As one of the world’s oldest cultivated plants, the olive has shaped both the culture and the landscape of the Mediterranean for thousands of years. Thankfully, you don’t have to travel far to get the very best of them.
Working with small scale, independent, artisan and organic farmers, The Real Olive Company is a Bristol-based company with a network of growers around the Mediterranean coast, in Greece, Italy, France, Morocco and Spain. Following traditional methods, the olives are allowed to mature naturally in brine before being shipped to Bristol, where they are water-cured and marinated using one of the company’s unique blends. These really are olives for olive lovers, and since the company was founded in 1998 it has been recognised with a number of Great Taste Awards by the British Guild of Fine Food.
Such quality really is evident in every mouthful: these are super juicy, super fresh olives, just-a-bit bitter and bursting with the feel-good flavours of summer. From sweet and mild Just Nocellara del Belice Olives from Sicily, to hot and spicy Piri Piri Tabil Olives stuffed with garlic, coriander and coriander, The Real Olive Company’s extensive range of whole, stuffed and pitted olives boasts 4 whole-olive varieties and 11 unique – and entirely delicious – olive oil flavour blends. Recently the company launched a new 60g snack pack (available in Basil & Garlic and Chilli & Herbs), and their award-winning Antipasti is similarly convenient: pitted green and Kalamata olives paired with whole garlic cloves, sweet peppers, cornichons, sun dried tomatoes and caperberries, combined with extra virgin olive oil and herbs.
When buying olives to cook with, it’s recommended to do so in small batches with the stones intact because they have a far better flavour. This is particularly true for simple recipes such as spaghetti alla puttanesca, which relies on the quality of its ingredients. We found Just Organic Kalamata Olives the perfect choice for such a richly savoury dish. Preserved in cold-pressed olive oil, these deep purple beauties are robust, fruity and more than hold their own when paired with capers, anchovies, garlic and chilli.
Olives also make a great addition to stews, counterbalancing the richness of fatty meats while adding saltiness and bounce to tomato-based sauces. Nutritionally there’s little, if any, difference between green and black olives (the colour of an olive is an indication of its ripeness), and while unripened green olives tend to be the more traditional choice for slow-cooked tagines, softer black olives are often called for in quick-cooking recipes such as this SimplyCook Spiced Moroccan Fish with Cassia.
By working with organic, small-scale farmers, The Real Olive Company benefits from knowing exactly where its olives and other mouthwatering ingredients come from. These are pure, natural olives, prepared and preserved without the use of modern artificial preservatives. What’s surprising, then, is just how accessible they are to your average customer. Currently stocked by a number of UK delis and farm shops, as well as big names such as Ocado (currently on offer at 25% off), Waitrose and Abel & Cole, prices are affordable (two 185g pots for £5), with generous best-before dates making The Real Olive Company as practical as they are pleasing. Because this is ‘real food for real people’ – and when food tastes this good, it really would be rude not to.