Freshfield Grove

Tales of Tasmanian Adventures in Olive Oil


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Chocolate Olive Oil Brownies

I made these yesterday and wanted to share them. I haven’t ever really got to grips with making chocolate brownies. I had a flatmate at uni who made awesome brownies, and another who made excellent scones, and although those days are now long past, I’ve never really put any effort into making these things regularly myself. (I was the expert in upside-down chocolate pudding making!) The robust flavour of our EVOO can overpower some delicate cakes, but I think it balances well with chocolate. Well, doesn’t everything?!

If you’re not on Pinterest, you can go straight to the recipe here at Lucero Olive Oil. But if you are, and you want to check out some other cakes and desserts then have a look at  my “Sweet Treats” board.

This recipe made 16 brownies. They’re not as thick as some brownies I’ve made and are a bit lighter in texture, but  they are lovely and gooey, and rich in flavour. I don’t have a square metal brownie tray so I baked them in a silicone baking tray, 8.5 x 7 inches, at 170degC for 24 mins. I used our oil, instead of chocolate infused. And I substituted walnuts for hazelnuts (roasted for 10 mins in the oven while it was warming up, then chopped). I added the flour at the same time as the walnuts, but the next time I’d add the flour, and then stir in the walnuts. Because all the little crevices in the walnuts hid little pockets of flour that kept being released after I thought I’d stirred it all in. Yep, it’s a tough life 😉

Anyway, I have to to get back to “testing” our new batch of homebrewed beer. (Apparently there are recipes for beer brownies!?) Happy baking! FFx

PS. As part of my participation in blogging101 I’ve (belatedly) added an “About us” widget – what do you think (top right)?!

chocolate olive oil evoo walnut brownies

Floral ice cubes

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borage ice cube gin tonic

Borage has appeared from nowhere in our garden this spring. I’ve always known it was edible, but never tried it, and thought I’d make some cute ice cubes for my gin and tonic. (It tastes like … cucumber!)


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Australian Olive Conference write-up

I was pretty lucky that this year the Australian Olive Association (AOA) conference was held in the Hunter Valley region of New South Wales, less than a 2 hour drive from Sydney. And since we still mostly live in Sydney (boo!) instead of Tasmania, it was really easy to get to (hooray!) It was the first time I’d been, and I loved every minute. It was awesome to meet so many passionate olive growers, and reassuring that a fair number of them had leapt into the business with as little experience as we have. And now they’re producing amazing award winning Extra Virgin Olive Oils 🙂

Cherry blossoms around the pool in the spring sunshine.

Cherry blossoms around the pool in the spring sunshine.

It was held at the Mercure Resort Hunter Valley Gardens in Pokolbin, which is a beautiful setting. The cherry blossoms were out in force and the clouds of pink flowers looked amazing. I’d decided to splash out and stay there, and now I want to go back just for a little holiday. It’s the only place I’ve stayed with a sunken bath! And lovely private terraces outside the rooms. And walking distance to five wineries!! Not sure how much walking I’d be doing after tastings at five wineries, but I’d give it a go… Actually I suppose you wouldn’t have to do them all in one day!

The conference was held over three days, with the first and last indoors at the conference venue, and the middle day out at Adina Vineyard and Olive Grove for workshops and practical demonstrations. The organisers had hired an external facilitator (Ian Plowman) and he did a great job of making the sessions interactive and keeping to time. There were a few puzzled murmurs at the start when he offered guidelines for sessions, but it all worked really well. (There were a few fun props too- do you see the fuzzy rubber ball, the timer, and the pipe cleaners on the table in the photo below?) We sat at tables instead of in rows, and had time for table discussions before questions being opened up to the floor again. Everyone moved seats at the change of every session, and this was a brilliant way to meet other delegates. Especially for me, with sooo many people I didn’t know.

Dr Joanna McMillan, Keynote Speaker, Australian Olive Association Conference 2014.

Dr Joanna McMillan, Keynote Speaker, Australian Olive Association Conference 2014.

Dr Joanna McMillan was the keynote speaker and she spoke about Olive Oil and Health. She’s a passionate advocate for the role that EVOO can play in a healthy diet. (Did any of you see the advert that she did with the AOA to promote fresh Australian Extra Virgin Olive Oil at the start of the year? I’ve added it below.) It was great to hear her discussing various research studies providing evidence for the health benefits of EVOO, which cross so many different diseases. It’s been shown to have a positive benefit in cardiovascular disease, play a protective role in some cancers (specifically colon and breast), and also reduces symptoms in some inflammatory disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis. I don’t think any other fats have so much positive research to support their inclusion in our diet. Take home message for me – Eat (even) More Extra Virgin Olive Oil!

