blend of oils – otherwise they couldn’t maintain continuity of flavour from batch to batch.  Let’s remember that to be designated as an Extra Virgin oil it has to pass strict chemical analysis and a taste test and be deemed to have no defects.  So all the oils used in this particular blend have been approved as Extra Virgin.  And what did I think of it in a taste test?

Smell – light, nutty, grassy and a faint hint of peppercorns.

Taste – bitter, walnuts, slightly leafy.

The aftertaste – the peppery taste lingers

With bread – creamy and peppery.

I’d describe this as a robust oil – great on salads or with pasta or bruschetta.  Sprinkled across a cooked pizza would really give it a lift.

Next up I turned to the Olive Oil and the Light in Colour Olive Oil and although I did do a tasting of them, frankly there’s not a huge amount to say about them – they aren’t EVOO, they are a blend of virgin and olive oils.  They are in the same box on the shelf and from memory are £2.99 for a litre.  One has a green cap and the other gold.  I probably wouldn’t have paid much attention except I was with a friend who makes fabulous salad dressings and she had bought 6 bottles.  When I asked her why 4 had green and 2 gold caps she hadn’t noticed.  Now, here’s the interesting bit.  The green cap is ‘Ideal for cooking’ and described as: Olive oil composed of refined olives oils and virgin olive oils (20%) while the gold cap is Light in colour Olive Oil ‘Ideal for baking and cooking’ and described as Olive oil composed of refined olive oils and virgin olive oils (1%).  That’s a pretty big difference in terms of how much virgin oil it contains.  Remember that a virgin oil is extra virgin with 1 or more defects (up to 3.5) so it might almost be an extra virgin!
 
The green cap Olive Oil has a light, fruity smell, tastes of apples and has no discernible aftertaste.  It’s mild and would be great with fish, frying, in homemade bread, croquettes, chocolate or fruit cake.   The Light in Colour doesn’t smell of anything, tastes like oil and no aftertaste.  It is really mild and would be very good for cooking where you don’t want a flavor from the oil, baking sponge or vanilla cakes. Another point I want to highlight is that the light in colour olive oil is not lighter in calories (and nor does it claim to be)  Both the green and gold cap olive oils have 124 calories per tablespoon and the Extra Virgin has 123 calories.

So I’m not making a judgement about which of the olive oils is better to use – they both have a place in your cupboard BUT in terms of quality the Olive Oil with the green cap is a superior grade as it has 19% more virgin oil in it.  I’m going to try baking the same cake using both oils and will report back because I’m not convinced you would ever need the ‘Light in Colour’ – to be continued! 

And last, but by no means least because it’s actually the best quality of the four oils is the Kalamata EVOO.  It is PDO – Protected Designation of Origin which means all the olives used are from the protected region of Kalamata in Greece.

Smell – grass and fruit

Taste – grass, bitter, peppery

Aftertaste – the pepper fades and grass lingers

With bread – peppery and creamy

I’d describe it as a medium oil, great with feta salad, grilled meat or poultry and bruschetta.  I’d use it for Greek dishes such as Moussaka and Souvlaki.  From memory it was £2.79 for 500mls and it’s a single varietal – i.e. not a blend.  It also states the calories per tablespoon as 124.

The point of this experiment is to demonstrate (hopefully) that you only need two or three olive oils in your kitchen (okay I’ve started with four!), from a single supermarket and costing no more than £15 in total.  I want to debunk the myth that you need sunflower, olive, rapeseed, coconut, corn etc. – I’m convinced that different grades and types of olive oil will cover everything that most domestic cooks require.  We cook from scratch 90+% of the time so let’s see how we get on.

Until next time,

Karen O

 

Advertisements

Warm Salad with Halloumi

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

It’s a glorious late summer’s morning here in Newport (summer officially ends in the UK on Friday 22nd September) and the birds have finally found the lovely new bird feeder I installed in my garden a few weeks ago.  And if they’re being well fed, so should we be!  Whilst many people see lettuce as a salad ingredient and therefore always served cold, I’ve been experimenting recently with cutting down on kitchen waste – and lettuce is often the main culprit.  There’s only so much Lettuce, Pea and Mint soup one can eat – even though I do love it.  If that doesn’t appeal, how about this fabulous salad from the Hemsley sisters which they describe as “An easy, fresh supper, bursting with flavour and just right for long, balmy evenings”.  It’s featured in their second book ‘Good + Simple’ but I have it on a page torn out of the August 2016 Waitrose magazine. img_2952
This is my version of their original recipe with a few tweaks and changes – I’m sure their original is fantastic but I didn’t want to use coconut Oil or butter for example.  So, here it is:

