We have a number of very old – almost ancient – olive trees on the property. Many of them date back more than a hundred years, part of the landscape history in our part of Athens. They tell a story of a time when the area – now entirely urban – was predominantly olive groves and pasturage for sheep and goats. Much to my chagrin, the fruits these venerable trees produce are unusable for extracting oil or for curing as eating olives. The trees are strictly ornamental.
However….a few years ago, to celebrate a significant anniversary of our institution, a Royal personnage dedicated a newly planted baby olive tree here on the grounds. It is now grown to maturity which you see in the photo above as it is being trimmed. This year it produced lovely olives. Members of staff were out picking the fruit from the downed branches and from the tree itself. Their efforts resulted in about 4kg of perfect purple-black Kalamata variety olives that were delivered to the kitchen.
Naturally, everyone had advice on how to cure them from grandparents, uncles, cousins, fathers-in-law…friends and family throughout Greece. Advice ranged from water soaks changed daily to prolonged baths of brine or vinegar (or a combination). Various lengths of time were touted for how long it takes to cure them. And, we had a lively discussion on the theme of “to slit or not to slit” the olives before curing. We went with a compromise, soaking them in a combination of brine and vinegar, changed weekly. Half were slit and the other half left whole. The entire point is to leach them of their bitter oleic acid. I suspect that the slit ones will take less time than the whole ones, but the end result with probably be much the same.
We have many weeks (or months if you believe some advice) to go before they can be sampled. With all these olives, we are dreaming of future tapanade. Of course, a plain cracker would be nice to serve this olive spread on. On the principle of starting with a good recipe (that works well!), I remembered one that Sandra posted earlier – a sweet Spanish olive oil biscuit flavoured with fennel (Tortas de Aceite). What I produced was far from Sandra’s moreish biscuit. I took her basic oil and flour ratios (modified only a tiny bit) to create a savoury cracker. Also, from her recipe, the sesame seeds in the dough gave it a crisp texture, so they went in mine. Everything else was quite different and, all in all, turned out rather well.
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Olive Oil Seed Crackers
- 190gr plain flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 25gr sesame seeds
- 80gr olive oil
- 75gr water
- 1 egg white
- 2 Tablespoons Poppy seeds
First, prepare baking tray by lining it with baking parchment. Preheat oven to 200 degrees C.
In a bowl, mix the flour, salt, baking powder, sugar and sesame seeds. Add the oil and water. Stir until the liquids are mixed in. Continue mixing and kneading with your hands until a soft, slightly oily ball forms.
Place the ball on a clean, well floured surface and roll out until it is very thin (approx 1.5 to 2mm). Using a scalloped or plain round biscuit cutter, cut into crackers and carefully place them on the prepared tray. Re-roll the scraps only one time for more crackers.
Pricking them with the tines of a fork can help keep them flat and not puff up, but this is an optional step.
Beat the egg white in a separate bowl and brush each round. Sprinkle on poppy seeds. Place in oven and bake for about 10 minutes. Place on rack to cool.
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But, until those olives are ready, the crackers are perfect for so many other toppings – cheese, pâtés, smoked fish mousses and other spreadable delicacies – just in time for the upcoming holidays. And speaking of holidays, instead of a traditional pumpkin pie, a pumpkin cheesecake was made in my kitchen as a nod to American Thanksgiving.
Sorry – no photograph as cheesecake was devoured before I thought to photo even one slice! But, in compensation, here’s a photo of Greek pumpkins from a post last year. The pumpkin purée in the pumpkin cheesecake came from a similar specimen.