RECIPE: Do-it-yourself olives

by THE WEEKEND COOK with Maggie Cooper

OLIVES are very much an acquired taste, one that, thankfully, I learned to enjoy quite a few years ago. We grow terrific olives here in Australia. Our country has so many different climates in so many areas that there are few crops we cannot manage here once good farming practices are applied.
I often wonder how we first discovered olives were edible; the raw fruit is not thanks to a bitter compound called oleuropein. Depending on the age and variety of the fruit it can be leached out by splitting the olives and soaking them in water – changed daily – for a length of time (up to a month). Other varieties need to be cured by one of several methods using salt, brine or lye. So it’s quite a process to convert them to the tasty nibble we enjoy with drinks, on pizzas or as an addition to many Mediterranean recipes. I like to buy a good brand of Aussie olive and then marinate them myself. They are delicious served warmed with pre-dinner drinks. Just about any of your favourite herbs and spices can be used. My personal choices are thyme, rosemary, garlic, nigella (black cumin) seeds and a little dried chilli. Feel free to experiment: oregano, sage, marjoram, regular cumin seeds, mustard seeds, mandarin peel, and peppercorns are alternatives.

Warm herbed olives
Serves 4

INGREDIENTS: 2 cups cured mixed olives
1/4 cup cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil
zest of a small lemon
2 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
3 tsp fresh thyme leaves
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
1 tsp fennel or nigella (black cumin) seeds (optional)
1 tsp dried chilli flakes (optional)

METHOD: Drain brine from olives and discard.
In a small saucepan, combine oil, lemon zest, garlic and herbs, reserving one sprig of rosemary for garnish.
Add fennel or nigella seeds and chilli flakes if using.
Heat oil over a medium heat until garlic just starts to colour; don’t allow it to brown as it will become bitter.
Remove from heat and stir in the olives.
Cover and allow to sit for at least 15 minutes, preferably overnight.
Reheat gently before serving.
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Marinated Feta with Olives

Description:  Using a lemon-flavored extra-virgin olive oil gives the marinated feta extra flavor. Flavored olive oils are available at a variety of specialty stores, such as the Oilerie and Oro di Oliva. Wisconsin-made Weyauwega feta makes a good cheese choice.

Recipe tested by Terri Milligan | Read more:  All about olives


b99384438z.1_20141104144751_000_g158g9qj.1-02 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon orange zest
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, preferably lemon extra-virgin olive oil (divided)
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
¼ teaspoon coarsely ground pepper
1 piece (8 ounces) feta cheese
1 ½ cups olives of your choice
French bread or pita bread


Thinly slice the garlic cloves. Place in a bowl and add the lemon and orange zest.

Coarsely chop 1 tablespoon of the rosemary. Add to bowl. Whisk in 1/3 cup of the oil, the red pepper flakes and ground pepper.

Place the feta piece in a container small enough to just fit the feta and all of the marinade. Pour olive oil marinade over feta and place remaining sprigs of rosemary on top. Cover and chill overnight or up to 2 weeks.

To serve: Place the feta on a platter. Pour olives and marinade over the feta. Brush French bread slices or pita bread with remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and lightly toast.