Ingredients:
5 tbsp olive oil *
2 red onions, thinly sliced
4 medium carrots
200g frozen broad beans defrosted in warm water (or 500g fresh, podded and blanched for 2-3 mins in boiling water)
200g fresh or frozen peas
2 gem lettuce, trimmed, leaves separated and chopped into chunks (or any lettuce lurking in the fridge!)
1/2 lemon, zest and juice
small bunch of flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped,
250g pack of halloumi cut into chunks

Method:
1. Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a heavy frying pan, add the onion and gently fry for 10 mins until soft and lightly caramelised, stirring occasionally.
2. Either spiralise the carrots or peel into strips with a julienne or vegetable peeler, set aside. Slip the broad beans from their outer skin (warning, this takes a bit of time but is worth the effort).
3. Turn the heat up under the onions, stir in the broad beans and frozen peas with a small pinch of salt. After 2 mins add the carrot and lettuce and stir gently for a minute or two.

img_2950
4. Whisk the remaining olive oil (3tbsp) with lemon zest and juice, season and toss through the vegetables with most of the parsley.  Transfer to a large serving plate.
5. Wipe out the pan and dry fry the halloumi over a medium heat until browned. Scatter over the salad with the remaining parsley.

img_2953
Enjoy as is, with extra lemon and oil and crusty/crisp bread to mop up the juices.

A note about the olive oil.  I used the Basilippo Organic as shown in the picture.  Basilippo is a 20 hectare, family run estate with over 5,500 arbequina olive trees.  In addition to their award winning olive oils, they also produce an absolutely delicious Aromas, a fabulous union of their beautiful olive oil with natural extract of orange (they also produce a vanilla one I think).  I have just messaged them about suppliers in the UK and will report back once I have more information.  Next time I make this I’ll use the organic EVOO as I did here for the main dish and 2 tbsp for the dressing (see 4. Method)  with a final 1 tbsp of the Aromas Orange sprinkled over the finished dish.  UK readers can buy Basilippo oils in London from Santos and Santos suppliers of Artisan Spanish Foods or direct from Basilippo online. 

 

Excitement and some words of wisdom

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Running a close second to my love of cookery books is a passion for foodie magazines, and let’s be honest, in the UK at least, we’re absolutely spoilt for choice, despite their hefty price tag.  There are two magazines that do make it into my basket however – the Sainsbury’s magazine and Waitrose Food.  They both have a cover price of £2 and the latter is free to myWaitrose members.

I was delighted on a recent trip to Waitrose to see ‘Olive Oil Special – Our pick of the best, plus an amazing recipe for olive oil cake’ splashed across the cover (ha, ha, pun intended, take a look!)

Yum, yum, I was so excited to find a feature on Olive Oil, and with the brilliant selection of EVOO on offer in my local store (Pontprennau, Cardiff), I figured there’d be plenty to read about.  My initial excitement soon turned to disappointment;  I couldn’t even find the feature!  Expecting at least a double page spread with lots of glossy photos of lovely EVOO bottles from around the world, it took three ‘looks’ before I finally found it –  half a page on page 11.  Four Olive Oils – that’s it, four.  Oh boy, my heart plummeted.  Then I reminded myself that not everyone in the UK is as obsessed with the stuff as I am, and Waitrose magazine has a huge readership and it’s better to start small and not confuse things with too many options.  Pep talk to self over, I read the piece: Behind the Label featuring EVOOs from Greece, Spain, France and Italy and my mouth started watering.  Don’t they look great?  

And I was somewhat mollified by the five recipes starting on page 53 and spread across the next seven pages entitled Virgin Queen.  I did have a chuckle reading the start of the article which I quote:  ‘In the 1950’s, Elizabeth David had to tell readers to get olive oil from the chemist …’  On a recent visit to a chemist I was rather shocked to see a tiny bottle of olive oil on sale – presumably for ear ache or some such ailment?  And so, back to excitement – shall I try the Spinach and Feta Gözlemeler (described as a moreish Turkish flatbread) or the Spaghetti Aglio e Olio with Anchovy Breadcrumbs?  Decisions, decisions.

