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IAN & SPAIN

WELCOME TO MY BLOG. I WILL BE WRITING ABOUT SPANISH FOOD AND DRINK AND IN PARTICULAR MY OBSESSION FOR OLIVE OIL, ONE OF SPAIN'S MAJOR ASSETS AND GREATLY MISUNDERSTOOD BY THE MAJORITY OF CONSUMERS WORLDWIDE. I WILL ENDEAVOR TO PROVIDE YOU WITH ALL THE INFORMATION YOU NEED TO ENJOY THE WORLD OF OLIVE OIL WITHOUT BEING TAKEN FOR A RIDE! HOPE YOU ENJOY IT AND PLEASE LEAVE YOUR COMMENTS!

OLIVE OIL RECIPES - Nº3 - Langoustine Pil-Pil
18 December 2012

                                     

As with the majority of Spanish cooking, simplicity is king and the recipes I will share with you are incredibly simple and their success will depend entirely on the quality of the ingredients. This dish is a classic Spanish tapas which is bursting with flavour and especially popular during the Christmas period when seafood is always on the menu.

You will need for this dish, a good quality extra virgin olive oil, as it is a main ingredient and any old olive oil will definitely not give the same result. The best variety for this dish is a Picual or an Hojiblanca as they are high in antioxidants and resist the high temperatures better, they also make a wonderful contrast in flavour with the sweetness of the prawns (about 75ml). Additionally you will also need 10 prawns or langoustines, I suggest medium sized king prawns, as the smaller prawns or shrimps will reduce in size considerable when cooked and not make for a very appetising bite! They must be raw prawns, preferable fresh, but frozen will work too although the end result is noticeable. If you are looking for a special touch make sure they are fresh. The peeled langoustines should be left to marinade for a couple of hours in a little white wine (medium dry). Next you will need 4 cloves of fresh garlic, two whole red dried chillies, salt and paprika and a sliced baguette for dipping. This will serve two people as a starter.

 

Start by peeling the 10 langoustines/king prawns and clean them, if you want you can butterfly them by slicing a little groove along the back of the prawn, this will help you get everything out and make the presentation look so much better. Put the langoustine heads to one side, we'll need them later. Cut up the cloves of garlic into slices, do not dice them or crush them and slice up the chillies as well in the same manner, we don’t want the chillies crushed for this dish. Do not prepare the dish until you are ready to sit down and eat them, this dish must be served immediately and piping hot, sizzling. Any other way is just not the same! So once you are ready, put the olive oil in a small pan or clay-cooking dish, as they use in Spain, along with the langoustine heads and  two table spoons of the white wine used for the marinade and start to heat up the oil. As the oil is heating up squeeze down on the heads of the langoustines with a fork so that they release all of their juice and cook them for a couple of minutes on high heat. Once they are slightly browned remove them from the oil and put in all the garlic and the chillies and then a few seconds later pop in the raw langoustines, as soon as the langoustines are turning pink remove them from the heat, sprinkle some paprika over them, season with a little salt, a little diced parsley and let them sit for 1 minute and then serve immediately while they are still piping hot. Enjoy, they are an absolute delight and don’t forget to dip your bread in the richly flavoured olive oil!

 
                                                         
 
 
Other popular posts by Ian Mackay ©
 
 

Go to article: The World of Olive Oil - How to recognise an authentic extra virgin olive oil - Part 3

Go to article: The World of Olive Oil - Olive Oil Tasting - Part 4

Go to article: The World of Olive Oil - True Virginity - Part 5

Go to article: The World of Olive Oil - The perfect Crime Scene - Part 6

Go to article: The World of Olive Oil - Harvesting Olives - Part 7

Go to article: Can I fry with Oilve Oil?

