No tree defines the beautiful Mediterranean more closely then the ancient, majestic olive tree, revered through the ages from morocco to Israel to Spain. As Rumpelstiltskin turned straw to gold, and Jesus water to wine, so the olive tree produces baskets piled high with fat olives, whilst itself often growing on the deeply inhospitable arid ground. Olives are a marvel, one of nature’s great gifts and we love them. They grow in our family places, Jemima’s place in Provence produces around 150 bottles a year, which we sometimes take on jobs only to use for last minute dressings, Lucy’s family have one of the oldest olive mills in Majorca, originally powered by naturally flowing water, which hasn’t been used for 300 years. If asked what’s in our top 3 ingredients, in the past for interviews, good quality olive oil is mentioned first, it really is rooted deep. It’s funny to think how easy it is to purchase good olive oil now, memories in the 90s of having to drive across town with a parent to buy it from a specialist Greek store on Moscow road in Queens way- or the most significant was the River café’s own oil- the first taste of how it should really be, emerald green in colour and intense in flavour. Last week we took a little out of office trip to Cassanova and Daughters, situated in the heart of Covent Garden, to taste some olive oil and try and swat up on our oil knowledge. We met the charming and informative François who told us the story of the company, impressively started by an international circus tightrope walker who returned to his Sicilian roots to produce olive oil. All kept in cool metal containers with a little tap, standing neatly row upon row, all varied in depth, colour and flavour. We were treated to an hour of tastings. Whilst standing there getting spoon after spoon to taste, also mildly od’ing with major oil slick throats, we were pleased to be told that our favourite choice was the same as Francois, and also one chosen by our good friend Jackson Boxer on his recent olive oil tasting trip for his restaurant The Chess club in Mayfair. We both bought a bottle of Santagatese, which is deliciously smooth, a little fruity and decadently peppery. The perfect oil to be kept in a safe place, a sacred bottle, only for those last minute drizzles and sourdough bread dunking, with plenty of sea salt. Each barrel of oil there has a unique story, a story of a tree which has been growing in Sicily for hundreds of year and a human who is doing his best to take care of this tree, for each olive oil they are named with the name of the person who took care of the tree, understanding the different soils from volcanic, to deep dark red and to very dry. The three recipes below were created using this olive oil, of course, we are not saying you need to brave the central London crowds to get the exact same bottle (..you can purchase online), but to buy a very good quality bottle of extra virgin olive oil. It really makes all the difference.