Final gripe, then I’ll stop moaning, I promise.  Although all of the recipes sound fabulous and all of them feature Olive Oil (of course!) I was a bit disappointed that there’s no link between the four mentioned on page 11 and the recipes – I’d have expected the magazine to recommend a specific oil for each recipe – after all, isn’t the point to sell more olive oil?  And one of the problems I think we all face is knowing which oil to use for each recipe.  So, here’s my final offering this week – some words of wisdom from me, The Olive Oil Taster – a consumer who’d like to know more.  Drum roll please.

As a general rule when trying to decide which oil to use for a particular recipe, try to pick one that comes from the same country as the dish you’re preparing i.e. Spanish EVOO for Spanish dishes, Greek for moussaka etc.  It’s kind of obvious I guess but housewives throughout the Mediterranean use local ingredients (and by local, I mean usually grown in the same village).  Their produce and oils will balance perfectly.  So, as a rule of thumb, that’s not a bad place to start.

I’m also a bit miffed that the Italian EVOO is the most expensive featured when Spain produces the most EVOO and wins most of the international awards – but that’s a rant for another day!!!!

Until next time, enjoy lots of heart healthy EVOO,

Karen

 

Healthy, Happy Fats

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

It was all going so well!  As I was going to write today about Olive Oil bottles, and more specifically what to look for on the label, I began by lining up a few bottles from my cupboard and having a good look at them.  And then, I got side-tracked.  You can blame it on the Napolina Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Blend of olive oils of European Union Origin: 


This is what we call ‘oil’ in our house.  When hubby is cooking and shouts: “Where’s the oil Karen?” – this is it.  So I was pleasantly surprised to note that the Fat content (91.4g/100g if you’re interested) was broken down into Saturates (13.1g), Mono-unsaturates(66.7g) and polyunsaturates (7.5g) (did we lose 4.1g somewhere in the maths?!)

As a fat, Olive Oil contains about 120 calories per tablespoon which I think you’ll find is the same as most other fats.  So here’s the thing; it’s not the consumption of fat that causes weight gain or a whole host of bodily ailments – diabetes, heart disease, raised blood pressure etc.  Pretty much everyone knows now that the myth of low fat is just that, a myth.  Now, I’m not a doctor and I’m not a qualified nutritionist so I’m going to let others explain it (because I’m no scientist either).  ‘The monounsaturated oleic fat in olive oil appears to contribute much less to the fat we accumulate than other types of fat, such as saturated fats‘ according to Dr. Simon Poole and Judy Ridgway in The Olive Oil Diet.  And as Nancy Harmon Jenkins states in Virgin Territory: “MUFAS* work in human metabolism to regulate serum cholesterol, reducing dangerous low-density lipoproteins (called ‘bad’ cholesterol), and maintaining or even boosting high density lipoproteins, the so-called ‘good’ cholesterol.  Olive Oil contains anywhere from 55% to 83% monounsaturated oleic acid“.

What this means is that all olive oil – EVOO or your plain old bottle of refined Olive Oil –  can be regarded as a good source of the kind of healthy fats that help fend off cardiovascular disease.  Which makes a mockery of the UK’s ludicrous Traffic Light labelling system of Red, Orange, Green which gives EVOO a Red light (higher than Sunflower Oil) because of it’s saturated fat content – with no regard for the quality of that fat.  Ho, hum!

Here then are three more labels for you to look at:  The first cost £2.39 for 750ml  from Aldi, is a Product of Spain and rather sadly doesn’t separate out the mono-unsaturated, simply stating 91g of fat of which 13g is saturated (very similar to the Napolina)

 

The second, is a single olive variety – the Kalamata from Greece – in a classier bottle, glass rather than plastic, also from Aldi and cost £2.99 for 500ml.  It states total fats of 92g of which saturates are 14g.  If you’re interested a Tesco bottle of Sunflower Oil states 92g of fats of which 10.2g are saturates. 

And finally,  one of my favourite ‘local’ oils, Ilipa Olvera, from Tierra de Cadiz (Spain) which states a fabulous 100g of fat of which 77g are mono-unsaturates (and 9g polyunsaturates).

 

Next time, I’ll take a closer look at the whole of the label and give you some guidelines as to what is useful information, what is required by law, and what just sounds good!

