LOCATION AND CLIMATE

 

As you might expect, olives grown in cooler areas where there is more moisture (rainfall and dew) exhibit leaner, more restrained characteristics.  This doesn’t however mean that great oil can now be made in Iceland – you need a minimum amount of sunshine to make your Extra Virgin Olive Oil taste remarkable, similarly to tomatoes or stone fruit.

Olive trees are sensitive to winter freeze (the Casaliva cultivar is more resistant to cold, hence being grown in the Garda region).  It is also easier to farm organically where the climate is more stable and less chemical sprays are required to keep the trees healthy.

OLIVE MATURITY

 

Here’s the thing – all olives are green.  When they become fully mature, they turn black.
Olive maturity at the time of harvest is a major factor in flavour and quality: olives harvested earlier (green olives) feature more bitter, grassy characteristics, with lower yields and with the highest anti-oxidant content.  The oil is a much more intense green colour and has a longer shelf-life.  In terms of production, milling can take longer with green olives (a longer malaxation - the action of slowly churning milled olives to release droplets of oil - is needed and can be more complicated) but the results are far superior!  Don’t choose olive oil from over mature fruit: it lacks all the potential goodness and flavour.

ATTENTION TO DETAIL IN GROVE AND MILL

 

People who care passionately about what they make and follow it personally every day have the capacity to create products with far higher quality, with integrity, and that taste of where they come from.  They are also able to do this by caring for the environment they inhabit.

FRANTOIO DI RIVA BOX

This box contains 6 bottles of extra virgin olive oil made exclusively by Frantoio di Riva from groves on the banks of lake Garda.

Frantoio di Riva, 46°PARALLELO green label x 3 bottles (50cl)
Frantoio di Riva, 46°PARALLELO organic white label x 1 bottle (50cl)
Frantoio di Riva, 46°PARALLELO blue label x 1 bottle (50cl)
Frantoio di Riva, ULIVA Garda Trentino DOP x 1 bottle (50cl)

Spaghetti con Agretti

Like any vegetable that appears in the market for only a few weeks a year, agretti feels like a rare treat. When the weather is such that we can sit comfortably outside for lunch, this makes a great meal: light, but full of flavour, and very easy to make. Just make sure you have cleaned the agretti really well before cooking.

 

Serves 4

400 grams of good quality spaghetti (we like Mancini or Rummo brands for this dish, as they retain more bite and flavour).

A large bunch (about 300 grams) of Agretti

1 clove of garlic

1 large spring onion, sliced

1 fresh chilli, sliced

Zest of 1/2 a lemon

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

 

Put a large pot of generously salted water to boil, which you will use both for the agretti and the spaghetti.

Gently fry the clove of garlic in olive oil, until it starts to change colour, then discard. Add the onions and cook very slowly, until translucent (about 10 minutes), and then the chilli. If the onions are drying up too quickly, take off the heat and add a little water from the pasta pot.

Clean the agretti carefully, by cutting the pink and red roots off, soak them in a large bowl (or the sink) in cold water, then wash every single bunch under running water, checking whether there are any roots left to cut off or any hard leaves. (consider that agretti can be eaten raw, so you want to make sure all the leaves are soft).

Timing is crucial now: check the pasta cooking time, then shave off 30 seconds, and put the spaghetti to cook. Once there are 5 minutes left on the clock, add the agretti and cook together, then drain (leaving aside 1/2 a cup of water from the pasta), and pour the spaghetti and veggies in to the onions. Sautee for 30 seconds, tossing well, adding olive oil and a bit of the pasta water if it looks too dry. Take off the heat, add the lemon zest, then taste for seasoning and add a little more olive oil.

We use Tenuta Arcamone from the De Carlo family in Puglia for this dish, bringing the Agretti to life and complementing it’s minerality and freshness.

