These olives have nothing whatsoever to do with the ones you nibble with your G&T or use the oil of. These are the olives where strips of meat are rolled up into sweet, tender bundles and which have been around in British cookery since medieval times. And these particular ones come with an intensely flavoursome – but not overly rich – sherry sauce.
Traditionally veal or beef are the most usual way to do olives but as I am writing this recipe whilst on holiday in Andalusia I have made use of their distinction of yearling which is somewhere between the two. Yearling (sold in Spain as anojo) means cows slaughtered between 10 and 18 months. They have a more robust flavour than veal; are more tender than maturer beef; and have a lovely light marbling running through.
My Spanish theme is continuing with the use of its most luxurious of sherries – Pedro Ximenez. Although to be fair that is a bottle I often reach for in the kitchen back home too. Here its darkly rich colour and flavour bring out the best in not just the meat but also the prunes. These lucky little blighters get to soak themselves in the sherry for a good few hours in a combination that may be more familiarly successful for sweet dishes and works a treat here.
Prune & Pedro Ximenez Olives (serves 2)
150ml Pedro Ximenez
4 fillets of beef (or anojo yearling)
1 medium onion
2 cloves garlic
1tsp thyme leaves
2tbsps olive oil
2tbsps single cream or creme fraiche
Before you start cooking soak the prunes in the sherry for a few hours or even overnight. Use a small bowl so that when you start off the prunes are nearly immersed.
1 – Bash out the beef fillets to no more than 1cm thick.
2 – Lift the prunes out of the sherry and chop into small pieces. (Be sure to keep the sherry as you’ll need that later.) Finely chop the onion and garlic. Mix with the chopped prunes, thyme and 1tbsp of the oil. Season. Then spread this stuffing between the beef fillets, roll them up, and secure with cocktail sticks.
3 – Heat the remaining oil in a stove-proof casserole dish. Once the oil is hot add the olives and quickly brown them all over. Pour over the reserved sherry, turn the heat down and put the lid on. Leave alone for 30 minutes.
4 – When the olives are cooked through remove from the dish with a slotted spoon and cover to allow to rest. Turn the heat up and bubble the cooking liquid to reduce. Stir through the cream or creme fraiche, test for seasoning, and serve the sauce over or alongside the olives.
Lovely with anything green and potatoes or couscous.