Go to article: Spanish Cured Ham-What you need to know

 Go to article: Red Tuna Tartare with Avocado

 



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WORLD OF OLIVE OIL - Harvesting Olives - PART 7
12 December 2012

 

Year after year the story repeats itself. As every harvest is different the same topic always comes up and gets all the olive growers talking, when to pick! It is the be all and end all. If they pick too early it will affect their yield and if they pick too late it will affect organoleptic characteristics, shelf life, and colour. So depending on the market each grower is directing his oil at, there will always be an ideal time to do the harvest. The top-of-the-range olive oils have nearly all been harvested by now. Yield is not so much of a priority here, what rules in this market are organoleptic qualities: aromas and flavours.  Its a time when local neighbouring farmers sneak over the fence, so to speak to see what each one is doing. A week’s difference can have a large impact on the quality, and the better the quality the better the price. Finding the right balance between yield, colour, flavour can be tricky, even for the expert growers and tough risky decisions may have to me made if there is a poor weather forecast ahead. Although many don’t look after their harvesting techniques as much as others, olives should not be picked during or after rain and nor should they be picked up from the ground if they are destined to be extra virgin. If it is clear that the harvest is not going to be extra virgin, not so much care will be taken in protecting the fruit. The right moment depends among other things on olive variety, temperature, sunlight, and irrigation. A hot fall can cause fruit to ripen quickly, resulting in a narrow window for optimum picking. A cool fall may result in green fruit hanging on the tree well into winter. Some farmers are forced to pick greener fruit than they want to hedge against frost damage or a big storm. Some varietals will ripen faster than others, and olives may mature later in some parts of the orchard than in others. It becomes a very nervous time as the majority of Spanish olive growers do not have any insurance so a serious storm at the wrong time could put them back years just as forest fires are a major problem all through the summer.

 

                                       

 

This makes the decision on when to pick potentially complicated. Planning is still essential to make sure the picking team and equipment is ready when needed, and the mill is ready to receive the harvest and press within a max of 18-24 hours so that the olives don’t have to wait around after being harvested, running the risk of oxidation and fermentation.

 

Young immature olives are green and quite firm. They produce oil that can be more bitter and grassy with unique unripe and vegetative characteristics, as a generalisation but once again this depends on the variety and how well the farmer has looked after the trees throughout the year, I have tried several very young oil that were fairly sweet and not at all bitter due to the fast and controlled processing techniques. These oils tend to be higher in polyphenols (anti-oxidants) and have a more pungent flavour. As a result, they are quite bitter and have a long shelf life thanks to these natural preservatives. The chlorophyll content, generally, is also higher so the oils are often quite green, however if the milling process is fast the colour will not necessarily be that green as the chlorophyll from the skin is not passed on to the oil as much and if we talk about an Arbequina, which is a variety with a low chlorophyll content the colour will always be a more golden than green colour. It is more difficult to extract oil from unripe olives because the oil containing “vacuoles” within the cells that are not easily ruptured. The olive paste has to be blended (malaxed) for longer to break down the cells before centrifuging to separate the oil from the pulp. The yield at this stage can be anything from 12% to 18% (12 - 18 litres from every 100 kg’s of olives). However this is the part of the process that takes an enormous amount of skill and knowledge, because if you malax the paste for too long, you will loose organoleptic qualities such as aromas and you can even force unwanted elements out of the skin and into the oil. There is no second chance and it can be all over in 30 minutes. Temperature is also a prime factor at this moment; high quality mills will control the temperature at this stage and keep it at around 15ºC to preserve the qualities of the oil as much as possible. Seasonally we would be saying that these olive have been harvested during October and November.

 

         

 

As the olive fruit matures from green to yellow-green, it starts to soften and then the skin turns purple-red in colour. The olives still have a high polyphenol content at this stage, and are starting to develop some ripe-fruity characteristics. Oils produced from fruit harvested at this stage have some bitterness and some pungency and are considered balanced. They have close to a maximum amount of oil per dry weight, so they are pretty much at maximum yield, around 20-23%. The olives at this stage are often considered to be at their peak for olive oil production, seasonally this can be from the beginning of December through to the end of January, beginning of February depending on the variety and the region.

