Olives and olive oil can be considered to be jewels of the Maltese islands. The olive fruit and oil made from the fruit are central to the Mediterranean diet, and many studies cite their benefits and anti-oxidant powers.
Growing in a temperate climate where the weather is not too harsh, the rain is not too hot or too cold, the soil is not too acidic or alkaline, and where the tree is never far away from the sea, the olives obtain a tangy saltiness that is rich and unique.
As far back as the Roman era, areas in many villages across the islands were set aside for agricultural activities, particularly the pressing and processing of olives. The wooden structures of the olive-presses were mounted on large rectangular blocks of stone. Many of these can still be seen in some villages. In fact, this practice was held in such high regard that two towns (one in Malta and one in Gozo) are called Żebbug (Maltese for ‘olives’) and another in Malta is called Żejtun (also the Sicilian-Arabic for ‘olives’).
The olive fruit is not ready for consumption straight off the tree; a process of immersion in water and brine is conducted to render it more palatable and remove some of its bitterness.
Olive Dip Recipe:
200g green olives, bone removed
2 tablespoons capers
1 clove of garlic
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup fresh parsley
2 heaped tablespoons cream cheese
1/2 cup canellini beans
Freshly ground pepper to taste
Use a blender to make a fine paste. Test taste to see if you want to adjust any of the flavours. For example, if the olive taste is too strong, you may add more beans or cream cheese to your liking. Since the olives and capers are already rather salty, you will not need to add more salt. Using fresh parsley will help to counteract the aftertaste of garlic.
Serve the dip with crackers, bread or vegetable crudités. Keep some parsley and capers to garnish when serving. Keep refrigerated before serving. This dip may be stored in the fridge for 2-3 days.