No Half Measures

No Half Measures

  • Category: Books

If you enjoy interesting travels and great food and wine you will also enjoy Jeffrey Benson’s new book No Half Measures published by New Generation Publishing paperback price £13.95.  It follows on from his first volume of travel diaries One More For The Road and whisks the reader to the luxury resorts of the Indian [...]


Ten of the Best

The 2016 judging is now taking place and I am hoping that there will be plenty of award winners that feature in my latest book REMARKABLE RECIPES from the people who really know about extra virgin olive oil – the producer. In the meantime here are ten recipes featuring some of last year’s winners. Cobram [...]

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Adopt an Olive Tree

From time to time I get emails from olive growers offering the chance to adopt an olive tree in their grove. The idea of adopting an olive tree sounds quite intriguing and so I thought I would have a further look at the idea.

First of all I wondered why would anyone want to adopt an olive tree? Well, it seems that lots of people have an unfulfilled dream of owning an olive grove and making their own oil. Adopting a tree may not be quite the same but it is a step nearer their goal. Others are keen to help small artisan producers create a quality product that is near to their heart and this is one way of doing so; though some of the offers look more commercial than others!

When I came check the web I was amazed to find so many different producers offering the possibility of adopting a tree…..and at so very different prices and terms. There are offers from family owned groves and from entrepreneurs who have gathered together groups of producers in a particular area. Take your pick from Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece and France. There are also some groves offering the same service in California, Texas, and even New Zealand. Though the latter can be rather expensive when it comes to shipping!

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Books for Christmas

  • Category: Books

Everyone is at it so I thought I would join in! Here are my recommendations for books to buy as presents this Christmas, or even to buy for oneself.

Simple Secrets of Indian Food Revealed
The Real Taste of India by Glasgow chef Shabu Natarajan shows you how to cook real Indian food at home. Shabu Natarajan says that the point of his book is to get beyond simply cobbling a few ingredients together in the kitchen and calling it curry. Instead he offers create and authentic, native-style dishes that fully replicate real Indian food. Surprisingly, it’s all incredibly simple and even the first-time home cook should be able to make anything in the book with relative ease.

Dee Nolan’s Pilgrimage Books
Two of three deeply interesting books by Australian food writer, Dee Nolan, are now available in the UK. They are A Food Lover’s Pilgrimage to France and A Food Lover’s Pilgrimage to Santiago de Campostella.

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A Christmas Cheeseboard to WOW your Friends.

Guest Blog from Andy Swinscoe, affineur and owner of the award–winning Courtyard Dairy in Settle, North Yorkshire, which specialises in British cheeses.

“Are you tired of boring blocks of Cheddar and the same-old Stilton? Would you prefer to amaze your family this Christmas by creating a cheeseboard that they will be talking about well into the New Year? Well, it’s not that difficult!

At last, after a period in the doldrums, Britain is again making wonderful cheese. And after years of propping up cheeseboards with the standard classics now is exactly the right time to impress your friends and family by celebrating all that is new and brilliant in the British cheese industry.

Twenty years ago, 90% of the cheeses I stock at the moment were not even being made.

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New Websites: New Season Extra Virgin Olive Oils

The benefits of olive oil and particularly extra virgin olive oil are finding their way into the headlines on a regular basis but actually finding top quality extra virgin olive oil in the high street is getting more and more difficult. The supermarkets have cut back drastically on their ranges, simply offering their own label oils, the brand leaders and occasionally one or two other choices. Waitrose is something of an exception but even they do not stock as many extra virgin olive oils as they used to.

Part of the problem was the appalling conditions in the producing regions in 2014 and the consequent shortages and price rises. Delicatessens and small specialist shops, too, have been cutting back and have also been hit by the ban on selling extra virgin olive oil “on tap” though for some strange reason flavoured olive oils may still be sold in this way.

So where can you find really good olive oil nowadays? The answer is the internet. New websites selling extra virgin olive oil seem to be sprouting up all the time. Many of them are run by dedicated enthusiasts who have researched their chosen regions and found first class oils that deserve to reach a wider audience.


Olive Oil Does Not Just Taste Like Olive Oil!

Learn about the secrets of extra virgin olive oil and taste the huge range of flavours from around the world

I am holding two one-day olive oil tasting and appreciation courses in London shortly.
The first is on Friday 30th October and the second on Wednesday 4th November 2015.

Starting at 10.00am we will taste a dozen or more oils first class extra virgin olive oils from both the northern and southern hemispheres. Find out how to recognise the very best oils and how to detect the worst. How much can the label tell you and what happens to oils as they age? All this and more packed into one day.

Fee £150.00 (No VAT) More details Booking:

Ortice olives from Frantoio Romano

Favarol, Itrana and Ortice: traditional stars

These names may not be very familiar in the UK but they should be. They are the names of three traditional Italian olive varieties which are pressed to make excellent extra virgin olive oil and they were all on show at a recent tasting I tutored for the Italian Trade Centre.

These olive varieties come from Italian regions which so far have not made much impact on the UK market. Most people know that Tuscany produces olive oil and they may have tried Puglian, Sicilian or Ligurian oils but the Veneto, Lazio and Campagnia are not featured in many outlets, if at all.

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Value for money olive oil competition

There are now numerous olive oil competitions in various countries, varying from the Ercole Olivario in Italy which looks at extra virgin olive oils from all over Italy to the New York International Olive Oil Competition to find the so-called “World’s Best Olive Oils” which in 2015 looked at 700 oils from 25 countries.

Now a new competition for olive oils is joining the fray, but this one is a little different. It is entitled The Value for Money Olive Oil Competition and as well as looking at the quality, taste and flavour of the oils entered into the competition it also takes into account the price of the oil. It also breaks with tradition in that the oils are not delivered to the judging panel by the producers but are taken from the shelves of real shops by the organisers of the competition in just the same way as the typical buyer would acquire them. Thus the oils are not specially produced oils which only appear in competition but are really representative of oils actually on sale in the shops.

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Spanish Gems

My last posting mainly concerned Italian extra virgin olive oils which had managed to produce very good oils despite the problems that beset so many producers round Europe last year. Today I am going to talk about some Spanish oils which have managed the same feat.

Hot off the press is the news that Finca la Torre organic extra virgin olive oil has won a Gold Award in the recent Mario Solinas olive oil competition run by the International Olive Council. I recently tasted their “First day of harvest” Hojiblanca and was not in the least surprised that the Fina la Torre oil was successful in the awards. The flavours were really intense and very attractive.

The Finca la Torre oils are pressed from olives grown in groves in the Antequera region of southern Spain not far from Malaga. The varieties include Hojiblanca, Picudo, Cornicabra and the more recently planted Arbequina. Unfortunately, these oils are not yet on sale in the UK but you can find them on