Olive oil sings too
It lives in us with its ripe light
And among the good things of the earth
I set apart olive oil
— From Ode To Olive Oil by Pablo Neruda
WHAT'S not to like? The smell and taste of olive oil are filled with the goodness of sunshine and true joy.
Olive oil is the biggest and most important building block of the Mediterranean diet and is super healthy. Clear research shows that it reduces heart disease, lowers blood pressure, is anti-inflammatory, and more.
Olive oil is everywhere in the way of life of countries around the Mediterranean Sea, and people who get 50ml or more of this elixir every day are among the longest-living on earth — like the inhabitants of Crete and Sardinia. Think Greek, Italian or Portuguese food and your favourite dishes; every recipe starts with olive oil.
Food as medicine is a growing trend and olive oil combined with a primarily plant-based diet is what people who want a better quality of life aim for.
Of course, olive oil and olive products are also damn tasty, and this is our biggest motivator here for what we want to eat. Olive oil is a specialised product like wine and chocolate, with tastings worldwide and tips for which elements will bring out the oil's flavour and what to look for and taste.
Olive oil varies in colour from light gold to deep, dark green, with different taste profiles and a variation of intensity. Remember, olive oil, in its essence, is really just a fruit juice, and that is why it has a fruity character, with undertones of fresh herbs and pepper; bitter is also good.
South Africa has more than 190 extra virgin olive oil producers under the banner of evoosa.co.za (extra virgin olive oil in South Africa), mainly in the Western Cape due to its Mediterranean climate. Feel free to search the website for the best olive oils in the country and experiment with olive oil in food. I've been won over and intend to improve my health with olive oil in my diet.
For many years, I have liked to eat aglio e olio, one of my favourite pastas, quick and easy. The dish originated in and around the Naples area and is still in vogue there. I use smoky Mexican chilli, olive oil, garlic and parmesan in this one. I also like a squeeze of lemon juice with my aglio e olio.
The other recipe I'm sharing today is a wonderful olive oil and ricotta cheesecake. I added rosemary and served it with fresh pickled figs and drizzled with fig syrup — a winner if, like me, you prefer cakes with few frills.
Aglio e Olio
(olive oil and garlic pasta) 4 servings
- 1 packet of spaghetti cooked until just al dente in salted water
- 10 cloves of garlic, sliced
- 1 large dried pasilla, rehydrated and finely chopped, or other dried chilli of your choice; the quantity is up to you
- Kalahari salt and pepper to taste
- A handful of chopped parsley
- 100 ml olive oil
- 50 g grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 lemon
1. Drain your pasta and keep one cup of the water to mix with the sauce.
2. Heat the olive oil and add garlic and chilli. Fry until the garlic is golden brown (you don't want bitter and burnt garlic); the slightly smoked chilli will also change the colour of your olive oil.
3. Turn off the heat and add the salt, pepper and parsley. Now add the cup of water and cook for 30 seconds until much of the water has boiled away. Mix with the pasta, sprinkle with cheese and a squeeze of lemon juice, and serve.
4. You can enjoy the pasta with a herb salad on the side and sourdough bread with more olive oil.
Olive oil, ricotta and rosemary cake
- 1 ring cake pan sprayed or oiled and sprinkled with brown sugar. You can also use a loaf pan lined with baking paper
- 3 large eggs at room temperature
- 1 cup (250 g) ricotta cheese
- ½ cup sour cream or full cream yoghurt
- ¾ cup olive oil
- 1 tablespoon vanilla
- 1½ cups brown sugar
- 2½ teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons lemon zest
- 1 teaspoon fresh chopped rosemary
- 1½ cup cake flour
1. Preheat the oven to 180°C and prepare your pan.
2. In a mixing bowl, combine the eggs, ricotta and sour cream well. Now add the oil and vanilla and beat well.
3. Whisk in sugar, baking powder, salt, zest and rosemary and mix well. Add the cake flour at the end and mix until well combined.
4. Pour the mixture into the pan and bake for 50 to 55 minutes for a bread pan and 40 to 50 minutes for a cake pan.
5. Let cool, turn out, and serve as I do with or without figs.
♦ VWB ♦
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