Amongst the tremendous bounty of fruit that our region has long been famous for, the humble olive is possibly the most under-appreciated.
One of the few fruits yet to be picked as we head into the cooler months, olives occupy a unique space on our seasonal fruit calendar.
Many Australians enjoy nibbling on a few pickled and marinated olives as a healthy snack. An olive or two swirling around the bottom of a martini glass is preferred by the more decadent.
But the crowning glory of this hard and bitter little fruit is the liquid gold that is it's natural oil.
There are different categories of olive oil ranging from simple olive oil, virgin olive oil, and extra virgin olive oil which is the best and purest state.
Extra virgin is a categorisation which is prescribed in Australia after a rigorous process of chemical analysis and sensory testing. The simplest and most important distinctions are that the oil must be from the fresh juice squeezed directly from the olive fruit, and that the oil is extracted naturally through pressing without the introduction of heat or chemicals.
Blended oils and oils that have been refined through heating or chemical additives will not have the same health benefits nor the intricate layers of flavour that extra virgin offers.
Australian standards are some of the strictest in the world with some requirements that go above and beyond the grading standards set by the International Olive Council. The Australian market has also mercifully not been beset by the fraudulent labelling scandals that have plagued some European countries in recent years.
These strong industry standards have combined with our suitable climate and passionate farmers to elevate Australian extra virgin olive oil to amongst the best in the world.
Rosslyn and David Kemp of "Tawarri Grove" lay claim to Australia's highest olive grove where they produce outstanding extra virgin olive oil. Nestled into the upper slopes of Towac Pinnacle on Mount Canobolas the grove of nearly 3000 trees sits at an elevation of 1100 to 1200 meters.
Since first planting during Easter 2000 they have seen plenty of change in the local industry and have come to appreciate how the local terroir applies to their crops.
Whereas Australia's most prevalent variety, kalamata olives are grown with great success in nearby Canowindra, the cooler climate of the Pinnacle is not so suitable. Tawarri Grove features Tuscan varieties such as Frantoio, Leccino and Corregiola, as well as Puglian originating Coratina olives and Spain's Manzanillo and Arbequina.
Like so much of the produce grown on the tablelands these olives are grown in conditions that are higher and colder, developing more slowly and harvesting later than most around the country.
While Tawarri Grove doesn't produce a robust style that would require prolonged hot summer days, their oils are well balanced and fruity with a freshness and peppery finish.
RECIPE OF THE WEEK
Bucatini Aglio e Olio with Chilli and Toasted Breadcrumbs (for 4)
- 375g dried bucatini (spaghetti is great too)
- 150ml Tawarri Grove extra virgin olive oil
- 8 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 red chillies, chopped (can be omitted)
- 100g panko breadcrumbs
- 1/2 C fresh oregano, chopped
- 1/2 C fresh continental parsley, chopped
- Salt to taste
- Aglio e olio literally means "garlic and oil" and it's a great quick and easy meal for when the fridge is empty.
- Toast the breadcrumbs with the oregano, a pinch of salt, and 50ml of the oil.
- Once they're golden brown you have pangrattato, also known as "poor man's parmesan." They keep well and are great sprinkled on many dishes.
- Add the pasta to a boiling pot of salted water and simmer until al dente, about 7 minutes.
- Meanwhile cook the garlic and chilli gently in the remaining oil.
- Stop the cooking when the garlic begins to caramelise by removing the pan from the heat and adding a spoonful of the pasta water.
- Strain the pasta and add to the garlic infused oil while it's still wet.
- Add the parsley and toss well to emulsify the oil and pasta water to make a glossy sauce.
- Sprinkle with the pangrattato and enjoy.
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