        

 

As the fruit matures further, the skin turns from purple to black, although some varieties never turn completely black and the flesh darkens all the way to the pit. At this stage, the polyphenol and the chlorophyll contents decline and the carotenoid content increase. Therefore, oils produced from late harvest fruit tend to be much more golden in colour, less bitter, less pungent, and have a shorter shelf life. They are often described as sweet oils. The oil yield is high at around 24-28%. However during harvest, they are soft and easily damaged meaning this can quickly reduce the quality of the oil if the fruits are bruised on the way to the mill. So, growers are often interested in harvesting as late as possible to increase oil quantity. The olive tree produces and stores oil in the fruit throughout the season, but the rate of oil storage flattens and stops just before maturity due to the low light intensity and cool temperatures, providing no real gain in oil content, so it is important not to harvest after it has totally matured. Low polyphenol content varieties such as Arbequina, if they were to have a 1-month delay in the harvest it could cause as much as a 4-month loss in shelf life due to the rapidly diminishing levels of polyphenols after maturity.

 

            

 

So once decided the time to harvest, you might be asking, “how do they do the harvest?” well there are many different technique depending on the size of your farm and your potential income. The oldest and most traditional way is to hand-harvest, the fruit is handpicked into bags or dropped into nets around the trees then collected into a crate. Additionally combs may be used to speed up the process separating more easily the olives from the tree.

  

         

 

The fruit picked in this way normally shows very little damage and it is relatively free from foreign matter (soil, branches, leaves, etc.) if care is taken. This method is particularly suitable for table olives. The main limitations of this technique are the picking of the upper part of the trees and its cost of manual labour requirements. This technique is not limited to any particular tree shape. However, lower and wider canopies are best suited to hand harvesting. Hand harvest can also be complemented with long beating poles that are used to knock the olives off the tree or semi-automated machines, which are very popular among smaller groves and areas where the terrain does not allow a tractor or some other type of harvesting machine. There are two main types of hand held harvesting machines: branch shakers and combing machines. These machines greatly speed up the harvest, which is very laborious, but combing machines sometimes produce a larger proportion of damaged fruit and foreign material as they are more intrusive.

 

      

 

Most of the harvesting machines designed for olives during the past decades were based on shaking principles or vibration. The shaker can shake the main trunk or each main branch separately; the fruit is then unattached and falls on a net or into a collecting device, which is part of the same machine. With this technique it is important to get the power right so you do not damage the tree and do not use too high a frequency of vibration as you may only want certain olive to fall from the tree, ones that have reached certain maturity. This is undoubtedly the least intrusive system for the olive fruit as it is never touched and never touches the ground, making sure it will not pick up unwanted aromas. It is a very widespread system and for high quality olive oils this system is used as it ensures that the olives receive no bruising and remain in their original state all the way to the press. However one must be very careful not to damage the tree otherwise the following harvest may suffer.

 

  

 So although at first it seems daunting to get all the olives off the tree, there are techniques that have made this laborious process much quicker, but none the less it is still a lot more laborious than grape collecting and hence the cost of olive oil. One also needs to take into consideration the landmass that must be covered, approximately 6 million acres, over three times the area dedicated to vineyards in France. In Andalucía, in the region of Jaen the olive tree groves make up the largest man made forest in the world. Every year it is a colossal operation to get the olives to the press on time.

 

                                

 

 

 

 

Other popular articles by Ian Mackay ©

Go to article: The World of Olive Oil - Introduction-Part 1

 

Go to article: The World of Olive Oil- Olive Oil Categories-Part 2

 

Go to article: The World of Olive Oil - How to recognise an authentic extra virgin olive oil - Part 3

 

Go to article: The World of Olive Oil - Olive Oil Tasting - Part 4

 

Go to article: The World of Olive Oil - True Virginity - Part 5

 

Go to article: Can I fry with Oilve Oil?

