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Category: Salads

Marinated Black Olives with Citrus & Green Peppercorns

A marinated black olives recipe for today. Your family and friends will keep asking for these delicious and gorgeous looking marinated black olives and the recipe of course! There’s no easier way to impress guests than serving these, I guess. I usually put big bowls of these on the drinks table to avoid having to replenish the bowl all the time. They are usually gone within minutes and I have to bring in more!

That said, I must also say that making marinated olives at home is quite cheaper too. You only need a few ingredients in jars that you can buy for a fraction of the cost of marinated olives from delis or supermarkets.

Thinly sliced unpeeled oranges and lemons impart a deliciously sweet/sour flavour to the mix and are very tasty to eat too.

Besides oranges and lemons I put my favourite ingredient, pickled green peppercorns, in the mix. These tiny jewels aren’t spicy at all but have a wonderful exotic scent. Pickles green peppercorns come in tiny jars.

Pickled green peppercorns are soft and a bit salty. The flavour is similar to black peppercorns.

If you can’t find pickled green peppercorns  just substitute whole black peppercorns. The difference is more in that you can (and should) eat the pickled peppercorns but the black ones are only used for the flavour. They are too hard to bite in. If you get lucky and find fresh black peppercorns, like I have a few times, do use it by all means! It’s fabulous!

Fresh black peppercorns I found in our local Asian shop. I got so excited I bought a lot and froze them.

The last major ingredient, is very readily available everywhere. Pickled garlic. You can use fresh garlic cloves but I find these tastier in my marinated olive mix. The flavour is quite mild too so it doesn’t overpower the other flavours.

Pickled garlic add a mild garlic flavour to the mix. Use as few or as many as you like.

I make many different kinds but this one is my real favourite non-Persian marinated olives recipe. It’s just of those kitchen adventures that turned out really well and has stayed a favourite recipe for many years. But there are fabulous Persian marinated olives too. I will write about that in another post. I’ll just give you a sneak peek of the picture of one type I make for now.

One of the several kinds of Persian marinated olives. This one’s flavoured with pomegranate syrup, herbs and walnuts.

Olives have been cultivated in many parts of Iran for centuries but almost all of our olives and olive oil are consumed domestically. The best marinated olives in Iran come from the Caspian Sea region where tea, rice and citrus fruit are also very important crops.

OK, I guess I should give out the recipe now. To make a big jar you will need the following ingredients. This makes about two medium jars of marinated olives. By the way, I never peel my oranges and lemons but scrub them very well. The peel adds so much flavour to the mix. But peeled is OK if you add some zest to the olives.


  • I large jar pitted black or green olives
  • 1 orange (preferably organic)
  • 1 lemon (preferably organic)
  • A few cloves of pickled garlic (as many as you like)
  • 1 tbsp pickled green peppercorns (or more)
  • 1/4 red pepper, thinly sliced
  • A couple of sprigs of thyme, stalks removed
  • 1 tsp sweet smoked Spanish paprika
  • 1 scant tsp smoked or regular sea salt flakes
  • 125ml extra virgin olive oil
  • Pinch of chilli flakes (optional)
  • Method: 
  1. Wash the orange and lemon well and dry. Thinly slice one half, juice the other.
  2. Drain the olives in a sieve and put in a large bowl. Add all the other ingredients and mix well. Cover the bowl with cling film or lid and put in the fridge for at least a day but ideally for a week or two. Stir the mix several times during this time to distribute the flavours.
  3. If you are not serving within a day or two put the olive mix in clean jars and top up with enough olive oil to cover them completely. Screw the lids on and keep in the fridge. They will keep for months there if you can resist the temptation to bring them out at every meal! Enjoy!

Tomato & Fennel Salad with Vegan Pistachio Pesto

Tomato and fennel salad doesn’t really need a recipe to make, does it? But you’ll probably want to read this post if you want to make the delicious pistachio pesto I used to dress my tomato and fennel salad.

The pesto dressing makes all the difference in this salad. The peppery tang of the summer/winter savoury (marzeh in Persian), mint and pistachio pesto really complements the sweetness of the tomatoes.

Summer savoury (and its perennial relative winter savoury) are hard to find in many countries unless one grows them at home but in Iran summer savoury is sold in big bunches by every greengrocer. If you don’t have summer/winter savoury I recommend using a mixture of mint and fresh thyme. The sharpness of thyme works quite well too.

On the right: summer /savoury (Satureja hortensis), a very versatile herb that can be grown from seed on a windowsill. On the left: winter savoury, an easy to grow perennial.