Talking of food, the first night was the AOA Gala Awards Dinner. The awards were presented in sections between courses, so we didn’t get hungry and restless! I’d happily have eaten anything on this menu, but I was pretty happy with the way the food was dropped (tuna, steak, chocolate). I found the alternate serve thing a bit odd the first time I came across it but it seems common in Australia, and I’m getting used to it. The Best Oil in Show went to Red Island, and Tasmanian awards included Cradle Coast Olives (Best in Class – Ultra Boutique), and Ashbolt Farm (Top State – Tasmania). If you’d like to see a full list of the awards, then the results booklet can be downloaded from the AOA website here.

Day two was out in the fresh air, at Adina Vineyard and Olive Grove. The heavy rains we’ve had recently in NSW had thankfully stopped, and it was a glorious day, although still pretty chilly when the sun set. Adina are one of the Hunter Valley olive producers, and do a lot of contract pressing with their 2 ton per hour press (compare that to our puny 80kg/hr!) They were fabulous hosts, and organised a delicious BBQ lunch, with some of their EVOO and wine. What could be better? Several manufacturers had brought equipment to demonstrate, and although we’ve really got everything we need at the moment there’s lots of cool stuff I want! Various gizmos to make life in the grove easier, particularly at pruning and harvesting time. I got some great tips on pruning from some other growers, and tried out some lovely, light Felco loppers (I’ve got weedy arms!) We had very practical presentations on table olive production and pressing olives for extra virgin olive oil. So many things for me to put into practice… We got a tour of Adina’s amazing press too. And in the evening The Olive Centre put on another BBQ and a glow in the dark spraying demonstration! (My iphone camera wasn’t really up to the job for this bit!)

This is a long post for me – I’m getting tired! If you’re still with me, then I’ll keep day three brief. We had talks and discussions on healthy trees, healthy soils, and keeping pests and diseases at bay. Then a very fun exercise in blending EVOO. This was run by Richard Gawal, a very experienced Australian EVOO judge, taster, and blender. We had samples A, B, and C, and had to work out what proportion of each was in the test blend “T”.  My table got pretty close on our first attempt, but then further efforts sadly took us further away from the correct percentages, so we didn’t win the bottle of wine on offer 😦

The last sessions were a fascinating presentation on the world of pickled vegetable sales (I know that sounds unlikely, but trust me!) by Mimmo Lubrano from Sandhurst Fine Foods , then the AOA AGM, and finally a discussion of healthy industry associations and leadership. I was sad to leave and drive back to Sydney, not least because I never got a chance to try out that sunken bath!

Sydney Bridge Run 2014

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Today I took part in the Blackmores Sydney Running Festival. I did the bridge run last year, and thankfully had only signed up for the same this year! (It’s 9km.) Last year I was all enthused about how I was going to do a half marathon next – must have been those post run endorphins… At least I managed to run the whole way today, which given my dismal training this year was miraculous. I’ve heard farmers don’t need to do extra exercise, but I’m only a part time farmer and that clearly doesn’t apply!

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PS. As part of participating in Blogging101 I’ve added a tagline to my site this week, to indicate what my blog is about. Now I feel as if I’ve misled you, as this post is clearly of questionable relevance to the subject of producing Tasmanian olive oil, although I did pour quite a lot of the stuff over my carb-loading pasta dish on Saturday night. Maybe that’s how I managed to finish! FFx

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Fabulous Olive Oil Cake

Blogging101 Catch-up: Dream Reader

It turns out that registering to take part in Blogging101 starting the same week as I was attending my first Australian Olive Association Conference wasn’t the best idea. Yep, as usual, I’ve taken too much on… So now I’m playing catch-up!

Thursday’s assignment was to aim a post at someone who would be my dream reader – Do you enjoy food? Do you like trying new recipes in your kitchen? Then “Hello [wave]” – this is for you 🙂

My first experience of baking with oil was a carrot cake recipe that I came across as a student. Up until then all my cake making had been with either butter or margarine as the fat. The lazy baker in me liked the fact that using oil meant you didn’t have to beat the butter (invariably not softened enough in the generally cool North of England) with the sugar until light and creamy. In more recent years I’ve been on the lookout for cake recipes specifically with extra virgin olive oil. This one is the winner by miles and miles. And miles…

It’s as puddingy as a cake can be, while still being a cake. And you don’t need scales, or a mixer. The only vaguely specialised part of the whole affair is a cake tin with a removable base. I think otherwise it’ll be a struggle to get it out of the tin in one piece. The tin I have is slightly smaller in diameter than described in the recipe, so I cooked it for about an extra 5 minutes. I’ve also had a go at making mini muffins with the same mixture, but I haven’t got the cooking times quite right.  I felt they came out a little dry by the time the tops were browning. Anyway, practice makes perfect, so I’ll have another go soon!