Chickpeas Thoughts and Recipes

Rather like other members of the legume family, chickpeas are rich in protein and fibre.  The protein aspect is good for bone, muscle and skin health and the fibre, as we are all understanding now in this moment of heightened health awareness, is good for amongst other things, your immunity.  Add to this potassium, vitamin B, iron, magnesium and selenium (antioxidant) and you get the picture that this is a supremely superior food to be eating right now.
High in energy but low in fat, chickpeas are a great lunchtime option to sustain you through to dinner.
No doubt, with the impressive increase in home time and therefore home cooking, we are all seeking inspiration for how to enjoy larder staples such as chickpeas so here are a few of our favourites.
We used to live on Exmouth Market in London, so Morito was an important part of our lives.  We love their recipe for fried chickpeas and chopped salad and we use many variations in the salad part.
Zaitoun (by Yasmin Khan) only joined our cookbook library last year, but we love these Palestinian recipes and use it often.  You barely need a recipe for this dish, the ingredients are all just made to sit together.
And last but by no means least is a family favourite from the sensational Diana Henry, who has literally saved us at least a thousand times during lockdown when we’ve been totally at the end of all cooking inspiration.  Diana, you have no idea how much your amazing recipes mean to us.  Thank you.
MORITO FRIED CHICKPEAS AND CHOPPED SALAD
Serves 4
For the Chickpeas
300ml of Olive Oil
500g jarred chickpeas, drained and rinsed
A generous pinch of ground cinnamon, ground coriander seeds and ground cumin seeds
For the Salad
1/2 cucumber
1/2 red onion
2 tomatoes
half a bunch of coriander
2 green chillies
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
lemon juice and zest
Cook the chickpeas in the oil when it is hot and fry until they are crisp and golden.  Remove and dry on kitchen paper, then sprinkle with the spices as well as some sea salt.  Keep warm.
Finely chop the salad, and here it really doesn’t matter what you put in, you could include celery, fennel, peppers if you have them for example.  Add the coriander and chillies, olive oil and lemon and mix well.
Plate up the salad and add the warm chickpeas over the top.  Serve immediately
We typically use De Carlo Classico for the cooking part and then Primo from the Cutrera family in Sicily for the dressing, which is wonderfully aromatic and brings all of these brilliant flavours together.
ZAITOUN CHICKPEA AND BULGUR SALAD WITH POMEGRANATE
Serves 4
175g bulgur wheat
400g jarred chickpeas, drained and rinsed
a large handful of chopped parsley, mint, chives
1 garlic clove
5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
lemon juice
60g pomegranate seeds
Cook the bulgur wheat in lightly salted water for 10 minutes.  Drain and rinse with cold water then place in a serving bowl.  Add the chickpeas, chopped herbs and garlic.  Dress with EVOO and lemon juice and season to taste.  Just before serving, add the pomegranate seeds.
We like to use Rosciola from the Gregori family in Le Marche for this dish – Rosciola seems to be absolutely made for chickpeas, it has the perfect aromatic balance and a hint of tropical fruits that lift the flavours to a new level.
DIANA HENRY’S CUMIN-ROAST AUBERGINES, CHICKPEAS, WALNUTS AND DATES
As Diana says, this is an easy recipe: roast the veg, make the dressing and heat the chickpeas.
It is a huge win alongside grilled mackerel.
Serves 4
2 large aubergines,
3 small onions
6 tbsp olive oil
3 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp Aleppo pepper
400g jarred chickpeas, drained and rinsed
lemon juice
a bunch of coriander leaves
1 & 1/2 tbsp date syrup
5 medjool dates, pitted and chopped (we sometimes replace with dried fig if we can’t find dates)
15 g walnut pieces, toasted
For the dressing
50ml tahini
50ml extra virgin olive oil
1 crushed garlic clove
4 tbsp greek yoghurt
more lemon juice
Preheat the oven to 190C and roast the cut aubergines and onion wedges drizzled in olive oil, cumin, aleppo pepper and seasoning for around 45 minutes.
For the dressing, blitz in a blender with a little water (50ml) until it has the consistency of thick cream.
When the aubergines are almost cooked, warm the chickpeas through in a frying pan.
Then combine the aubergines and chickpeas in a serving bowl and drizzle over the dressing before scattering dates, nuts and chopped coriander to serve.

