Discover the liquid gold of the Swartland’s premium olive oils

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THE first weekend of May has traditionally been a time for celebration of olives and olive oil in the Riebeek Valley. Sadly, the festival has been postponed for the second time this year, but that doesn’t mean we can’t still enjoy the fruit; and even if you can’t go to the source, Swartland Wine & Olive Route has made a beautiful video showcasing some of the olive oil producers in the region.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Swartland: The Extra Virgin Edition is hosted by chef Rory Lambson, who visited six farms and invited the farmers to join him for a chat about what they do. Production values are gorgeous as we get to see sweeping views of vineyards and olive groves. Later, in conversation with Rory, the producers give the background stories of their farms and their olive oils, which are both informative and interesting.

You’ll pick up olive oil tasting tips from olive expert Linda Costa; she’s actually described as “guru” in the video. These will help you when deciding what oil to use with what – because they are not all the same. What they do all do, is enhance any food with which they come into contact.

Swartland Wine & Olive Route sent a lavish box of treats with six oils, and six jars of food pairings for me to try at home while watching the video. The short story is, the food Rory created to pair with each oil was presented “lean” – without oil. The exercise was to then add the oil to fully experience the difference it made to each dish. Spoiler: everything was better with olive oil. Included were all the recipes, which are printed on paper embedded with rocket and basil seeds. I cannot express how much I love this idea.

The first pairing was roast garlic skordalia, a Greek dish which is quite simply, mashed potato with garlic, with a couple of other ingredients. With a hunk of focaccia and an extra splash of Olive Boutique’s delicate oil, it was carb heaven. As wine pairings begin light and move up to heavy, so too did this one.

Next up was roast artichoke hearts with salami and throubes (sun dried olives), with Kloovenburg’s oil, also delicate. As you drive into the Riebeek Valley on the R46 from Malmesbury, Kloovenburg’s are the first groves you see from the top of the pass. The farm makes wine as well, and a range of olive oil-based beauty products.Lammershoek’s medium intensity oil went with roast butternut, puffed pumpkin seeds, pistachios and grilled feta. Dragon Ridge’s oil is also medium intensity and I poured it over the caprese salad with a heavy hand. Around about this time I was thinking how a few simple ingredients can make for such sublime eating. In fact, you need little more than bread, good oil, and a bottle of wine. Maybe some salt.

The final two pairings were with intense olive oil: Org du Rac’s organic with rooibos and oak-smoked exotic mushroom (truly heavenly), and Het Vlock Casteel’s with roast beetroot hummus, which was a fitting finale and perhaps overall (and I’m not picking any favourites here because they were all fabulous) the most interesting flavour profile change with the addition of the oil.

Couple of things to know about South African olive oil. Firstly, it’s the best you can get. Imported oils are usually the inferior ones from wherever they originate, and frankly nowhere near as good as ours. Keep it in a cool, dark place – not next to your stove, please. And use it for everything, from cooking to dressing salads and any other dish, and even taking a shot of it in the morning for its excellent health benefits. Click here for more information about that.

Go to the Swartland Wine & Olive Route Facebook page where you’ll find everything happening this olive harvest weekend, which coincides with Riebeek Valley’s First Fridays, as well as a link to the video.

PHOTO CREDIT: Bianca Coleman ©

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