Black olive tapenade


My mum, even though she is French, detests raw garlic. She not only finds it hard to digest, but finds its aroma and taste even more offensive. ‘Oof,’ she’ll exclaim, wrinkling her nose as I approach from 20 paces away. ‘Have you been eating raw garlic?’ She can smell it on me even if I ate it two days previously, and contrary to the stereotype that all French people have garlic running in their veins, simply hates the stuff. Yesterday, she even detected a waft of garlic on my daughter’s bib, even though I’d cleaned it in soapy water. I must have, therefore, inherited my love of garlic in all its forms from my French grandparents, and when I meet up with Mum I often have to stand back because I eat tons of the stuff in marinades or various dips – such as this pokey black olive tapenade, a recipe from the South of France.

Tapenade gets its pokiness not only from the raw garlic it contains, but also the salty olives and anchovies. It’s dark, salty and a healthy-slap-round-the-face-of-a-dip – wonderful spread on crusty bread, served with crudites (cherry tomatoes go especially well, as do chicory leaves) or tortilla chips and fabulous in a sarnie with a mild, fresh cheese. Do not skimp on the anchovies – they give it a wonderful ‘umami’ saltiness (but don’t add any fishiness). Lose the chilli if you don’t like any heat, but I think the addition perks everything up. This is not food suitable for a first date, and if you’re going to eat tapenade on your own, avoid social contact for about 24 hours afterwards and hose your mouth out with Listerine. It’s best to eat this with non-judgemental friends, so that you all stink the same.

Serves 4 – 6 as a dip

You will need:

220g pitted black olives (if you are feeling rich, use Kalamata olives, but cheap pitted olives in brine are what I use frequently)
Extra virgin olive oil (enough to blend, roughly 2/3 cup)
Juice of 1/2 lemon
3 large cloves garlic, crushed
6 anchovy fillets
1 fresh birdseye chilli, finely chopped

Rinse any excess brine off the olives. Put everything together in a food processor (or use a stick blender). Whiz together and add more oil if you think it’s a bit dry – you want to aim for thick, glossy consistency that’s similar to houmous.

So easy – takes literally 5 minutes to make. Knock back with some dry white wine or rose…mmm.


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