Olives with Lemon Zest and Fennel Seeds

fennel_olivespI haven’t bought seasoned olives for long year because homemade ones are simply better, cheaper and can be ready in about five minutes. Until now I have been seasoning them either European or what I call Korean style, always applying the same method (i.e. combine everything and put into the fridge). I eat them all year round, at any time of the day, at every occasion and even take them as an afternoon snack to the office. Somehow I feel this newly discovered version will be my first choice for hot summer evenings… These olives are particularly refreshing, slightly tangy and, maybe because of the fennel seeds, they simply beg for a glass of ouzo!

I found this mixture of flavours in Smashing Plates by Maria Elia, a wonderful imaginative source of Greek- and Cypriot-inspired recipes. I’ve barely modified the amounts and the method, but I strongly encourage everyone to check Smashing Plates, an original take on traditional Greek culinary traditions.

TIPS: As a big fan of fennel seeds and in general whole seeds as condiments, I loved the additional crunch and texture they add. If you don’t like the idea of whole seeds (or you aren’t sure about your guests’ preferences), you might use of course ground fennel seeds, but I’d advise coarse ground (and do it after roasting whole seeds).

The author advises to warm in the pan all the seasoning ingredients, but I prefer harsher taste of both garlic and chilli, so I have skipped it and only roasted the fennel seeds. Choose the method that suits you best.

Preparation: about 5-10 minutes

Ingredients (serves as a drinks snack for 8 people):

500 g brined olives (unseasoned, of course), drained and rinsed

3 medium garlic cloves, grated, crushed or finely sliced

2 tablespoons fennel seeds

2 fresh chillies, chopped (any heat level and colour will be fine; all depends on your preferences)

lemon zest from one medium lemon, cut into small pieces

5 tablespoons olive oil (or more)

Heat a pan on medium heat and roast fennel seeds for about 30 seconds (don’t burn them).

Combine with all the remaining ingredients and olives.

You can serve these olives straight away if you are in a hurry, but they improve after a night in the fridge (of course covered). If you have kept them in the fridge, take them out about 30 minutes before serving because the oil will solidify during the refrigeration.

They usually keep in the fridge for at least a week (or more).

12 Replies to “Olives with Lemon Zest and Fennel Seeds”

  1. I haven’t made seasoned olives in ages and this recipe sound like the perfect way to get back into it, I adore fennel too, if you don’t like the crunch of the seeds, you could also substitute them for the fennel fronds.

    1. Thanks a lot, Eva. I do love fennel seeds, but I know some people hate the idea of whole seeds in any dish…Great substitution tip! (I guess dill would be ok here too).

  2. Oh my…I must have seen a very similar recipe recently because I made some seasoned olives almost exactly like this. I’m so with you. The crunch of the fennel seeds with that burst of licorice is awesome! Believe it or not, I did NOT add the chiles because my 2 year old niece would be eating them, and I used preserved lemon instead of lemon zest. Well, I loved them and my niece loved them more than any of us!! She had them before, during and after the meal. She totally bypassed dessert for the olives. 🙂 this is such a great recipe Sissi and your picture certainly does it justice. I just want to grab one right out of the bowl!

    1. Hi, MJ. What an amazing coincidence!!!! (But you probably remember we have a special telepathic link….) I not only liked this version a lot, but I was glad to learn how whole seeds might be wonderful in such a snack! It was a wonderful discovery. Thank you so much for the compliments! I am not very good at “decorating” dishes I take photographs of (not to mention my poor photo equipment), so I always worry they don’t look half as delicious as they taste… (or even as they look in real life!).
      Preserved lemon sounds like a fantastic idea, but you must have suffered without chile! (Just joking, I know even you not always eat hot food…).

    1. Thank you so much, Karen. Many people hate whole seeds as condiments, but I’m a big fan. I discovered it from Indian cuisine, I think.

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