Tasty treats from Olives Et Al

Following my last blog post on acquired tastes, I was very excited to get a message from Olives Et Al, a fine food company based in Dorset which specialises in olives, nuts, dressings and sauces. Giles Henschel, the founder of the company came across my blog and as a rather generous reward for converting to the ‘olive side of life,’ he posted me three jars of marinated olives and a pack of cajun spiced nuts to try.

On the day of delivery, I waited with bated breath for my parcel to arrive, only to be greeted by a frantic postman who informed me that he had delivered my parcel to the wrong house number at first. Apparently, after seeing the Olives Et Al logo printed on box, an olive-loving neighbour saw the delivery mistake as a golden opportunity to barter. He attempted to twist the arm of good ol’ Postie into letting him keep my treats, but luckily, Postie saw sense and delivered it to the rightful recipient. Nice try, neighbour!

So what were the olives like? Well, instead of wolfing them all down in one go, I decided to take Giles’ recommendation of trying each variety in a different sitting, paired with a suitable alcohol drink to compliment the flavour of the olives. A nice excuse for a cheeky beverage too, I must say.
Each jar of olives comes marinated in extra virgin olive oil which is infused with different herbs and spices. A great thing about these olives is the longer you keep them, the better the flavour gets, as the olives are still marinating as they sit on your shelf.

My taste test began with the ‘classic olives,’ which I had as a snack to accompany a cold Pilsner. These olives are inspired by flavours from Siciliy and come marinated in chilli, garlic and black pepper. Being an olive novice – the one thing I will say is watch out for the stones. I wasn’t expecting them at first, so was one over-excited crunch away from becoming a toothless wonder. Thankfully, I immediately learnt the drill, and I was ready for my tasting adventure to begin. The classic olives are a mixed selection of kalamata and green olives. Being a spice fan, the thing I loved about these olives was the fact that you could instantly taste the chilli. The intensity was subtle rather than overpowering and provided a tempting tease of the underlying spice which made me want to try another one.The beer perfectly harmonised the flavour and balanced the spiciness to induce, quite frankly, a very addictive experience. The great thing about combining these olives with a beer was that neither the beer nor the olives overwhelmed the other, instead they simply complimented each other perfectly.The juicy olives, the spice of the chilli and the crisp beer gave a fantastic neutralisation of flavours.

Next came the ‘moorish olives’ which were marinated in cumin, coriander and cardamom. As soon as I took the lid off, I could immediately smell the spices, especially the cumin. It actually reminded me a lot of the aroma you get from Moroccan cooking – very rich and exotic. All of the olives in the moorish selection were dark, and the sweet aromatic smell contrasted with the deep, intense flavour. Being a new olive convert, the aftertaste was sharp at first, but I found the perfect solution to this in a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon. The key thing to pairing alcohol with food is to identify which of the four basic tastes (bitter, salty, sour or sweet) is in the food, and then finding a drink to perfectly compliment it. Red wine was ideal for this pairing. The full bodied bold texture of the red wine perfectly balanced out and contrasted the sharp, rich flavours of the olives and gave me, what I’d call quite the sense of the exotic.

The final jar of olives was the ‘verde olives’ which I had with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc. These olives are marinated in lemon, coriander and garlic and I’d describe them as fresh, firm and very zesty. The mix of flavours is a great combination – you instantly smell the garlic, but taste the lemon – what a way to tantalise the taste buds! The olives are firm and green and they go beautifully with a dry white wine as the wine does not dominate the flavour combination. I’d describe these olives as very easy to eat and the crispness of the wine works wonderfully with the citrus base of the infusion.

The extra little treat I had to sample was a bag of Magnificent Cajun Spiced Nuts. These were a mix of almonds, cashews and peanuts with a rich, spicy Cajun coating that made them truly irresistible. I’d eat these with any drink and once the packet was open, they didn’t even last half an hour before the whole family had devoured them.

Olives Et Al are clearly the ‘crème de la crème’ when it comes to olives. The flavour combinations are authentic, creative and very intelligently put together with a strong awareness of flavour combinations. The selection on the website is outstanding. It is clear why they have made their mark on the fine food market, and continue to pave the way for delis in the UK.

I thought I’d never be an olive fan and now I can’t get enough of them, so come forward non-believers and be converted. Check out http://www.olivesetal.co.uk for some of the tastiest specimens around! Maybe I should pass on the website address to my ravenous neighbour…