This is a famous recipe in my family, because my brother-in-law Freddy, who is of Cypriot descent, makes it every time our tribe gathers for a feast. It’s an absolute zinger of a snack: big shining green olives drenched in garlicky, lemony olive oil, with plenty of coarsely crushed coriander seed. The warm, citrussy coriander notes are heavenly with green olives, while the lemon juice adds an irresistible acidity. This dish, elies tsakistes (literally, crushed olives) is popular all over Cyprus, and I am pretty sure Freddy learned the recipe at the elbow of his late mother Amaranth Sitas, who wrote an excellent book about Cypriot cooking (Kopiaste, K P Kyriakou Books, Cyprus, 1989).
|I snapped this on Christmas Day, just before the hungry hordes
polished off the lot.
I know how to make this, but mine never taste quite as good as Freddy’s, so on Christmas Day I pinned him down and made him write out the recipe. You can use any sort of green olive here; Freddy uses a combination of what are called ‘buffet’ olives in South Africa – the smaller olives in the picture on the left – and big juicy queen olives. This can be made with pitted olives, but it isn’t as nice as using whole ones (and, besides, half the fun of eating olives is seeing how far you can spit the pips).
Serve this with a loaf or two of warm bread for soaking up the olive oil. If there is any marinade left over, cover it and use it the next day to douse some new olives, adding a little extra fresh garlic and lemon juice. These keep for a long time in the fridge: if you’re going to chill them, decant them into lidded jars, but take them out of the fridge a few hours before you serve them so any congealed oil has a chance to come up to room temperature.
Don’t skimp on the coriander seed – it’s essential for an authentic taste.
I know Freddy will frown on me for saying this, but a handful of dried chilli flakes – or a sliced fresh chilli – is a fine variation on this theme.
This is a great choice of snack if you’re on a low-carb regime.
If you like this recipe, do try my version of Freddy’s baked aubergines with garlic yoghurt.
Freddy’s Smashed Marinated Green Olives
2 packets small green ‘buffet’ olives, drained (about 2 cups/500 ml after draining)
2 packets queen olives, drained of brine (about 2 cups/500 ml after draining)
5 big cloves of garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
4 Tbsp (60 ml) whole coriander seeds
2 large, juicy lemons
1 cup (250 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste
Tip all the olives onto a board. Using a small, sharp knife, cut a slit in the side of each one. Now gently bash each olive, using a rolling pin or the blade of a heavy knife, just firmly enough to crack it open. Tip the olives into a bowl. Using a mortar and pestle, coarsely crush the coriander seeds and add them to the olives along with the chopped garlic. Squeeze the lemons over the olives and mix well. Cover the bowl with clingfilm and set aside to steep for six hours or longer (but a minimum of three).
Tip the olives into one or two pretty serving dishes and pour over the olive oil. Add salt and pepper, to taste (although Freddy never does).
Serve with warm bread.
Serves 8-10, as a snack with drinks.