I’m currently experimenting with making Digestive biscuits using EVOO and will feature the recipe once I’ve perfected it!

Happy, Healthy Olive Oil consuming, until next time,

Karen

Taster,  Tester, Consumer, Cook

Tweet: @TasteOliveOil

Facebook: The Olive Oil Taster

Instagram: theoliveoiltaster

Email: theoliveoiltaster@gmail.com

  • MUFA = Mono Unsaturated Fatty Acids

Onion Quiche with EVOO Pastry

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , ,

Before becoming an EVOO convert I usually bought pastry because it tasted good and I couldn’t be bothered making it.  Now however my favourite pastry is even easier than buying it; Judy Ridgway’s Shortcrust Pastry as featured in her book The Olive Oil Diet (co-authored with Dr. Simon Poole).  This is so ridiculously easy that it barely counts as a ‘recipe’ but here goes:

Place 225g self-raising flour and 75g plain flour into a bowl.  Pour in 100ml extra virgin olive oil and 100ml water.  Stir together with a spoon before bringing together with your hands to form a large, soft ball.  Cut the ball in half and wrap each portion in clingfilm.  I freeze one and chill the other in the fridge for an hour before using.  This makes about 475g of pastry.

Judy warns that this is ‘perhaps a little harder to work with’ than other pastry and I would say – don’t even bother looking for your rolling pin, flatten the pastry by hand, straight into the tin if you’re using it to line, or onto some greaseproof paper if you’re using the pastry as a topping.


I lined a 20cm flan tin with the pastry and baked blind for 10 minutes before cooling and filling with the onion mix as follows:

450g onions, peeled and sliced thinly

2tbsp EVOO

150ml single cream

1 egg, beaten

A big pinch of ground mixed spice (or cinnamon, nutmeg or dried tarragon)

Finely chopped fresh herbs if you’ve got some to use up (I used parsley)

  1. Fry the onions gently for 25-30 minutes until very soft and a golden colour.  Remove from the heat.  Add the beaten egg to the cream then add the mixed spice, a little salt & pepper.
  2. Put the onions into the flan case then pour on the cream/egg mixture and sprinkle with fresh herbs if using.
  3. Bake at 180C/Gas mark 4 for about 30 minutes until the filling is set.
  4. Serve warm or cold with a selection of salads.

I halved some tomatoes (the cheap salad tomatoes that don’t have much flavour work perfectly well), sprinkled with EVOO, a crushed clove of garlic and herbs and baked alongside the quiche.  You can pour some balsamic vinegar on the tomatoes once roasted if you like.

One of the things I love about this pastry – apart from it being super simple to make and healthy with all that lovely EVOO – is that once baked it goes crispy and even the slightly thicker bits (think rustic rather than high end patisserie here) are almost scone like – i.e. no soggy pastry anywhere in sight (which I loathe by the way).  If you know you’re going to be using all your pastry for savoury dishes you could maybe add a pinch of salt to the flour when making – up to you!

Que aproveche – Enjoy!

 

Yum, Yum, Yotam

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I don’t know about you guys but I love pretty much every recipe by Yotam Ottolenghi so I was pretty excited to get my hands on a copy of his 2010 bestseller Plenty.  Whilst lots of the recipes appeal to me, one in particular was just screaming out to be made – an aubergine and lentil dish that combines two of my favourite ingredients.

AubergineLentilYotam

Doesn’t that look delicious!

So, on to, my version of the recipe.

Ingredients:

2 medium aubergines

2 tbsp top quality red wine vinegar

200g small dark lentils (Puy for example), washed well in a sieve

3 small carrots, peeled

2 celery sticks

1 bay leaf

3 sprigs of thyme

small white onion, peeled and halved if more medium than small

3 tbsp EVOO, plus extra to finish

12 cherry tomatoes, halved

1/3 tsp brown sugar

1 tbsp each roughly chopped parsley, coriander and dill

2 tbsp crème fraîche (or Greek yogurt)

salt & pepper

Method:

  1. Pierce the aubergines with a sharp knife in a few places. Put them onto a foil-lined tray and place directly under a hot grill for 1 hour, turning them a few times. They need to deflate completely and their skins should burn and break. Alternatively, you can put them directly onto a moderate gas flame and roast 12-15 minutes turning frequently with metal tongs until the flesh is soft and the skin burnt.
  2. Remove the aubergines from the heat and set the oven to 140C (Gas Mark 1). Slit down the length of the aubergines and scoop out the flesh into a colander, avoiding the black skin. Leave to drain for at least 15 minutes and then season with plenty of salt and pepper and ½ tablespoon of the vinegar.
  3. While the aubergines are cooking, place the lentils in a medium saucepan. Cut one carrot and half a celery stick into large chunks and throw them in. Add the bay leaf, thyme and onion. Cover with plenty of water and bring to a boil. Simmer on a low heat for about 25 minutes until the lentils are tender, skimming away any froth. Drain in a sieve. Remove and discard the carrot, celery, bay leaf, thyme and onion and transfer the lentils to a mixing bowl. Add the rest of the vinegar, 2 tablespoons of olive oil and plenty of salt and pepper. Stir to mix and set aside somewhere warm.
  4. Cut the remaining carrot and celery into 1cm dice and mix with the tomatoes, remaining oil, sugar and some salt. Spread in an ovenproof dish and cook for about 10 minutes until the carrot is tender but firm.
  5. Add the cooked vegetables to the warm lentils, followed by the chopped herbs and stir gently. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Spoon the lentils onto a serving platter. Pile the aubergine on top and finish with a dollop of Greek yogurt (or crème fraîche). Finish with a good trickle of Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

This is pretty much exactly as the recipe appears in Plenty but when I make it again, which I certainly will, I’ll probably cheat and buy a good quality Baba Ganoush for the topping rather than messing about with the aubergine.  Or I’ll make more of the aubergine and use the rest to make my own baba ganoush.  See Paul Hollywood’s recipe on BBC Food here  And just to be completely fair – here’s a glimpse at how the recipe looks in the book:

YotamAubLentil

A little light reading

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

With summer holidays just around the corner many of us are busy planning our annual feast of reading and, whilst I’m not heading off to the sun this year, I’m no exception.  BooksThese three gems should keep me busy in the garden hammock or the sofa on rainy afternoons (well, I am staying in Wales for the summer so there’s a chance of at least one rainy day between now and September isn’t there?)

Although I’ve talked about The Olive Oil Diet by Judy Ridgway and Dr. Simon Poole  before and even posted recipes from the book, I haven’t finished reading it yet so that’s number one on my reading list.

The second book; Extra Virginity by investigative author Tom Mueller is subtitled: The sublime and scandalous world of olive oil.  Ooh, err.  It could get racy!

And the third, The 7 Wonders of Olive Oil is written by Alice Alech (blog: Provincial Provence) and Cécile Le Galliard (whose blog Jus d’olive is great for any French speakers out there) two olive oil enthusiasts living in different regions of France who came together via the internet through their shared passion for the liquid gold that is olive oil.  Just look at some of the chapter headings: stronger bones, cancer prevention and higher brain function – crikey it truly is a ‘wonder’ food.

7wonderscontents

All this reading is going to be exhausting so I’ll make sure to keep my strength up with lots of cups of Earl Grey tea and Judy’s Chocolate Cup Cakes – recipe and pics to follow!

El Herrerillo Olive Grove

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

With the warm breeze drifting in through open patio doors, the sound of birdsong and bright sunlight I could almost be back in the rolling hills of Andalucia at the beautiful El Herrerillo olive grove.  Meaning Blue Tit in English, El Herrerillo is a true labour of love for Álvaro whose family have been producing Extra Virgin Olive Oil here for over 20 years, going fully organic back in 1998.

ElHerrFinca

As regular readers of this blog will have realised, producing Extra Virgin Olive Oil is not for the faint-hearted.  For small producers at the artisan end of the market it’s hard, physical work, a labour of love and something akin to an addiction.  Listening to them talking about their trees, the environment, the eco system and the finished product is a real privilege – the passion and joy that is inspired by this centuries old fruit is completely infectious.  And Álvaro is no exception.  To spend time with him in the olive grove is to be caught up by the bug of EVOO.

With around 8.6 hectares (roughly 21 acres) and 1,100 trees, the olivar produces around 2,000 litres of Extra Virgin Olive Oil a year.  It is organic, produced from either the single variety of olive – Picual or the wild olive trees (called Acebuche in Spanish).