Extra Virgin Olive Oil Cake.

My Extra Virgin Olive Oil Cake

With regard to the olive oil, I would recommend an extra virgin olive oil with a mild flavour intensity. You may find a robust oil is too overpowering for the other ingredients here. I’ve made this recipe with the Grand Marnier as described, but another time I substituted the same volume of freshly squeezed orange juice and it came out just fine! To get to the recipe, just click on the pin embedded at the end of the post. This should open the pin in a new window, and just click on it again to go to the recipe on the Food52 website. PLEASE let me know if this doesn’t work for you!

The other part of the assignment was to include an element we hadn’t used before. I’ve had a play with embedding images in various formats, also videos, and tweets, so I’m trying out Pinterest embedding today. I’ve had a bit of difficulty with this one before. I tried to have it in my sidebar, but I’ve not been able to get it to work (hence the Van Gogh picture instead). I’m hoping that just having a pin in the post will be ok. I hadn’t used Pinterest until fairly recently, but it’s something I really enjoy. I do find it less interactive than other social media, but I use my boards like a scrapbook, or visual bookmarks. Following other people means I can scroll through images that they’ve added to their boards. I’m probably not explaining this well; I really struggled to understand the point of it until I started using it, and I’m pretty sure I’m still only touching the surface. Anyway, if you don’t use it, why not come and have a look. And if you’re a pinning expert, maybe you could give me some tips? FFx

Aussie Olive Conference

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I’m at the Australian Olive Association Conference in the beautiful Hunter Valley for three days 🙂 More to come when I’m not on mobile broadband! FFx


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Question: Who Am I, and Why Am I Here?

Answer: Because I LOVE fresh Extra Virgin Olive Oil!

I’ve enrolled in “Blogging101” to try and give my blog a little extra oomph! And this is my first assignment… My first ever post on here was “A Short Introduction”, and covers some of the background in how my husband and I got here in the first place. I’d been thinking of updating it, so this has been a helpful push!

I wrote that first post in February this year, when we bought our olive grove in Tasmania. I have to admit I started it because everyone tells you that you have to have an online presence in order to do anything these days, but I’ve found an unexpected pleasure in blogging. I enjoy writing ours, and have discovered a mind boggling range of other sites. I began with a fairly vague idea of blogging about our journey into extra virgin olive oil production, but it’s expanded to include posts about food and cooking too. I’m enthusiastic about Tasmania and food in general, and Tasmanian food in particular.

In future posts I’m likely to waffle on about:

Olive grove and olive oil stuff:

We get asked lots of olive related questions and I aim to answer as many as I can. Please ask away – I’ve got lots to learn too, so if I don’t know, I’ll do my very best to find out. I’m also intending to start posting summaries and links to some of the published research on EVOO and its uses and health benefits.

Some previous posts cover stuff like – Are your olives green or black? How do you harvest olives? How many olives does it take to make olive oil?

Us hard at work on a day with a chilly wind.

Working hard at harvest time!

Cooking and food: I share recipes that I’ve found to work well, particularly things that are easy to fit into a busy lifestyle. I’ve always cooked the vast majority of what I eat from scratch. I’m not very good at taking nice photos of food, but bear with me and it might get better… Lots of the recipes include extra virgin olive oil, because that (and butter) are the only fats I have in my kitchen.

I think people should be able to make informed choices about what they eat. We may choose to eat the cheapest or most convenient available, but we should be able to find out what’s in it and where it came from, if we want. We should be able to be confident that we’re getting what we think we’re paying for.

Dogs: We’ve got two Lakeland Terriers who will make an occasional appearance.

lakeland terrier beanbag

So well behaved when they’re asleep…

Tasmania: I’m British, but Tasmanian by marriage! Luckily I’ve loved the place since I first set foot on it.

View towards Wineglass Bay, Freycinet National Park, Tasmania.

View towards Wineglass Bay, Freycinet National Park, Tasmania.

Sustainability: I’m increasingly interested in sustainable living, but still learning and figuring out what this really means! It’s been suggested that I’m becoming a hippy. Is this a good thing?! I like this quote by John Marsden (Australian writer, teacher and school principal.)

“Live as though you’ll die tomorrow, but farm as though you’ll live forever.”

I would love to connect with other olive oil producers and enthusiasts, farmers, gardeners, permaculturalists (is that a word?!), and food lovers, to exchange ideas and information. But this is by no means a comprehensive list! I’ve got lots of other interests and I’m looking forward to discovering some awesome new sites. FFx