CULTIVAR

 

There are around 800 different Olive Cultivars in Italy alone, many of which are used for Olive Oil. Similarly to grape varieties in wine, the Olive cultivar influences the flavour profile of your oil.  Different cultivars, depending on size of fruit, thickness of the skin, composition of the pulp can produce different yields, varying concentrations of anti-oxidants and overall different quality levels.

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)

Raffaella Cova’s Spaghetti Micol

Raffaella Cova is a wonderful cook who runs beautiful classes in Montalcino. We featured a conversation with her in the past, and today she kindly publishes one of her favourite autumnal recipes: Spaghetti Micol. You can find other great recipes or reserve a cooking class in Tuscany via www.lunchwithraffaella.com

This is a recipe I made for my vegetarian friend Micol as a birthday present. I have included some of her favourite ingredients, including extra virgin olive oil.

Spaghetti Micol

Ingredients for 4 people:

280gr Spaghetti alla chitarra

1 beetroot (about 250gr)

A bouquet of fresh herbs (such as marjoram, origano, sage, rosemary, chives, mint and thyme)

100 gr of fresh goat cheese

2 tbls of toasted hazelnuts

1/2 cup of apple cider vinegar

1 tps of granulated sugar

Tuscan extra virgin olive oil

salt & pepper

 

Wash and peel half of the beetroot, then cut it in small cubes of about 2 cm, and simmer in abundant water

Cut half beetroot in small cubes of about 1/2 cm and simmer in abundant water. Once the beets are cooked but still have a bite, take them all out, because we are using the water for cooking the spaghetti.

Cut the other half of the beetroot in a brunoise style of very small cubes of about 2mm each, and marinate in the vinegar, in which the sugar has been dissolved.

Trim and cut the bouquet of herbs thinly, and mix in with a lot of extra virgin olive oil.

Whisk the cheese with a little water and a generous amount of olive oil, until you have the density of batter.

Loosely chop the toasted hazelnuts

As the pasta is cooking in the beetroot water, divide the cheese sauce in 4 serving dishes.

When the pasta is ready quickly fry it with the herbs and their oil, and the cooked cubes of beetroot.

When all the flavours have been well blended, nest the spaghetti over the cheese sauce in each plate and decorate the with brunoise beetroot (without the vinegar), the nuts, a little pepper and some extra virgin olive oil

Beetroot three ways

Red, orange and yellow feature highly in our autumn vegetable basket, from pumpkin to pomegranate, we feel blessed to have these rich, earthy, autumnal flavours at our table. Beetroot holds a special place in our heart so we wanted to dedicate a few words to it.

Beetroot is more readily associated with Northern and Eastern European cuisines – think borsht (beetroot soup) or rodbetsallad (beetroot salad).  But this autumnal root vegetable is also widespread in Northern Italy, and as you would expect, there is also a local variety, la Tonda di Chioggia – Chioggia’s round, named after the charming town overlooking the Venice lagoon, which also names a very special type of radicchio.

The Italian name for beetroot is barbabietola, the chard’s beard. This is because it’s tradition in Italy to eat both the root and the leaves, for example by frying them both together in a pan, with olive oil, salt and herbs, to make a quick and tasty side (dice the beet, fry in oil for 5 minutes, then add the sliced leaves and herbs, until ready).

Here are 3 recipes to try with this vegetable which is also wonderfully good for you.

BEETROOT AND LENTIL TABBOULEH

 

Ingredients

  • A handful of flat leaf parsley
  • A handful of fresh mint
  • 200g radishes
  • 2 beetroot, peeled and quartered
  • 1 red apple, cored, quartered and sliced
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 4 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 250g quinoa, cooked
  • 400g cooked green lentils
  • Juice of 1 lemon

 

Serves 4

 

This is an incredibly quick and easy recipe.  Chop the herbs, radishes and beetroot finely.  Stir in the rest of the ingredients and then season to taste.  Dress with Extra Virgin Olive Oil and lemon juice, lay on a large platter and serve.

We like this as a stand alone dish for lunch or alongside roasted lamb, mackerel or a selection of goats cheeses.

 

*******

 

 

BEETROOT SALAD WITH CARROT, ZUCCHINI AND PISTACHIO

 

We enjoyed this salad immensely at a dinner at the Fabbrica winery near to Pienza recently.  A truly beautiful spot nestled in the Val d’Orcia in Southern Tuscany and extremely worthy of a visit www.fabbricapienza.com

 

These ingredients are all readily available in early autumn in Tuscany, but few people put them together in this way in these parts.  To us, this exhibited acute awareness of flavour, texture and season  – something that Fabbrica Pienza exudes in their wines and olive oil as well.