ElHerrAlvNewTree

Álvaro with one of the new trees

During the course of 2017 Álvaro and his team have planted 450 new trees, all Picual (also known as Marteño) and sourced as saplings from Cordoba.  They will need watering for the first couples of years and should start to produce useable olives in the third year.

If you are lucky enough to be close to Medina Sidonia you might spot Álvaro at one of the local farmer’s markets or food fairs.  Otherwise products can be purchased online (be warned, they sell very quickly!) and delivery is free within the province of Cadiz.

ElHerrKOTaste

Lucky me, enjoying the Picual

The El Herrerillo Picual sells for around 11 Euro a half litre and tastes of olive leaf, peppery and quite strong with a slight bitterness at the back of the throat.  When I had friends around for dinner in Vejer recently and we did an informal tasting of half a dozen EVOOs this one was the clear winner.

Now the Acebuchina is an interesting one.  There are many aficionados in the world who absolutely love EVOOs produced from wild olive trees.  They are much harder to harvest because of the smaller olives and size and shape of the trees, they are uncontrolled in the sense that each year the taste will reflect the environment in which the olives grew – they will not be the same each year.

ElHerrAceb

Wild EVOO

Whilst the same could be said for all EVOO, the ‘farmed’ trees are monitored, watered where necessary and the EVOO can be blended with the previous year’s to achieve the flavour the producer wants.  With wild trees they are, well – wild!  You get from them what they give you.  The price of course reflects these additional challenges and the 2015 which we tasted (of which only 32 litres were produced) was thicker than the Picual, sweeter, with flavours of cut grass and almonds.  I personally love this oil but, as I said before, the Acebuches tend to be more for the fans.  A quarter litre is available on the website for 10 Euro, a steal for something so special.

 

ElHerrTeamKO

It was a privilege to spend time with Álvaro and his wife at El Herrerillo

Services, Servicios

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I know it’s been a while and I have been meaning to write to you all but, honestly, the effort of moving house/country and setting up home again all whilst feeling under the weather, has rather depleted my energy.  And in that wonderful way the universe has of reminding us we are NOT totally in control, I’d just forced myself to sit at the laptop and had finished typing the first line when the front doorbell rang with the new window cleaners introducing themselves.  Anyway, that’s not what I want to talk about today.  I want to talk about Service Stations.  In the UK motorway services became a bit of a sad joke really with diabolical, expensive food in drab surroundings.  Things have improved somewhat I guess, with the likes of Waitrose and M&S setting up their stall (although charging me 5p for a sandwich bag drives me insane, it’s not like I’ve gone out to do a weekly shop is it!)  And I guess for their fans – Costa, Starbucks, KFC, Burger King etc. are all welcome additions to a journey.

But they do things differently in Spain.  As far as I know, and please correct me if I’m wrong, there are no large chains operating regionally or nationally at Spanish service stations.  I’m pretty sure they’re run by local people and operate much like any other Venta or local bar.  Which of course means they can be a bit hit and miss, and we’ve had one or two misses but the vast majority have been wonderful.  A pleasure to stop in with great tostadas, tapas or raciones depending on the time of day.  What I absolutely love about them though is that they, usually, stock local produce and here you can pick up some fabulous bargains at great prices.  Of course I’m drawn to the EVOO and our drive from Vejer de la Frontera up through Spain to Cáceres, Burgos and Bilbao provided me with lots of opportunities to peruse, although banned from purchasing as our Skoda Tardis apparently could not accommodate even one more bottle (I’ll tell you how I managed to sneak in two more another time!)

These pictures are taken at a services between Jerez and Seville, the caption on the camera says Las Cabezas de San Juan (I’ve just checked and that will be right as it’s a village situated next to the ‘autopsista’ between Seville and Cadiz).

Servicestation

Lots of lovely EVOO, right next to the biscuits!

servicestation2.jpg

The fancy EVOOs, in a case, next to the toys!

sstopoffridge.jpg

And here are the big bottles that won’t fit on the shelf, on top of the Coke fridge!

Continuing North towards Cáceres we stopped again, for lunch, at a services with the most fantastic delicatessen displaying a great range of jamones, cheeses, chutneys, wine and, of course, Extra Virgin Olive Oil.  Plenty of people were buying rather than just window shopping so I didn’t really get a chance to study their EVOO selection but one of my favourite’s caught my eye:

PoshSS (1)

Doesn’t that Picualia stand out from the crowd!  And it’s a fabulous EVOO too, not just a pretty face!

