With a penchant for olives

Making your own tapenade – the French Italian classic olive paste – is quick and easy.
Photos © JE Nilsson and CM Cordeiro 2011

Weekends are the time when I read, plan for the work week ahead, and cook. Besides all other good things that could be said about preparing your own food, I find the sometimes long winded and perhaps monotonous preparation of food very calming. It lets your mind wander in any direction it might, encouraging the formulation of new ideas, where you find yourself combining familiar things in creative ways both in your mind as well as in your pots.

By what you cook, you can also revisit places you wish to see again that right now are inaccesible for such mundane reasons as that your work lets you travel, but to a different continent.

This weekend I revisited the South of France and the North of Italy by means of a black olive tapenade and a generous slab of home made ‘Ciabatta’ style bread.


Tapenade comes from the Provençal word for capers – tapenasis. In my version the main ingredient is black olives.

Tapenade is a Provençal dish consisting of finely chopped olives, most commonly black olives, capers and anchovies. Then add olive oil and stir until the mixture becomes a paste. It makes a tremendously decadent spread on bread. With its salty flavour and savoury bite from the garlic, it lends itself to all kinds of fillings and toppings in the Mediterranean cuisine.

Tapenade has quickly turned itself into a staple in our household since it can so easily turn a slice of good bread into a light meal, an appetizer or a tapa. This luscious paste is flavoured differently in varying regions and for my version, I added garlic, lemon juice and a drop of cognac.

My Tapenade recipe

    Finely chop and mix
    200 grams of black olives
    2 cloves of garlic
    10 anchovies
    two tbs capers
    2 tsp lemon juice
    1 tsp cognac.
    Add olive oil and stir until the mixture turns into a paste.

Ciabatta actually means ‘slipper’ and is of course referring to the squarish shape of this originally Italian, small bread loaf. The dough itself is very rustic and lends itself to all kinds of variations. Personally I wanted a not too sweet Italian style bread that would go nicely with the tapenade or why not with just some olive oil and salt.

My Ciabatta recipe is the following.

    1 pkt of yeast, ca 20 gram
    2 tsp honey
    5 dl cold water
    Ca 800 grams high protein (12%) wheat flour. This is really necessary or you will not get the stretchy texture with large holes and crunchy surface you want. Professional bakers know all this but I feel most home bakers think flour is flour – same old same old – and then get surprised when their bread loaf turns out looking like a sponge cake.
    Ca 100 grams of full corn wheat flour. This I added last to create a rustic feeling of roughly ground flour. It also adds flavour and personality to the bread.
    2 tsp salt
    0,5 dl extra virgin olive oil

Break the yeast in small pieces and mix with honey, olive oil and salt into the cold water. Add the 800g of wheat flour. Stir and work the dough until everything is mixed and you can see that the gluten is starting to develop by the stretchy look of the dough. Now let it rise for at least two hours. This bread gets its special flavour of the long rising time and to let the dough rise in the fridge overnight is the best if you have the time.


Now I would work this, until it comes together to a dough, by and by adding in the whole grain flour until the dough hardly sticks to the baking board. Lastly I would stretch the dough and fold it in, twice, before kneading it again into a long loaf, and then fold in again, and repeat this maybe ten times. What I want to do is to make the gluten develop and help create a light bread. Let the dough rise again, to double size, and then bake in 225 centigrade oven until the core temperature is 97 centigrades or about 25-30 minutes. Let the loaf cool as is, on a grid.


Apart from the therapeutic workings of the mind, the kitchen filling with the smell of freshly baked Ciabatta and then slightly later on, the crunch of the bread, spread atop with smooth tapenade, not forgetting that cup of coffee… is a small trip to heaven over the weekend, before the work week begins again.

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