 

Ingredients

  • 4 small beetroots, peeled and sliced in to fine discs
  • 2 pale green zucchini, sliced in to fine discs
  • 3 carrots, peeled and sliced in to fine discs
  • Flat leaf parsley
  • Shelled pistachio nuts
  • Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 4 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Dash of maple syrup

 

Serves 6 as a starter or side dish

 

Once all of the raw vegetables are finely sliced, dress them well in a bowl.  Then lay out flat on individual plates interweaving the red, orange and green discs.  Sprinkle the pistachio nuts and flat leaf parsley over the top and serve.

 

*******

 

PANSARIA ME SKORDALIA (beetroot and potato puree)

 

This dish is real comfort food for me, transporting me back to my days in Greece, but it also reminds me of the early days in London when we loved going to The Real Greek in Hoxton Square, wow, that was a long time ago J

Pansaria is the beetroot salad, you can serve this a number of ways, but I like to keep it pretty simple.  It goes alongside Skordalia, which is a rich potato and garlic puree.  These two work supremely well with white fish and/or flat bread.

 

Ingredients

2 large beetroots, boiled and peeled

The beetroot leaves, blanched

1tsp ground coriander

3 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 tbsp Red Wine Vinegar

 

5 medium potatoes boiled

3 cloves of garlic

1 tbsp red wine vinegar

4 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil

half a cup of water

 

For the beetroot side dish, keep it simple to retain the wonderful natural flavour.  Having boiled the beetroot and leaves, season with Maldon salt, black petter, ground coriander and add a simple red wine vinegar/EVOO dressing.

 

For the Skordalia, wash, peel and boil the potatoes on a low heat for about 20 minutes until soft.

In a food processor put half a cup of boiling water (you can use the potato water if you like), plus the garlic, red wine vinegar and seasoning.  Roughly chop the potatoes and add in.  Pour in the EVOO gradually as you would for mayonnaise.  If you don’t like your skordalia too angry, add the garlic cloves to the boiling potatoes for the last 5 minutes and this will give a milder effect.

When making skordalia, the potatoes must be blended when hot – otherwise it becomes lumpy.

Melanzane alla Parmigiana

Frantoio De Carlo, Tenuta Torre di Mossa

We love this dish served with crusty bread and a green salad and accompanied by a chilled glass of Vermentino.  It seems perfect for those evenings when you begin eating outdoors as spring fades to summer.

Ingredients

2 medium aubergines

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 garlic cloves peeled and finely chopped

5 ripe tomatoes, skinned and chopped or 400g passata

300g mozzarella, sliced

oregano

50g grated parmesan

Which EVOO to use?

Aubergines adore Puglian olive oil with its luscious texture and buttery character and for this reason we chose Tenuta Torre di Mossa from Frantoio De Carlo for this dish.  From a single parcel of land this monocultivar Coratina is extremely rich in antioxidants and features a broad selection of aromatic herbs plus ample peppery spice on the finish.

Method

1.   Slice the aubergines and lay out on a board covered with kitchen paper.  Sprinkle with salt and then lay further paper on top and weigh down with a heavy chopping board.  Leave for 30 minutes to allow the bitter juices to be drawn out.  Preheat the over to 180C.

2.  For the tomato sauce, you can use a tin or jar of passata if you’re stretched for time, otherwise you can just make a quick sauce by heating the oil and adding the garlic, once you begin to smell it, add the tomatoes and season with salt, pepper and oregano.  Simmer for 15 minutes.

3. We prefer to roast rather than deep fry the aubergines; it uses less oil and seems to give better results for our palate.  Once you have patted dry the slices of aubergine, lay them on baking sheets and brush with oil on both sides.  Roast for around 20 minutes until they have taken a light colour.

4. Layer your ingredients in an oven dish: tomato sauce – aubergine – mozzarella.  You will probably manage 2 or 3 layers.  Sprinkle the top with parmesan.

5. Cover with tin foil for the first 15 minutes of cooking time then remove the foil and bake for a further 15 minutes until the top is golden.

Prawns with Bergamot Mayonnaise

Autumn Recipes

Most people know Bergamot because it’s that citrus hint in Earl Grey tea.  Less known is that it is native Italian plant, from Calabria, naturally crossed between lemons and bitter orange.  Its rind is full of oil, and it’s primarily used for this, especially in the cosmetic industry – not just tea.

The aromatic, musky, and sour flavour can be used in the kitchen too.  It is not a fruit to eat as such – it has a very high acidity (think lemons or limes), but the juices and the zest can be added to in place of other acids, to give a wonderful floral scent to your food, for example with seafood. Indeed, a bergamot infused mayonnaise goes wonderfully with prawns or salmon.

