Late winter and early spring means the new season’s olive oil has been bottled and is on the shelves. The first press or extra virgin olive oil is a delicious stand-alone ingredient as well as a significant accompaniment, giving a dish moisture, freshness and a herbaceous, fruity feathery weight on the palate. This viscous liquid can be full and fresh or have more subtle characteristics, but it’s simply about tasting until you find the one you like.
One thing to note is that olive oil’s life span is only about 24 months, so always check the best before date on the bottle before you buy it. Some Victorian producers are choosing to put their harvest or pressing dates on their bottles, which will clearly indicate how long it has been in the bottle. Australian olive oil is the freshest you can buy at the moment, but if you want to replenish your stock in the late summer or early autumn, look to oils from Europe (also pressed late winter and early spring there), check the dates and then refresh again – a lovely cycle for a delicious product.
Salmorejo Cordobes (Cordoba’s thick tomato and bread soup)
Richard Seymour, General Manager of Mt Zero Olives, the Grampians favours this recipe supplied by Frank Camora of Movida Bar de Tapas. A word of caution, however. Follow the ingredients and method meticulously as deviations may cause an imbalance of flavours.
1kg vine-ripened, soft tomatoes
1 garlic clove
250g stale, heavy, white bread (pasta dura)
100ml extra virgin olive oil (plus a little extra)
1 heaped teaspoon salt
200ml chilled water
3 hardboiled eggs, diced
80g jamón, diced
aged sherry vinegar
Puree tomatoes and garlic and in a food processor. Strain this tomato mixture through a chinois. Discard the skin and seeds. Break the bread up into golf ball-sized pieces and place in a large stainless steel bowl. Pour the strained tomato mixture, olive oil and salt over the bread. You'll need this amount of salt as it is a cold soup and anything served cold needs extra seasoning. Using your hands, squish the tomato mixture into the bread, really working the liquid through. Allow it to stand for 15 minutes, allowing the bread to soak in the liquid. Puree the entire mixture again in a food processor, adding water until the soup is the consistency of thick cream and a pleasing salmon pink colour. Chill. Serve in bowls, finished with egg, jamón a generous drizzle of good olive oil and a small dash of aged sherry vinegar.
Magdalena Cup Cakes
From Rosalind Ellinger of Mason’s Creek Olive Oil, Bellarine Peninsula.
(Makes about 48)
330g (1–11/2 cups) caster sugar
250ml Mason’s Creek Extra Virgin Olive Oil
660g (3 cups) plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
icing sugar, to dust
Preheat oven to 175°C. Put paper cake cases in muffin trays. Beat egg and caster sugar together until pale, then stir in remaining ingredients, except icing sugar, alternating milk and oil with flour. Fill cases two-thirds full. Bake for 20 minutes, until golden. Once cool, dust with icing sugar.