 

Go to article: The perfect Crime Scene

 

 

 



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WORLD OF OLIVE OIL - The Perfect Crime Scene - PART 6
05 December 2012

Olive oil adulteration has been a continuous practice since the olive oil quality grades were introduced in 1985 by the International Olive Council, before then it was all just “olive oil”.  In Spain, quality control before this time wasn’t a major priority nor was it in any part of the Mediterranean basin, as a matter of fact, but it especially came of importance when Spain entered the European Union in 1986. Prior to entering the European Union any surplus harvest that needed to be intervened was purchased by the Government at the going rate for olive oil and on entering the EU, Europe said, “We will pay the going rate as well, but the rate according to quality” and from that point on honest producers started to look after quality but it also opened the door for fraudsters to make fortunes adulterating olive oil and passing it off as Extra Virgin. 

 

Why is Olive Oil the perfect crime scene? Well it’s perfect for the crook and the crime scene investigators! Olives once they have fallen from the tree are instant sponges, they soak up everything instantly, and I mean everything. If the soil was damp and wet or muddy when the olives fell to the ground this will be passed on to the oil, if the olives are stacked for a while and start to oxidise this taste will pass on to the oil, if the there is also damp on the floor or in the air, this smell will be passed on to the oil, if they are stored in wooden boxes the taste of wood will be passed on to the oil, if the olive was hit by a cold front while on the tree it will effect the taste as well, if the tree was attacked by the olive fly it will adopt a different taste, if it wasn’t decanted properly it will leave a trace, if it was milled at too high a temperature it will leave its mark, they soak up everything carrying the evidence of errors and defects with it all the way to the bottle. Nothing escapes the olive; if you have treated it wrongly it will always tell the story in a very precise and descriptive way. It is the best informer the police could have. So it is particularly simple to know exactly what happened to your olive oil just by tasting and smelling it and evaluating the evidence. Every wrong act has its own distinct smell even if it occurred before pressing. Once pressed it will still keep on soaking up aromas and tastes, there is no stopping it, it devours any bad smell or the slightest fermentation, even dirty tanks and the taste of metal. Olive oil is relentless in collecting evidence. So why is it so “perfect” for the crook? 

 

It is perfect for the crook because some evidence can be covered up in pretty efficient way. Olive oil that is normally full of defects, chemical or organoleptic, is refined chemically or physically at a temperature of around 200-250ºC, this process neutralises the oil but also changes the chemical compound of the oil leaving clear evidence behind that it has been refined. However if one has an olive oil that is chemically ok but has many organoleptic defects, (except defects derived from fermentation) this can be “deodorised”, cleaning the crime scene of all evidence. This would be considered a “professional job”.  So how on earth do you deodorise olive oil? In the industry it is referred to as cold refining and what it entails is forcing an inert gas in vapour form through the oil at a temperature of around 80-100ºC. It is not hot enough to alter the chemical structure of the oil, so it leaves no trace and the vapour works as a magnet for all organoleptic properties. So every smell; good or bad and every taste; good or bad will be carried out of the oil with the vapour, leaving it neutral. What are referred to as “the volatiles” are completely whitewashed leaving an almost perfect crime scene. The crooks now have a chemically perfect extra virgin olive oil, which is just missing a bit of flavour. Next step? Add a little bit of authentic extra virgin to the base olive oil; as little as 5% is enough for the organoleptic qualities to be appreciated in the oil, even though they may not be potent attributes, there are no defects and the positive notes are detectable. This is sufficient for it to be classified as extra virgin olive oil and suddenly the value of the liter has shot up by at least 30%. Big business, millions of euros every year! In fact it is unclear how much it is as it is totally undetectable. This is when it becomes the perfect crime scene for the crook!

 

So where does this leave the consumer, well buying on "trust" basically. The more you now about a brand and the more information they give you on the bottle the chances are the more authentic it will be. If you haven’t read my article on “How to recognise an authentic extra virgin olive oil”, take a look and improve your chances of buying the real thing!

