x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Olive tapenade is my life-saver

Among my family and friends, I have become known as the World's Best Dip Maker - and I am going to share the surprisingly simple secret with you. Olive tapenade.

Olive tapenade
Olive tapenade

A simple jar of black olive tapenade has the power to change your life and immediately brand you as the world's best host/hostess, I promise you. Among my family and friends, I have become known as the World's Best Dip Maker. If they only knew how little goes into what they think is an elaborate dip recipe.

I buy jars of black olive tapenade, which you can find in most grocery stores. My favourite brand is by Epicure and is called deli-italia Black Olive Tapenade; I've come across it at Jones, Spinneys and once at LuLu. The glass jar is 190g and contains black olives, olive oil, salt, garlic, chilli peppers (although it is not spicy at all), sugar, thyme and fennel.

You can always ask the deli counter at any good supermarket to turn some black olives into a tapenade for you, as long as the olives are stoned.

I take heaped tablespoons of the stuff and mix it into a bowl of labneh, preferably the creamy kind by the Turkish brand Pinar, available in all major grocery stores. If you've been in the UAE at least three months and still don't know what labneh is - the Arabic version of sour cream, really, but much healthier, much lower in fat, and much tangier - then you need to get out more.

Mix the two ingredients well, and that's it! Serve with chips, carrot sticks, fresh broccoli or cauliflower, delicious cucumber, flavoursome grissini; whatever your heart desires. I have been asked, time and time again, how I make such a delicious dip and I'm always loath to admit to the ease of the recipe. Once, I even claimed that I made the tapenade from scratch, stoning olives and then blending them with a touch of olive oil and herbs, which is ridiculous really since those jars are so readily available. I've taken to buying them in bulk because there is no easier refreshment to whip up and use when entertaining. Besides, tapenade is excellent as a topping for crostini or bruschetta, and enhances both salads and any antipasti platter you would ever want to whip up.

Do keep in mind, though, that olives, in general, are high in fat. I ignore that fact when relishing this dip.