Sometimes I think olive oil is in my blood. Maybe it’s an Italian heritage, but I love it. The green nectar has become increasingly popular in recent years, with increased publicity about its health and nutritional benefits….. but how many of us would know how to recognise a good oil or can explain the difference between pure, extra virgin or light…… or which oil should be used for what in the kitchen?
It is like wine…… there’s good and bad out there, with varying depth of colour and a huge array of flavour notes dependent on where it has been grown and how it has been produced. For any good foodie who has undertaken an oil tasting, these differences will have been appreciated and once you have tasted really good oil, there is no taking away that leap of understanding or the awareness of something which is substandard.
For this post, I have teamed up with Jamie’s Italian to share the Olive Oil Buyers Guide…… A beautifully crafted infographic to help you think about your olive oil with new eyes and taste buds……. How to taste, experience and appreciate its qualities and which oil is best suited to your cooking and eating. Don’t always reach for the same bottle in the supermarket…… it really is worth trying oils from different countries and producers to appreciate how amazing this ingredient is and to find which variant you most enjoy. Use this guide to help you choose and taste with care….. you may be astounded by the contrasts between them.
The last time I enjoyed a tasting session, I was in Greece, which interestingly, is understood to have the highest consumption per person of olive oil in the world…… and their oil is good! Whenever I visit, I bring back litres of the stuff. I would bring back more, but the excess baggage would be too costly.
Pressed from the fruit of the olive tree, this beautiful oil has amazing health properties. Apparently a ‘spicier’ oil is indicative of good levels of oleocanthal, a polyphenol which may just help to protect you against some types of cancer and ageing. Reported in some studies to help push abnormal disease-responsible proteins out of the brain, oleocanthal has been mooted as having beneficial properties towards reducing the risk of Alzheimer disease and reducing cognitive decline.
The high levels of polyphenols in olive oil, combined with abundant antioxidants (especially vitamin E) might also decrease the risk of some cancers. And if you are worried about heart disease, strokes or high blood pressure, olive oil’s richness in monounsaturated fatty acids may support your protection.
What’s not to love?
In celebration of this incredible, natural product, I have made an amazing cake which is both gluten and dairy free. It is my ‘adapted beyond all recognition’ version of Nigella Lawson’s Lemon Polenta Cake.
I have not used Lemons or polenta for a start…… I have utilised the awesome qualities of olive oil in place of butter……. have substituted most of the almonds for ground pistachios and have used the zing from limes and blackcurrants to pair with the sweet softness of the sponge. In fact, I would go so far as to say this is actually a completely new cake recipe, but since my inspiration started here, I feel it only fair to acknowledge the domestic goddess herself!
This cake is (in my humble opinion) temptingly delicious……. soaked with a drizzle of deep purple hue, it screams late Summer! Okay…… so we’re out of season, but hey……. I was determined to use blackcurrants for their tartness and beauty and having found a pouch of freeze-dried blackcurrant powder in my cupboard, nothing was going to stop me! Combined with a handful of frozen blackcurrants (that I snaffled from a frozen supermarket smoothie fruit mix), they were the perfect choice to pair with the rich, earthy sweetness of the pistachio and olive oil cake and were a great match to the sharp complimentary lime.
I made the cake as a tray-bake, although ummed and ahhhed over the possibility of a single large round version. Sprinkled with a handful of extra bright green Iranian pistachios, either would have been stunning, but tray-bakes always seem to produce more slices and the further you can share cake-love, the better!
I am offering this delightful Pistachio, Lime & Olive Oil Cake with Blackcurrant Drizzle to the following linkies :
Love Cake with Jibber Jabber, who’s theme this month is Nuts about Cake…… Perfect for pistachios!
Cook Blog Share – this week with Easy Peasy Foodie
Sunday Fitness & Food with Ilka’s Blog and Marathons & Motivation
Gluten Free Fridays with Vegetarian Mamma
Recipe of the Week with A Mummy Too
Pistachio, Lime & Olive Oil Cake with Blackcurrant Drizzle (makes one 20 cm (8 inch) square cake – 16 slices)
150g ground raw pistachios
3 large eggs
zest 2 limes
juice 1 lime
juice 2 limes
10g freeze dried blackcurrant powder (I got mine from Healthy Supplies)
50g icing sugar
juice 1 lime
70g caster sugar
1 teaspoon freeze-dried blackcurrant powder
a handful frozen or fresh blackcurrants
chopped pistachios (I used Iranian pistachios) to decorate
- Preheat the oven to 180 C/350 F/Gas 4.
- Baseline a 20 x 20 cm (8 x 8 inch) square, loose-bottomed cake tin with baking paper.
- Weigh and mix together the ground pistachios, almonds, flour and baking powder, making sure the ingredients are well-blended. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, beat the sugar with the olive oil until pale and thickened (about 5 minutes).
- In a separate small bowl, beat the eggs together.
- Alternately add a little of the egg followed by a little of the flour mix and beat between each addition. Continue to add until all the ingredients are combined.
- Finally, beat in the lime juice and zest.
- Pour the batter into the prepared cake tin and spread to all edges, ensuring the top is even.
- Bake for about 40 minutes until an inserted skewer comes out clean.
- Remove from the oven and set aside, leaving the cake in the tin.
- Prepare the drizzle syrup : Mix together the lime juice, blackcurrant powder and icing sugar in a small saucepan and place over a low heat, stirring until the ingredients are fully combined, the sugar has dissolved and the syrup has just reached simmer point. Remove from the heat.
- Run a knife around the edge of the sponge in the tin to loosen and pierce lots of holes deep into the cake with a skewer.
- Whilst the cake is still warm, take the still-hot syrup and slowly drizzle and spread across the surface, allowing it to penetrate into the holes made in the sponge. Set aside.
- When the syrup has become less tacky, carefully remove the cake from the tin (I turned mine upside-down onto baking paper, then turned back upright and cautiously removed the baking paper as quickly as possible, to avoid too much sticking).
- Cut the cake into about 16 squares, but then push back together into the square cake shape to close the gaps.
- Sugar-Icing : Mix the blackcurrant powder with the lime juice and about half of the sugar and blend over a low heat in a small saucepan.
- Remove from the heat and add the remaining sugar and fresh/frozen whole blackcurrants and stir through.
- Pour and spread over the sponge surface and leave to cool completely.
- Sprinkle with chopped pistachios to serve.