Olives are a simple and delicious way to get a party started.
Olives are a simple and delicious way to get a party started. Photo: Marina Oliphant

When I'm entertaining at home, I like to offer guests a bowl of marinated olives to nibble on with a drink. To me, it's an age-old sign of hospitality, especially if you have made them yourself. It's such a simple task.

These days, many good food stores and delis sell a large variety of olives. At MoVida, we don't serve olives that are restrained in their flavour; an olive should taste like an olive. When buying them to marinate, choose a few different types, colours and sizes, and look for olives that have been simply preserved using water and salt, without other additives.

For the marinade, try experimenting with different combinations, for instance, bay, garlic and fennel, or thyme, rosemary and orange. Think about different ingredients that complement the olives' flavour.

Times have changed since my family moved to Australia in the 1970s, when it was impossible to buy olive oil in supermarkets. Now, it's a staple in Australian kitchens.

This loaf recipe uses oil instead of butter, spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg. It's an excellent light cake for morning tea.


MARINATED OLIVES

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

5 bay leaves

2 large garlic cloves, slightly crushed

Strips of rind from 1 lemon

6 fresh thyme sprigs

1 tsp fresh rosemary, chopped

 1/2 tsp fennel seeds

2 cups mixed olives

Combine olive oil, bay leaves and garlic in a small saucepan and heat gently, until just warm.

Remove from heat and stir in lemon rind, thyme, rosemary and fennel seeds.

Place olives in a wide-mouthed jar and pour in olive oil mixture. Shake jar to coat olives.

Refrigerate for 2 hours or for up to 2 weeks. Shake the jar a few times to redistribute the seasoning.

OLIVE OIL AND SPICE LOAF

3 medium eggs

150g brown sugar

150ml olive oil

30ml cold water

200g spelt flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground nutmeg

1 cup icing sugar

2 tbsp lemon juice

1 tbsp melted butter

Line the base and sides of a 25cm x 12cm loaf tin with greaseproof paper.

Heat oven to 180C In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs and sugar with an electric mixer for 1-2 minutes on high speed until pale, creamy and slightly thick. Add oil and water then beat again until evenly mixed through. If you want to add any extras such as grated zest, chopped nuts or flavouring, add them now.

In another bowl, mix flour, baking powder and spices with a spoon, then add to egg mixture. Fold through quickly but gently until just combined. Pour mixture into loaf tin and bake for about 40 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Leave to cool in the tin before turning out. For icing, mix icing sugar, lemon juice and butter until smooth. Spread over cake.