Category / Product reviews

Olive Branch Olive Oil

Yottam Ottolenghi loves his olive oil.  He even reviewed them for the Guardian and here’s his conclusion:

“Cost-wise, it makes sense to have two or three oils on the go at once – a cheaper variety for basic dressings and frying and a more expensive one for that final drizzle. The oil I want to dip my bread in or use to finish off a dish is highly aromatic but with the freshness of newly cut grass. The oil I drizzle over a simply cooked bit of fish is, similarly, smooth, velvety, fresh and balanced. The oil I use for everyday dressings, on the other hand, is less grassy and aromatic, and more one-note: punchy flavours can be brought in from garlic, honey, mustard, and salt.”

Olive Branch Oil

Olive Branch Olive Oil is his oil of choice, it’s used by him in his restaurants and delis and hails from a family farm in the Lasithi province of Crete.

Olive Branch Olive OIl

It’s run by Yiannis Koinaki and his daughter and founder of Olive Branch Oil, Maria.  The farmers work in a co-operative, growing the Koroneiki Olive, harvested at the same time each year and cold pressed in the community co-operative.   The process is fully managed from the field to the bottle.

Olive Branch Oil

Prospects for 2017 look very challenging.  Olive oil prices are set to rise after poor harvests in Europe and the decision by some growers to delay picking, hoping to increase the crop.
Olive Branch OIl

Poor Harvest

Producers in Greece and Italy have experienced a bacteria that’s wiping out olive trees.  Tunisia has suffered low levels of rainfall.   Tunisia you say?  Yes, the North African country has taken the top olive oil exporter spot and is the second-largest producer after Spain.  All this, coupled with Brexit, could mean trouble ahead.

Fraud

America is clamping down on labelling.   And why wouldn’t they?  The country has become something of a dumping ground for fraudulent products, particularly olive oil.  No one can control the 350,000 tonnes entering the country, mostly from Italy.  Today, even after the news, scandals and general awareness, adulterated bottles of oil are still on supermarket shelves.  Olive oil is commonly marketed as Italian. More often than not, it’s grown elsewhere and is just packaged in Italy.  If you see the words ‘bottled in Italy’ on the label be wary.  Some have been mixed with seed and are actually making customers poorly. Oils are also being coloured, mixed with chemicals and blended before being sold as olive oil.  America wants to sample all foreign olive oil to determine whether they’ve been adulterated or misbranded.

So why does this matter to the producer in Crete?  Well, it has profound effects on the market of authentic virgin and extra virgin olive oil that are more expensive, for obvious reasons. So there’s no real incentive for anyone to stock the great stuff if they can get ‘Olive Oil’ cheaper in the supermarket.   Everyone’s got used to the low price, whether it tastes great or not.  A real shame.  When you get to taste a great Olive Oil, it’s like a fine wine.

Olive Branch OIl

This piece is to encourage you to try this small producer from Crete.  It has a story, here are the pictures.  It also has a Great Taste One Star.  I’ve tasted it and can see why Ottolenghi gives it his stamp of quality. Put your mind at rest, support the small people and reap what they sow.

Flower Piping Nozzles

Hold The Anchovies Please Tackles Cake Decorating with Flower Piping Nozzles

Flower piping nozzles put to the test ….

Flower Piping Nozzles

Decorating cakes is a skill I’ve never fully mastered so if there’s a corner to cut you have my attention.  Russian Piping Nozzles or Flower Piping Nozzles from Amazon are huge in size, in comparison to conventional piping nozzles and the ‘flowers’ they produce take up a pretty large area on any cupcake or fairy cake.  They also look pretty impressive.

Flower Piping Nozzles

I bought this set from Amazon.  It comes with a silicon piping bag, disposable piping bags, a coupler and a set of 13 Russian Tips. I’ve only tried a couple of the nozzles, but my favourite has to be the rose bud. I added some foliage with a Wilton leaf nozzle number 352.

A regular buttercream 350g icing sugar/175g unsalted butter works perfectly well until the bag and icing start heating up and then the results aren’t great.  When it starts to show signs of softness, give it 5 or 10 minutes in the fridge. The icing has to be firm, not runny for some of the flower tips, especially those with fronds.  The idea is to pull up, not too quickly, and wiggle the bag to release the flower.

I’m sure meringue buttercream would work with a few of the nozzles but with a more confident hand.

Piping Hack

A great tip for piping, if you want a two-tone buttercream or want to change your bag, is to roll the buttercream in cling wrap.

Flower Piping Nozzles

Flower Piping Nozzles

Flower Piping Nozzles

Secure both ends like a sausage, snip the end going into the piping tip and slip straight into your piping bag.   Paint the cling wrap with a couple of stripes to add an extra depth to your flowers.   Pipe onto a piece of kitchen towel to get the flow started and keep it to hand to remove any failed splurges.   These can be easy lifted off with a knife and set aside.

Flower Piping Nozzles

This takes time.  Practice and practice before you let yourself loose on the cupcakes. Some ice a layer of buttercream on top of the cake but it’s quite a lot to digest so I just leave mine with a sponge top.  It really does depend on the look you’re going for.

Flower Piping Nozzles

Flower Piping Nozzles

Flower Piping Nozzles

Flower Piping Nozzles

Flower Piping Nozzles

Don’t expect to master these tips immediately, it takes a little practice, but you will get the hang of it. I piped a fair few cupcakes and I was pretty pleased with my first attempt.

How are your piping skills? Have you got any flower nozzles or particular skills to share when it comes to icing? I’d love to hear from you.