From picking olives with his father as a child, to cooking and serving them in his restaurants today, olives are key to JosÃƒÂ©’s cooking style and food philosophy.
He has made no secret of his love for olives, specifically those of Spanish origin, and has recently partnered with Olives from Spain, an organisation that promotes and celebrates Spanish olives across the nation.
From a farming background in central-western Spain, JosÃƒÂ© has a focus on simple Spanish cuisine that showcases the best of his country’s produce.
He now has three restaurants; JosÃƒÂ©, a tapas bar on Bermondsey Street, Pizarro, a full sized restaurant just round the corner from the tapas bar, and now a second site of Pizarro at Broadgate Circus. All three eateries focus on tradition flavours, prepared with creativity.
At a press lunch at his Bermondsey Street restaurant, Jose celebrated this partnership and showcased how versatile and flavourful olives can be.
At a long table, dotted with bowls of all varieties of olives, freshly baked bread, and beautiful, high quality olive oil for dipping, to graze on, we awaited the first of our courses. All of the dishes come sharing style, in true tapas fashion, with extra bread to mop up any sauces.
To start we were served a salt cod and manzanilla olive tortilla. Tortilla is of course a staple of Spanish tapas, and with this twist on a typical tortilla, JosÃƒÂ© most certainly did it justice. The slightly firm yet flaky fish filled each bite with flavour, and was complemented by the salty bursts from the olives.
Next up was a dish of Spanish baked eggs with olives Ã¢â‚¬â€œ a sort of twist on a Middle Eastern shakshuka. The black hojiblanca olives were worked into the rich tomato sauce, giving this simple dish a slight bite as well as extra flavour.
A trickier dish to share, because of the inevitable uneven division of the eggs, but a tasty plate nonetheless.
Beans are celebrated in Spanish cuisine, and the chorizo, olive and Judion bean stew was an example of them at their finest. The smoky and fatty chorizo transformed the humble beans into a meaty and moreish mouthful. Again, with black hojiblanca olives for that extra salty kick and savoury flavour.
After the first few dishes we are all starting to fill up, so luckily the next to arrive was a lighter plate of hake with tomato and olive salad.
The pan-fried pieces of delicate white fish were served on a bed of sliced heritage tomatoes and scattered with fresh herbs and a mixture of manzanilla and black hojiblanca olives.
Just when we thought we couldn’t manage any more, a platter of chicken on a bed of gordal olives and rice arrived at the table.
This hearty one pot dish takes the simple combination of chicken and rice, and brings it to life using warming saffron, a good dash of sherry, and chopped fresh tomatoes, and is then spiked with plump gordal olives.
We finished on a sweet note with perhaps the most surprising dish of the day Ã¢â‚¬â€œ a rich chocolate pot with olive tapenade, olive oil and salt.
Olive oil and chocolate is a combination I’ve tried, and enjoyed, before, but the addition of tapenade was completely new to me. To my surprise, this olive paste worked really well with the rich and slightly sweet dark chocolate, much like a salted caramel would, and the touch of olive oil finished the whole thing off with a bit of finesse. I didn’t think I would manage dessert, but this decadent little pot went down a treat.
This year’s partnership is the third consecutive year that Olives from Spain and JosÃƒÂ© have joined forces.
To find lots of lovely olive recipes, visit Olives from Spain website