Orange, Garlic and Chilli Olives

Sometimes you need a makeover. Not a Biggest Loser style job, with bouncing blow dries, mink eyelashes and stripper heels. There’s no need to drastically be cutting or shearing anything. I’m talking about just a few little tricks and tips to gussy something plain into something a bit more special.

There’s a bit of transformation going on at the moment. I have- out of necessity in the last two weeks become something of an expert in curtains after our previous tenants managed to break our blinds. How in the heavens, if you’re not attempting an auto-erotic asphyxiation game you manage to rupture hanging blinds is beyond me- but there are some things I just don’t need to know. I also had no idea I could so quickly become so well versed in eyelet loops and pencil pleats, hanging lengths and block out fabrics.  But some rooms in our flat currently  resemble a bland canvass of spilled milk- it’s cream on white, light windows and oversized reflective mirrors and it’s crying out for something. So a quick fix of curtains it is.

The same need is at hand when it comes to my midsection. There is not a lot that’s easy about dressing a third trimester bump. Bright colours do very little except ape  fire trucks, or Grimace.  My best bet seems to be basic black- accented by a  quick makeover of a novelty scarf or set of beads for some visual distraction.

And then we come to pre dinner snacks. I’ve said it before- I’m not comfortable opening the door to the flat to guests without at least something on the table. Rather than a formal starter, I’m much more partial to a small collection of nibbles. The sort of thing people can pick at while someone opens a bottle of bubbles. It might be a whole cooked artichoke, with coffee aioli for dipping.

It might be whipped goat’s curd with honeycomb and toasts.

It might be a bowl of pea, feta and mint dip, with grissini buffeted by prosciutto.

Or it might be something as simple as a bowl of olives.

But here’s the trick about olives. They need a bit of attention. Otherwise they can fall into a pit of being mere black and green spheres of salt and seeded chew. Sure, you can go to a deli and hand over a wodge of cash for some from a square white bowl with a few herbs nudging next to them.

But it’s just as easy to buy some plain ones (maybe, shock horror, even from a jar in the supermarket) and give them a little makeover at home.

All it takes is ten minutes, a saucepan and some complimentary flavours and suddenly they’re shining. They gleam with  oil and friendly flavours. They’re the sort of thing you want to keep going back for. And if you’ve done your job right, the infused oil at the bottom of the bowl will be tasty enough for people at the table to be canvassing around for a heel of bread to swipe through it, just so they can grab the last taste.

You could go for lemon, oregano and chilli. You could turn to clementine, rosemary and bay. Any combination of citrus, woodsy flavours and a little bit of heat works. But my favourite is this; the warmth of orange zest and chilli with the mellowed grunt of oil-poached garlic.

It’s a sly trick that nobody needs to know about except you.  The secret is warming the oil, so it encourages all of the flavours in the marinade to gently leech out. It’s an entirely charming way to start a meal.  It’s an instant makeover for a staple. Just don’t forget a little bowl or two for pips and a stack of napkins for cleaning oil smudged fingers. Otherwise all your civilised, transformative good work will be for naught (and your cream lounge room may need more than a few hanging drapes to bring it back to life)

Orange,  Garlic and Chilli Olives

I like to serve this as a nibble with drinks. Be sure to include a little bit of warm bread on the side for dipping in the flavoured oil at the end. They will also keep in your fridge happily for a few days- and afterwards can be happily pitted and tossed- oil and all- through pasta, perhaps with some good quality tuna and some cherry tomatoes.


2 cups of mixed green and black olives
3 tbsp of olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 – 1 red chilli, thinly sliced (depending on how hot you like things and hot hot your chilli is)
Zest of half an orange, peeled in wide strips

Here’s how we roll

1) In a small saucepan add the olive oil, garlic, chilli and orange zest.

2) Bring to a gentle simmer for 7 minutes, until the garlic has softened.

3) Pour the warm oil over the olives and allow to come to room temperature.

4) Serve with drinks. Be sure to leave out a little bowl for the pips.


{ 1 Comment }
  1. Olives are my favorite little appetizer. I wish I had easy access to those luscious looking green ones, I can’t seem to find them anywhere!

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