Olives are aplenty, and amazingly, they lend themselves well to a lot of Indian dishes
I recently came across this interesting tidbit — about 10 per cent of the world's olives are being used for table consumption; the rest are for extraction of oil. Now, this 10 per cent may seem small, but it translates into a figure of 15,00,000 metric tonnes!
What concerns us is how we can use table olives effectively in Indian kitchens.
Olives are good for health, and can be easily used in Indian cooking. What is more interesting is that table olives — green or black, pitted or stuffed — make salads in the Indian repertoire more enjoyable.
We do come across slices of black olives on pizzas and the kids seem to like it too, so why not make an extended contribution to salads such as aloo kachalu chaat, gajar and kishmish salad, murgh and Shimla mirch salad or even a tomato and olive upma.
We were recently at the launch of a restaurant, and they were circulating stuffed olives on crushed ice in margarita glasses. Wow, no nuts, no tikkas, just healthy, tender, stuffed olives where you can pick from ones with pimento, or almonds or hazelnuts.
It is common to see green olives (these are unripe) usually marketed as a stuffed variety. The visual appeal is more. Olives turning colour come next — these are harvested before the stage of complete ripeness, when the olive fruits are rose to wine-rose in colour. And, black olives are harvested when fully or almost-fully ripe.
Table olives are picked by hand because the fruit must not be damaged; however, because they are more ripe and come away more easily, black table olives can be harvested mechanically.
Black olives bring out the presentation in food, hence the sprinkling on pizzas and salads. In fact, black olives make my favourite tapenade. Slice 15 to 20 pitted black olives. Put them in the grinder with six to eight fresh basil leaves, eight to 10 garlic cloves, a little sea salt, half-a-cup of cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil, and grind to a smooth paste.
Remove and mix in another half cup of cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil. Now this dip is ready for some diagonally-sliced French bread!
A recipe now.
Corn bhel with tomato and olives
Corn niblets, boiled — 1 cup
Large tomato, finely chopped — 1
Green olives, pitted and halved — 8
Black olives, pitted and halved — 8
Large onion, chopped — 1
Medium-sized potatoes, boiled and made into half-cm cubes — 2
Chaat masala — 2 tsp
Green chillies, chopped — 3 or 4
Green chutney — 2 tbsp
Sweet date and tamarind chutney — 2 tbsp
Chopped, fresh coriander leaves — 4 tbsp
Lemon juice — one-and-a-half tsp
Salt to taste
Cornflakes, crushed for garnish
Mix corn niblets, tomato, onion, potatoes, chaat masala, green chillies, green chutney, sweet date and tamarind chutney and coriander leaves well. Add lemon juice, salt and mix. Divide into individual servings, sprinkle olives and crushed cornflakes and serve immediately.
Master chef, author and television host
Mail him at email@example.com