Penne ai sapori della Primavera

In this extraordinary moment of life, many of us have necessarily moved from shopping every couple of days to shopping or receiving delivery of a weekly order.  We find this abundant arrival of vegetables in our kitchen hugely uplifting and it drives us to create fresh, delicious dishes that the whole family can enjoy.

We find that the kids are particularly fond of having Leccino, Taggiasca or Biancolilla doused over their new season peas and courgettes. Asparagus has also started appearing on the shelves as well as artichokes, which make our food routine more varied. Indeed during this time we are reminded how lucky we are to live in a place with some extraordinary food ecosystem and to have such variety of choice of food and as challenging as it is to keep those 3 meals a day varied and healthy, it is manageable. This simple pasta dish has all the freshness of spring, it is very quick to make and is adaptable to the vegetables you have in your fridge.

Serves 4 people

400 gr Penne

2 leaks

300 gr fresh peas.

3 zucchini

3 spring onions

1 clove garlic

1 small fresh chilli pepper

 

Thinly cut all the veggies and shell the peas (you should have about 100gr of peas). Put the the Penne in abundantly salted boiling water .  Gently fry chilli, garlic leaks and onion in good Extra Virgin Olive Oil (we use Biancolilla by Cutrera for this), until gold and soft.  Add the zucchini and peas. When the penne are all dente, drain and toss them in the pan with the vegetables for a few seconds to get the juices from well coated on the penne.  Check for seasoning and serve with some freshly grated pepper and some parmesan, as well as an extra drizzle of olive oil.

Gnudi di Ricotta e Spinaci

Gnudi are light dumplings, truly delicious and easy to make.  In Tuscany we use fresh ricotta during the spring, which is a sheep’s cheese but you could replace with either cow or buffalo ricotta depending on what you can find.

 

For 4 people

500g spinach leaves
250g fresh sheep’s Ricotta
2 large free-range organic eggs
¼ of a freshly grated nutmeg (we major on this because we all love it)
25g Parmesan, plus extra for serving
Maldon salt and milled black pepper
1.5 tbsp Tipo ‘00’ flour, plus extra for dusting
100g fine semolina flour
125g unsalted butter, softened
A generous amount of Extra Virgin Olive Oil: we used Moraiolo from Frantoio Franci
A small bunch of fresh sage leaves

Cut the stalks from the spinach and wash carefully.  Place the damp leaves in a pan over a low heat and allow to wilt, stiring all the time. Drain, squeezing every bit of water out.  Chop finely and let cool.  Beat the ricotta with a fork and add the chopped spinach.  Add the eggs, nutmeg and Parmesan and season.  Fold in the flour and dust a board with more flour.

Take a wine glass and dust it with semolina.  Put a dessertspoon of the ricotta/spinach mixture into the glass and swill it around until a shape is formed.  The gnudi must be well coated with the semolina.  Place them on the floured board.

Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil.  Drop in the gnudi in batches and cook until they float.  This will take about 5 minutes.  Remove with a slotted spoon and place in the warmed dish with a drizzle of EVOO.  Keep warm while you cook the rest.

Slowly melt the butter and the Extra Virgin Olive Oil (about 50:50) in a thick-bottomed pan over a low heat; add the sage leaves and just let them wilt and blend.  Serve the gnudi with the sage butter/oil and Parmesan and a green salad on the side.

Carciofi alla Romana

This dish is particularly easy to prepare and makes a delicious starter or sharing dish.

 

Serves 2 as a starter

2 globe artichokes

a small bunch of chopped mint, parsley

1 clove garlic chopped

Lemon juice

A glass of White Wine

2 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil: We use Il Classico from the De Carlo family in Puglia

 

Place trimmed artichokes in a saucepan, tightly if possible so they don’t open too much. Add a mixture of chopped mint, flat leafed parsley, garlic, a good squeeze of lemon, 2 tbps Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Then cover with water & white wine (3:1 ratio) and put a lid on the pan. Bring to the boil and then simmer for 25 minutes or until tender

 

Serve with a small dipping bowl of EVOO.  We use Tenute Arcamone also from the De Carlo family in Puglia.