In the lead up to a lunch party I often find myself in a bit of a tiz about how to do the little extras that make all the difference. The main event is usually sorted - a large fat chicken gently turning golden in the oven with all the sideline supporters (parsnips, carrots, peas, tatties, bread sauce and gravy) in warming up for their part. But when guests arrive, I like to be able to offer a little nibble; a tantaliser of what is to come. This is what I was pondering on Thursday, hand on hip looking around the store, when I remembered Wiz aghast at the number of jars of olives we have squirrelled away for the 'nuclear winter'. Or for the next coup as my ever optimistic aunt likes to say. The story goes that in 1982 when the coup took place, she found herself with a bare cupboard, perhaps not as bad as Old Mother Hubbard's but enough that they are forever stashing things away just in case there's another one. In any case black olives won't keep one going for long, but they do make the most spectacular fake caviar - the magical meaty Tapenade.
Tapenade is one of the quickest and easiest store cupboard recipes in the world. It requires a few ingredients and a blender, and an eager tasting finger to make sure you get the balance right. Combine it with rye bread and cucumber and you have quite a substantial biting. Not to mention that it's also very pretty!
1 jar pitted black olives
4 anchovy fillets (I have made it without, but it definitely loses some je ne sais quoi)
1 tablespoon drained capers
1 clove garlic
A couple of lugs of olive oil
If you're a real purist, and don't mind putting some elbow grease into this, then use a pestle and mortar. If you're a touch lazy and love the sound of a busy engine, whip out your blender and put it to work. Blend until desired constancy is achieved, scrape into a clean jar, pour a little olive oil on top to seal and put in the fridge. Serve atop dainty squares of rye bread with little circles of cucumber to make a pretty and satisfying biting.