Ingredients

For 4 people:

 

Half a bergamot (zest and juice)

1 egg yolk

a cup of olive oil  (250ml)

1 tsp Dijon mustard

A pinch of salt

A little bit of sweet smoked paprika

3 or 4 prawns per person.

Which EVOO to use?

Mayonnaise require EVOO which has a lighter touch, so we would suggest an oil from Frantoio Riva, such as Parallelo 46 blue label, or from Paolo Cassini, such as S’Ciappau Gran Cru. Both also work fabulously well with fish.

Method

1.     Mix the egg yolk, the mustard and the zest and juice of the bergamot well.

2.    Add the oil in a slow steady stream while whisking, until it’s emulsified into the consistency desired .  This will probably take about 20 minutes.  Towards the end add the salt whist whisking and taste – if you need to add more salt or maybe a little bit more bergamot juice, now is the time.

3.    Boil a pan of water

4.    Shell the prawns and remove the veins, rinse and put in the boiling water for a minute or so, until it turns bright pink.  Don’t overcook them, as they become chewy.

5.   Put the mayo in individual bowls for dipping, with a scattering of paprika, and place the prawns alongside to serve.

Tagliatelle al Tartufo

Autumn Recipes

Truffles are one of the most wonderful culinary luxuries in the world. We are so lucky to live close to one of its most important areas, San Giovanni d’Asso in central Tuscany, and towards the end of October and throughout November we try to have our annual fix. Like many things in life it’s worth having less but the best, and given the price of truffles (between €250 and €400 per 100 grams depending on quality level), we interpret it as a treat to indulge in seasonally, when the tuber is freshly picked out of the ground.

 

We adore the region of Piemonte, home of the famous Alba White Truffle, and on our last visit we indulged at the Osteria del Boccondivino, in the town of Bra, where the slow food movement started.  This season however, we visited our friends at the Locanda del Castello in San Giovanni d’Asso, ahead of their annual Truffle Festival.  The 2017 truffles are very few and far between due to the extended drought this summer and from what we understand the quality is mixed, therefore it’s more important than ever to know the provenance of your truffles – a good relationship with a trusted tartuffaio is extremely valuable in these parts. Those that we have tasted so far have had a great intensity of flavour and aroma.

 

A good way to enjoy truffles, particularly in an expensive year such as 2017 is at home (restaurant mark ups can be huge). It’s possible to find wonderful recipes, and for us some of the most simple dishes are the best: truffles go fantastically with eggs or beef tartare (here are some great examples).  Our favourite way to enjoy them however is with tagliatelle, a recipe that typically involves butter rather than olive oil (Piemonte of course bordering France as it does, uses more butter in its cuisine than olive oil).  You won’t be surprised to know however that we have challenged this and added the most luscious, dense oil that we know and this of course comes from Puglia and the wonderful De Carlo family.  We opted for a monocultivar Coratina, Tenuta Torre di Mossa DOP which is a late harvesting cultivar, rich in antioxidants and overflowing with flavour and a buttery texture.

 

Fresh pasta is the best for this dish. Use tajarin (from piemonte), thick spaghetti, or tagliatelle. The truffle has to be fresh, and shaved abundantly over the dish with a very thin blade (there are specific instruments for this).  Generally speaking white truffles have finer aromas than black ones (and are subsequently more expensive), but they are not easy to source. If you can’t find a good supplier … consider a holiday to Tuscany or Piemonte next autumn – it’s worth it for this dish alone.

Ingredients

For 4 people:

 

400 g fresh tagliatelle

Generous glug of Tenuta Torre di Mossa, De Carlo, Extra Virgin Olive Oil (equivalent to 2 tbsp)

100g parmigiano reggiano

1 knob of butter

a fresh truffle, cleaned gently but thoroughly.

Which EVOO to use?

For this dish use Coratina, Tenuta Torre di Mossa DOP, to complement the lovely truffle flavour 

Method

1.     Bring the water to the boil, salt and put your pasta in, considering that fresh pasta generally takes very little time to cook.

2.    When the pasta is almost done, warm the butter and olive oil in a wide frying pan over a low heat.  To this, add the tagliatelle from the boiling water and coat fully. Some of the water will have come across with the pasta, but if you see that it’s a bit dry, add some more from the boiling pot.

3.     Keeping the flame on low and mixing the pasta and the oil, add all the grated cheese until fully combined.

4.      Divide the pasta in 4 plates and shave the truffle directly on the plate in front of your guests.