I’m not one of those people who knocks a place for the sake of it but I’ve never been able to understand why we operate service stations so badly here in the UK.  I know there are some great places – Tebay up in Cumbria being my personal favourite – but you know things aren’t great when you put a search into Google for the ‘UK’s Best Service Stations’ and you’re offered a Top 5 list.  Seriously, not even Top 10?!  And by another of those wonderful displays of humour by the universe, after a 3-day drive to the north of Spain and overnight on the ferry, we disembarked at Portsmouth mid afternoon on a Friday (I know, I know …)  Stopping at the first services we encountered – proudly boasting a Spar shop – I was horrified.  Huge queues at Starbucks and whichever burger franchise it was and hardly anything I considered edible on the shelves of the Spar.  I eventually conceded defeat with a box of crackers, a tub of humous and some cherry tomatoes.

So, I’m back in sunny Wales (no of course it isn’t, it’s grey and drizzly but the window cleaners were very cheery and hey, it might brighten up!!!) where I’m really looking forward to finding all those specialist suppliers, farm shops, pop up markets and artisan food events.  I’ve just calculated that I spent 5 days between arriving ‘home’ and finding my EVOOs in the mountain of ‘stuff’ – I was getting withdrawal symptoms!!!

Anyway, normal service has been resumed, I’m back on track and looking forward to sharing EVOO stories from where I am.  Remember to connect on Facebook (The Olive Oil Taster), Twitter(@TasteOliveOil) and Instagram and please do share this post if you like it.

Smiles,

Karen

Lemon EVOO Cake

Tags

, , , , , , , ,

Whilst clearing our Spanish house in preparation for a major move we’ve come across (and eaten!) all sorts of delights from the freezer.  There was one particular gem though that I saved until last – half of a lemon olive oil cake that I made about a month ago.  This recipe has been adapted from the North American Olive Oil Association and I hope I’ve made clear my changes.  The original recipe can be found here:

LemonEVOO

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus additional for greasing the tin
  • 1 large lemon
  • 1 cup plain cake flour
  • 5 large eggs, separated, reserving 1 white for another use (eggs should be at room temperature)
  • 3/4 cup plus 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar (or 2 tbsp icing sugar if making drizzle)

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (about 177C). Lightly grease loose-bottomed 9-inch cake tin with oil, then line the bottom with baking paper.
  2. Finely grate enough lemon zest to measure 1 1/2 teaspoons and mix into the flour. Halve the lemon, squeezing out all the juice.
  3. Separate the eggs saving one of the whites for another recipe.  Beat 5 yolks and 1/2 cup sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at high speed until thick and pale, about 3 minutes. Reduce the speed, add the olive oil and 1 1/2 tbsp of the reserved lemon juice, beating until just combined (mixture may appear separated). Using a wooden spoon, stir in the flour mixture (do not beat) until just combined.
  4. Beat 4 egg whites with 1/2 teaspoon salt in another large bowl with clean beaters at medium-high speed until foamy, then add 1/4 cup sugar a little at a time, beating, and continue to beat until the egg whites just hold soft peaks, about 3 minutes.
  5. Gently fold one third of the whites into the yolk mixture to lighten, then fold in the remaining whites gently but thoroughly.
  6. Transfer the cake mixture into the prepared tin and gently tap against the work surface once or twice to release any air bubbles. The original recipe says to ‘Sprinkle top evenly with remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar’ but I would leave it plain. Bake until puffed and golden and a cake skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean, between 35- 45 minutes. Cool the cake in its tin on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then run a thin knife around the edge of the tin and remove the sides.
  7. There are two options now:  Either continue to cool the cake to room temperature, if you’ve already sprinkled it with sugar before baking OR: prick the top of the cake all over with a toothpick or thin skewer and pour over a lemon drizzle icing; made by mixing the remaining juice from the lemon with about 2 tablespoons of icing sugar until smooth and pouring over the cake while still warm (then leave until completely cool)  Remove the bottom of the tin and the baking parchment and transfer the cake to a serving plate.  The cake freezes really well if not all eaten within a couple of days.

Happy EVOO eating.  Remember to share this post and let me know your comments either directly to this blog or via Twitter @TasteOliveOil or Facebook: The Olive Oil Taster.

Until next time,

Karen 

TOOT