A fruit for all seasons

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They might be the perfect companions to your salads and make great pizza toppings,but olives can also add a new texture to regular Indian dishes, says chef Saransh Goila

If you thought olives were only meant to garnish a salad or be used as a pizza topping, think again! My earliest memory of olives is with poha. Yes! My mother used to, and still makes, poha with chopped green olives for breakfast, pairing it with potatoes and peanuts. I was too young at the time to fully understand the potential of this tiny fruit and the endless possibilities it can have in Indian cuisine, but the more I learnt about it, the more I realised how unique it was.

A versatile snack

It was during my journey in the Mediterranean to learn about gastronomy and the produce of the region that I came across the versatile olive – especially the varieties available in Spain. During my stay there, I gradually discovered that the fruit is had as a common snack along with drinks. When I tried it and mapped its flavour and texture, it occurred to me that olives have the potential to fit well into Indian gastronomy and add a twist to some of our dishes.

Pickles and Indian spices

Olives, I have noticed, can accommodate the flavours of a wide range of spices. In Spain, they are mostly pickled, a tradition Indians specialise in. On my return to India, I decided to try Indian pickle recipes with olives, and the results were surprising. After several experiments with spices and variations, I found that while mango pickle masala tasted best with green olives, the marinade for nimbu achar complemented the black ones. The fruit allows you to try your own recipe with other ingredients to make a piquant achar.

Also, regional spice powders like mulagapodi (gunpowder) or panch phoron (a mixture of five seeds – cumin, kalaunji, black mustard, fenugreek and fennel) go very well with olives. Just toss a handful of olives with these spices in warm olive oil or ghee and let it rest for a couple of hours, allowing the succulent olives to absorb the goodness of the spices before consumption.

In main course

One of my favourite recipes with olives is jackfruit and olive biryani. Not only do whole olives look beautiful and add a lovely contrasting colour to the biryani, but they absorb the aroma of the dish fairly well. Also, when you look at some of the main courses in Indian cuisine, olives would do very well in mutton and prawn curries.

Health benefits

Have them chopped or whole, olives are a good source of antioxidants, including lutein, an antioxidant that neutralises the action of free radicals and protects our body from ageing. Being low in calories and high on nutrients, it also makes for a perfect breakfast ingredient and can be easily included in our daily diet. You could try adding olives to upma or sevai. Alternatively, you can use them as an ingredient for dips. The fruit also contains a lot of vitamins, macro/micro elements and a large amount of fatty acids.

The author is a well-known chef and the views expressed in this article are his own

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