Tomatoes didn’t show up in Iran until late 19th or early 20th century but when they did they completely took over the cuisine. It’s hard to imagine Persian cooking without tomatoes or tomato puree/paste.

One of my earliest memories is of my grandma boiling sieved tomatoes in huge pots in summer to make tomato paste. High tomato prices in Iran can even have political ramifications, seriously! So this salad is not Persian in form but quite Persian in spirit!

I made my salad with some lovely heritage tomatoes I found in a market but any nice juicy sweet tomato will work. Cherry tomatoes of any colour will work nicely too. Fennel bulbs add crunch to this salad but sliced cucumbers can be used instead if fennel isn’t available or in season where you live.

I made my pesto with raw pistachios but roasted pistachios also make a lovely pesto. I like to sprinkle chopped pistachios on the salad for a bit of extra crunch, too.

Ingredients for the savoury & mint pistachio pesto. The winter savoury has flowered profusely. Even tastier!

There is no cheese in my salad but feel free to add your favourite cheese. I recommend crumbled Feta or Bulgarian cheeses or cubed grilled halloumi. My favourite British cheese to use in this salad is white Cheshire. It’s so incredibly delicious.

Ingredients to serve 4

  • 500g tomatoes, sliced or cut into big chunks
  • 1 small head of fennel (or sliced cucumber)
  • 100ml extra virgin olive oil
  • A handful of fresh summer/winter savoury or a few sprigs of thyme
  • A small handful of mint leaves
  • 1 small clove of garlic (or more if you wish)
  • 25g shelled pistachio nuts
  • 1 1/2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • Sea salt and black pepper to taste
  • A handful of chopped pistachio nuts


  1. Put the nuts, garlic and the herbs with 75ml olive oil in the food processor and process until chopped well but not too smooth. You can also use a mortar and pestle to make the pesto. Season with sea salt and black pepper.
  2. Spread one-third of the pesto on a plate. Put the prepared tomatoes and fennel in a bowl. Toss with another one-third of the pesto. Transfer to the plate.
  3. Mix the rest of the pesto with the lemon juice and the remaining olive oil and season. Drizzle over the tomatoes and fennel. Garnish with chopped nuts and fennel flowers if available. Enjoy!

Persian Beet & Yoghurt Salad with Pomegranate Seeds

Dressing cooked beets with yoghurt is very common in Iran. People usually chop up the beets and fold them into yoghurt. As simple as that! But I think a dish, whatever it is, must be pleasing to the eye, too. So I sometimes go out of my way to “dress up” simple dishes like beets in yoghurt even if takes a bit of extra time. A prettier salad always tastes better to me!

I used cooked beets for this salad. We get nicely cooked beets in supermarkets here in the UK. In Iran too we got cooked beets but not in supermarkets. Sweetened cooked beets are sold by street vendors. In winter you are never too far away from a street vendor selling very large steaming syrup-glazed beets. Absolutely yummy!

You may want to cook your own if you grow beets in your garden or get nice ones from your grocer’s. Beets need a bit of time to cook properly but there is no fuss, really.

To cook your beets just cover them with water, bring to boil, lower the heat and let them simmer away until they are tender. Once they are cooked they slip out of their skins very easily. Cooking time can vary from 30 minutes to an hour or even longer depending on the size of your beets.

Beets are really easy to grow and come in many colours and shapes. The leaves are great in soups and salads.
Beets are really easy to grow and come in many colours and shapes. The leaves are great in soups and salads.

I usually reduce the juice in which the beets have been cooked with a touch of sugar until it is thick and a bit syrupy. Then I slice the beets and return them to the saucepan to glaze them.

Another good method for cooking beets is wrapping them individually in aluminium foil and popping them in the oven when you are baking, roasting or slow-roasting. Again, the cooking time will depend on the oven temperature and the size of the beets but there is no way you can go wrong with that. Give them time and they will cook perfectly.

To make the salad all you will need is a few cooked beets, a little thick yoghurt (like Greek or Greek-style), some pomegranate seeds and a few sprigs of mint.

Pomegranate seeds add flavour, crunch and visual impact and so does mint. To seed a pomegranate cut it in quarters and pull away the seeds from the white membrane. The seeds will come off quite easily if gently pushed or tugged in the right direction.

pomegranate seeds
pomegranate seeds

To assemble the salad arrange sliced beets in a serving dish. Mix the yoghurt (as much as you wish) with a few drops of beet juice and put in a squeezy bottle (I save ketchup bottles to use for this). Squeeze the yoghurt over the beet slices in a nice pattern. Sprinkle pomegranate seeds on top of the dressed beets and garnish with a sprig of mint or two and maybe a little shredded mint as well. Your pretty pink salad is ready. Enjoy!