 

 

Other popular articles by Ian Mackay ©

Go to article: The World of Olive Oil - Introduction-Part 1 

Go to article: The World of Olive Oil- Olive Oil Categories-Part 2

Go to article: The World of Olive Oil - How to recognise an authentic extra virgin olive oil - Part 3

Go to article: The World of Olive Oil - Olive Oil Tasting - Part 4

Go to article: The World of Olive Oil - True Virginity - Part 5

Go to article: Spanish Cured Ham-What you need to know

Go to article: Can I fry with Oilve Oil?

 



Like 0        Published at 18:44   Comments (6)


Government authorises a €700 Million investment for national irrigation project
04 December 2012

The financing for the project will be funded  by Feder, Feder-Cohesion 2007-2013 and EAFRD.
The Council of Ministers approved on Friday 30 November a collaboration agreement between the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Environment and the State Infrastructure Agricultural Society (SEIASA), to carry out the modernisation plan for irrigation on a national scale, totaling an investment sum of 696.5 million euros.
Of this, 208.9 million will be financed by SEIASA and another 250.5 million will be financed by the European Union through EU Funds (ERDF, Cohesion 2007-2013 ERDF and EAFRD). The remaining funding will be distributed between the irrigation Communities, which will provide 206.3 million and the Autonomous Communities, with 30.8 million.
The investments planned are: Andalusia (EUR 243.6 million), Castilla and Leon (173 600 000), Aragon (75.1 million), Valencia (65.4 million euros), Murcia (52, 8 million), Extremadura (43.3 million), Catalonia (35.8 million). Castilla La-Mancha (6.5 million) and Madrid (200,000 euros). In total, they plan to conduct 87 different projects in those regions, which include 27 in Andalusia, Valencia 16, Castilla y León 14 and 7 in Aragón.The efficient and rational use of water and the implementation of new technologies in irrigation, is the impulse behind the government policy to update and implant irrigation systems in Spain. As Spain is the country that uses most water in Europe and one the most in the world due to its agricultural sector, the urge to improve water resources, coupled with energy efficiency improvements, goes hand in hand with improving the competitiveness of Spanish farms, which will inevitably bring a higher productivity and lower production costs. All good news for the Olive Oil Industry.



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Spain Innovates: Olive stones to fuel electric cars
04 December 2012

Scientists at the University of Cordoba have discovered a way of improving the performance of Lithium-ion batteries for the automobile industry and every other as a matter of fact. So far their research has proven successful in improving the duration of the batteries by 300% by using the carbon from olive stones instead of the expensive graphite which is being used at the moment. This translates to possibly having an electrical car which would have a range of over 500km before needing to be recharged and reducing the cost of the batteries. They are also working on the speed of recharging. At the moment at least 5 hours is needed to recharge a vehicles litium battery, their target is to bring this time down to under 1 hour and it looks promising according to their recent reports. There are plans to put these batteries into production when ready and manufacture an electrical car. Both national projects, resulting in a first off for Spain: national brand of electrical cars and a lithium battery plant. As Spain is also the world's leading producer of olives its not a bad start.

There is no end to what olives can do!

 

Other popular articles by Ian Mackay ©

Go to article: The World of Olive Oil - Introduction-Part 1

 

Go to article: The World of Olive Oil- Olive Oil Categories-Part 2

 

Go to article: The World of Olive Oil - How to recognise an authentic extra virgin olive oil - Part 3

 

Go to article: The World of Olive Oil - Olive Oil Tasting - Part 4

 

Go to article: The World of Olive Oil - True Virginity - Part 5

 

Go to article: Can I fry with Oilve Oil?

 

Go to article: The perfect Crime Scene

 

Go to article: Spanish Cured Ham-What you need to know

 



Like 0        Published at 13:42   Comments (0)


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