Wednesday, 6 December 2017

How to make Black Olive Tapenade, Brined Black + Green Olives and Quick Vegetable Pickles

Our December meeting is always a bit special.  This time we celebrated the occassion in Francoise's daughter's kitchen. Our member, Gillian Duffy made tapenade, showed us how to brine olives and how to make a quick pickle recipe, all seasonal products. 

Gillian told us that in 1956 after a very warm January when the sap in the olive trees has been rising, February turned out to be very cold causing the trunks of the olive trees to burst open.  Luckily the roots where not affected, the olive trees regrew with multiple trunks, a reminder of the big freeze of 1956. 

Another bit of info dating back to February 1956, Lorgues was cut off for 3 weeks because of the amount of snow that had fallen.  The village was 2 days away from running out of food when the road to Draguignan was opened.

Apart from toasts with Tapanade and other nibbles, Francoise made a 'Christmas cake', Sue a 'Christmas Carrot Cake' and Mavis 'Mulled Wine'.


Ingredients (cake): 4 eggs
350ml / 1 1/4 cups vegetable oil   (l cup is ½ pint)
400g / 14 oz. / 2 cups castor sugar
2 tsp. vanilla essence
250g / 8 ½ oz. / 2 cups SR flour
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
350g / 12 oz. / 3 cups grated carrots  
125g / 4 ½ oz. / 1 cup chopped walnuts

Ingredients (topping): 110g / 4 oz. / ½ cup softened butter
225g / 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
400g / 14 oz. / 4 cups icing sugar
l tsp. vanilla essence
chopped walnuts to decorate

Preheat oven  to 350 deg. F (175 deg.C).   Grease and flour a 9 x 13 ins. baking tin.
In a large bowl, beat together eggs, oil, castor sugar and 2 tsp. vanilla essence.   Mix in flour, salt and cinnamon.   Stir in carrots then fold in walnuts and pour into prepared baking tins.
Bake in the preheated oven for 40 to 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.   Leave in pan for 10 minutes then turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely.

In a medium bowl, combine softened butter and cream cheese with sugar and 1 tsp. vanilla essence.   Beat until the mixture is smooth and creamy.
Making sure the cake is complete cooled, smooth the frosting to the top of the cake only (not sides) and sprinkle with chopped walnuts.    If the mix is too soft, place in the fridge to firm up.    Some recipes include chopped walnuts in the topping but this makes it difficult to spread evenly.

Baking tins/silicone moulds
If the baking tin is too small and too deep the cake will take longer to cook or be soggy in the middle.  

Use two smaller round or square baking tins and use frosting between the layers like a Victoria sponge cake and on top.   To prevent the cake rising too much, make a dip in the middle with the back of a large spoon  just before putting it in the oven.
Half fill a rectangular bread tin;  with the back of a spoon, make a dip down the middle of the mixture to prevent the cake rising too much.   Bake, and add icing on top to a single layer (easier to cut into slices).   
Use a ring tin (may take less time to cook)
Cupcake or muffin mould (for portion control !) – fill to two/thirds, do not fill to the rim.   If you want a flatter shape for icing, make a rounded dent in the top with the back of a spoon.   Reduce cooking time.

Mavis's Mulled Wine:

1 litre of red wine
75g. Sugar
1 tsp. Whole cloves
2 sticks of cinnamon 
1 tsp. Cardamom pods
1 Star Anise
Slices of half an orange
 and half a lemon.

Pour the wine into a large saucepan. Add the other ingredients. Heat until nearly boiling then simmer gently for half an hour. Strain into a warmed jug or bowl and serve.
6 people

BLACK OLIVE TAPENADE (Makes 1 smallish bowl (a little goes a long way)


200 g whole black olives, preferably Nicoise or Kalamata
3 tablespoons capers, well rinsed if packed in salt or brine 
2 anchovies, well rinsed if packed in salt, if oil blot dry, crushed to a paste
1 fat clove garlic, green sprout removed and crushed in a garlic press
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves 
1 – 2 tablespoons lemon juice to taste 
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil  
Freshly ground black pepper

Remove the stones from the olives with a pitter, sharp knife or just by pressing down on the olive.
 Put the garlic, juice, capers, anchovies, and thyme in a food processor and pulse until well blended. Add the olives and pulse to a coarse paste. Slowly pour the oil through the feed tube, pulsing as you go, until it's the texture you like – you may not need all the oil. Taste and add black pepper if necessary.
Alternatively, pound the garlic, anchovies, capers and thyme together in a pestle and mortar until smooth, followed by the olives, leaving these slightly more chunky, then gradually add the oil and lemon juice, pounding between pours.
Taste, and add pepper and more lemon juice if necessary.
You can afford to be generous with the oil: the soft, fruity flavour rounds out all those savoury notes beautifully, as well as loosening the consistency. Serve with toasted rounds of stale, breadsticks or crudités pour les minceurs, and, most importantly, a large, cold drink. 


Wash the olives under cold water, and check them to make sure they do not have any bruises or fruit fly damage. Put them in a large container and cover with water. 
Change the water for the olives every day. It could be 10 days, 2 weeks or longer. Feel the olives they should be quite oily, but not soft to the touch.  If you bite into them they shouldn't be too hard or bitter!  The main thing is to change the water daily. I think this year I left them for 2 1/2 weeks. 

BRINE solution:

100g rock salt per 1 litre of water.
Add a few bay leaves, wild fennel seeds and stalks, and thyme.
Add salt, water and herbs to a saucepan and bring to a good boil, then set aside and allow to cool.
Fill the jars with olives and a couple of fresh bay leaves to each jar, some  thyme and wild fennel seeds and stalks. Then  leave them in a dark place until Easter. 


Wash the olives and place in a large glass container, add water to cover them and close with a lid.  (You can split the olives by beating them lightly without crushing them, to speed up the process.) Change the water every day to extract the bitterness for about 2 weeks. 

Brine solution:
1 liter water 
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons salt 
½ cup white wine vinegar 

Mix the above ingredients together until salt has dissolved. 
Add a  selection of the following to the jars: garlic, chili peppers, lemon slices, coriander seeds, wild fennel stalks and seeds and bay leaves,  add the olives and pour in the salt solution until it covers the olives.  Close the containers and store in a cool dark place for 2 months. 
After two months taste an olive to see if the degree of harshness is right for you. If not, change the brine and store the olives for one or two more months.


Keep in mind pickling liquids and brines should be well balanced with salt, vinegar and sugar 
In a word they should be drinkable, and tasting the mixture should be enjoyable. This pickling mix can be used for whatever vegetables you like.
Makes 2 quarts pickles


1 cup white vinegar – any basic vinegar is game – apple cider, white wine and rice vinegar all work well, do not use balsamic.  
3 cups warm water 
3 garlic cloves, peeled 
2 tablespoons coarse sea salt 
1 tablespoon sugar 
2 green cardamom pods 
2 fresh bay leaves 
1 dried chili 
1 teaspoon coriander seeds 
2 sprigs fresh thyme 
4 cups vegetables (root and cruciferous vegetables will need to be blanched before pickling. Blanch in boiling water for about 2-3 minutes and then shock in iced water to preserve their colour and keep them crisp). 

Combine all of the ingredients except for the vegetables in a saucepan over high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the sugar and salt have dissolved. Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed. Divide the vegetables between two 2 quart containers and pour the liquid mixture evenly over until the vegetables are completely submerged. Close the containers and refrigerate at least overnight before eating. 
The pickles will last in the refrigerator for up  to a month. 

Gillian Duffy
Culinary Editor
New York Magazine

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