My (alcohol free) Elixir of Life
New season extra virgin olive oil.
For the last couple of years I have been given, or bought, a few bottles of new season Tuscan extra virgin olive oil. It has become one of my favourite seasonings at this time of the year.
In the past, most wine producers in Chianti Classico and elsewhere in Tuscany produced both wine and olive oil. More recently David Gleave of wine importers Liberty encouraged a handful of top estates to make high quality oil; Liberty then release the new vintage every November or December (The River Café in London are huge fans, and even have their own bottling). In some ways, it is a pity that it cannot be released freshly pressed the following summer when the salad season is in full flow. However, it is a great addition to the store cupboard in winter and spring. I have been come quite addicted to it and drizzle it at the last minute on a variety of foods, from beans, pasta dishes with courgettes, cauliflower, peppers or on plain pasta with Parmesan, roast vegetables, steak and a host of other dishes. It brightens up just about everything, adding a slightly bitter peppery kick and a pure fruity richness. With a sprinkle of pepper and salt, it becomes a perfect dressing for any winter salad too. I am sure I remember reading that extra virgin live oil is full of anti-oxidants and all sorts of other good things, so it could be classified as the most delicious of all health foods.
The oils are expensive – €20 or more for a bottle of half-bottle, but they last a while. Not too long though; they will last a year or more but I reckon they should be finished by early summer. Check the back label for a harvest date – 2016 is what you want.
Earlier this year, David Gleave of Liberty gave a group of us an olive oil tasting in Jamie’s Italian in Dundrum. The names included Alpha Zeta, Capezzana (delicious) Petrolo, Fèlsina, and Fontodi. My favourite was the Fontodi, an organic oil, and I have a ½ bottle of that in my kitchen, but to be honest I would have been happy to have a bottle of any of these.
They are available from Fallon & Byrne; Jamie’s Italian; 64 Wine, Glasthule; Lotts & Co, D4; Thomas’s ,Foxrock, Jus De Vine, Portmarnock; Clontarf Wines; Blackrock Cellars; Terroirs, Donnybrook; Green Man Wines, Terenure; Ballymaloe Garden Café; Red Island, Skerries; Grapevine, Dalkey; Sweeney’s, Glasnevin; Hole in the Wall, D7; Redmonds of Ranelagh; Cirillo’s, Baggot Street.
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