A perfect picnic treat from Borough Olives, made from large, meaty Greek olives
Like true love, the path to understanding any food as ancient as tapenade rarely runs smoothly. “Though the word tapenade is French, many countries claim to have created it,” explains Holly at Borough Olives—and with good reason. People were crushing olives into sauces and pastes long before a chef in Marseilles claimed to have ‘invented’ the recipe: indeed, Cato the Elder includes a tapenade-like recipe in his book On Agriculture, which appeared in around 160BC. Borough Olives’ tapenade, meanwhile, is made with Greek olives: specifically, Halkidiki olives, from the eponymous region in the mountainous north of the country, where the climate and soil nutrients conspire to create a large, full bodied, bitter-come-spicy number with very little oiliness.
“It’s perfect for tapenade, because it’s so meaty—much larger than Spanish green olives for example —so when you chop it down it has texture. It’s chunky rather than smooth,” says Holly, “and it’s slightly salty, which brings more flavour.” As a result, her colleagues need only to add lemon zest, fresh coriander, chopped garlic and sundried tomatoes to pack their tapenade with considerable punch. “Often people add anchovies or capers, but we don’t think it needs the extra salt—and it also ensures it’s vegetarian.”
Fresh but salty
Proof of this tapenade being both fresh and sufficiently salty lies in the shelf life: “We make everything on our stall fresh the day before selling it, and the salt is enough to preserve it for up to three weeks.” At the supermarket, you’ll find dips like tapenade advising consumption within a week of opening—begging the question of when they were made, points out Holly. Borough Olives, however, prides itself on the freshness of its ingredients: “Nothing from a jar or a bottle, and no additives.”
Holly offers a smorgasbord of serving suggestions, from a simple pairing with baguette and tomatoes (“particularly Isle of Wight tomatoes,” she adds) to a recipe with white fish: “Just put a layer of tapenade on, say, hake, and it will form a crust in the oven. The same thing also works really with a rack of lamb: it’s a lovely texture, and it naturally salts the meat.”
Mild, creamy cheese
Her favourite combination, however, is not French, Italian or even Greek. “I love it with Hafod cheddar from Neal’s Yard Dairy, or some Bath Soft Cheese—together with some oatcakes. You don’t want a salty cheese,” she continues. “Just something creamy and mild.” Turns out even Britain can now make some claim to this most ancient of picnic dips.