The Olive Branch: May

Well, it’s almost the end of June so I guess it’s about time we looked back at May! And, my goodness, May was a month crammed full of national holidays for us here at the Olive Branch…

Israeli salads

Independence Day bbq

First off it was Israeli Independence Day, otherwise known as Yom HaAtzmaut. For Israelis, this is essentially a day of barbecues and fireworks. We had a fun and relaxed day with friends and, although a barbecue did feature, it should be noted that the amount of meat consumed was minimal. Not only is Mr Olive vegetarian but Israeli barbecues generally include a selection of beautiful salads just impressive as whatever’s on the grill! Tom, however, mainly enjoyed the ketchup 🙂

Wonder girl

Running wild at Lag B'Omer

Then, a couple of weeks later, it was Lag B’Omer. This holiday has a pretty interesting history in that it signifies different things for religious Jews (and Jews outside of Israel) compared to the Israeli secular population. Without going into it too much, this traditionally religious holiday was reinterpreted by secular Israel as a commemoration of the Jewish rebel Bar Kokhva’s revolt against the Roman Empire in the 2nd Century and is now used as kind of a Zionist allegory. In practice, though, it’s mainly a children’s festival: a day of bonfires and toasted marshmallows. We went to a bonfire organized by the parents of Tom’s kindergarten, which was loads of fun. There is a verb in Hebrew, ‘lehishtolel’, which doesn’t have a direct translation into English. Roughly, it means to ‘go wild’, ‘raise a rumpus’ or ‘make mischief. ‘Lehishtolel’ is what Sophie and Tom did on Lag B’Omer!

Graphic tank + midi skirt

Midi skirt + baseball boots

Also in May, Olives and Peaches published our first outfit post with photography by Ronit Inon. I’ve been really inspired by reading Anuschka Rees’s The Curated Closet (and posted about it here) and now that I’ve explored and thoroughly defined my personal style (which I’ve called ‘Alternative Nineties with a Side of Vintage’ :)) I’m feeling a lot more confident about posing for outfit photos!

Gan Daniel swag

Sophie’s kindergarten moved house and had a big clear-out, selling off loads of things from their considerable stash. Since her kindergarten is inspired by Waldorf educational practices and philosophy, they place great emphasis on aesthetic beauty, natural materials, and arts and crafts. It was no surprise, then, that I picked up some beautiful treasures in their sale.

Doily table runner

I’d been dreaming of a doily table runner for some time (yes, these are the sorts of things I dream about) so I was especially happy to find one in the sale. Here it is decorating probably the most romantic corner of our apartment 🙂

How to make a flower crown

The third and final holiday to fall in May was Shavuot, also known as the Feast of Weeks, or Pentecost. Like many holidays celebrated in Israel it has both a religious and a secular interpretation. On the one hand, it’s the holiday which commemorates the biblical event in which God gave the Torah to the Nation of Israel. On the other hand, Shavuot is also the celebration of the wheat harvest and also, somewhat inexplicably, the holiday on which everybody eats vast quantities of cheese. Which is definitely alright with me. In fact, when people ask me what is celebrated on Shavuot, I usually just say it’s the Cheese Holiday.

Sophie’s kindergarten, which excels in its celebration of festivals, prepared their annual Shavuot performance. Dressed as various characters from biblical and folk lore, the children acted out a scene in which, like the farmers of ancient Israel, they made a pilgrimage to the Temple in Jerusalem to bring offerings of the first fruits of the harvest, accompanied my music, song and dance. All the kids were required to wear, not only a home-made costume, but also a flower crown. (Side note: I kind of love the fact that Waldorf kindergartens more or less demand that the parents be crafty!) I made Sophie’s crown out of fresh flowers and we shared a tutorial on the blog for how to make your own. The top image in this post shows Sophie acting out her role as a dancer and wearing the crown!

In other excitement, I got to be in the same room as – and even exchange a few words with – my celebrity crush, took my first few steps towards starting my own cake business (more about this to come), and opened our door to a slew of potential buyers as our flat went on the market!

What have you been up to recently?

Love Em xx

 

 

 

 

Olive’s Outfits: Wolf’s Clothing

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Wolf tank // Asos (last year). Skirt // Clothing Swap Party. Baseball boots // Asos (last year). Sunglasses // 7seven (last year)

Hi! So here it is: our first Olives and Peaches outfit post!

I’d been thinking about starting to do outfit posts for a while but the whole idea seemed a little bit intimidating. (Me? Posing for photos?!) But then I read The Curated Closet (and posted about it here). This book by Anuschka Rees is basically a brilliant and extremely thorough system for discovering and implementing your personal style. I really enjoyed working through all the exercises and as a result I now have a crystal clear idea of what my style is, including specific pieces, colours, fabrics, styling, and how I put it all together. I even gave my style a name: ‘Alternative Nineties with a Side of Vintage’. 🙂

I now know, for instance, that I prefer red lipstick and nails over any other colour so I just stick with that. I like setting myself guidelines and even style rules that I’ve made up. I’m all about keeping it simple and having fewer decisions to make!

Also, I got to know the amazing photographer Ronit Inon and it became pretty clear who I was going to ask to take the photos for this post. I felt sort of awkward posing at the start (I’m much more used to being on the other side of the lens) but Ronit had loads of cool ideas for the shoot and was so great about putting me at ease. It ended up being super fun!

That first pose is me living out my rockstar dreams 😉

A couple of words on the outfit: this combination of loose fit graphic tee or tank with a midi skirt is kind of a uniform for me. I wear variations of this look on a very regular basis! Here I paired it with baseball boots, but I also like to mix it up with clogs or flat sandals in the summer.

Have you read The Curated Closet? Or do you have some other system for organizing your wardrobe? We’d love to hear in the comments!

Photography: Ronit Inon – Facebook and Instagram
Olive's Outfits: Wolf's Clothing

How to Make a Flower Crown

I love making flower crowns! I mean, I love flowers in any format but there’s something really satisfying about making a flower crown, putting it on your head and pretending to be a fairy. Oh, wait, nobody else does that?

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In Israel a flower crown is the traditional and accepted head gear of any birthday girl or boy. You can buy a simple plastic crown with fabric flowers in the birthday section of even the smallest supermarket, but since I started making my own I can’t go back to the plastic ones. I’ve got a rep to protect.

Having made flower crowns a bunch of times now and seeing how easy it is, I will pretty much look for any excuse to make one. Flowers are not safe in my vicinity! Give me half a chance and I will literally start cutting their heads off and taping them to a piece of wire. True story.

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I like making crowns from fresh flowers but obviously they have a shelf life so I sometimes use this same technique to make them from fabric flowers. For Sophie’s mermaid Purim costume a couple of months ago I made the basic crown shape and then hot-glued on felt seaweed fronds and little starry flowers. There are tons of possibilities here.

This week, however, I actually have a legit reason to make a flower crown (rather than just the usual made-up excuse): the Jewish holiday of Shavuot (Pentecost) is coming up and all the kids at Sophie’s Waldorf kindergarten have to wear flower crowns as part of their celebration. Booya! (This may be the first time anyone has ever used the word ‘booya’ in the context of flower crowns).

This is how I did it.

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Supplies:

  1. Green florist wire (also available from florist shops)
  2. Green florist tape (also available from florist shops)
  3. Flowers and leaves with stems of at least 5cm (2 inches)
  4. Scissors (not pictured)

Note: The subject of wire gauges can become rather confusing but it doesn’t really need to be! I used a reasonably thick green enameled florist wire (see images above and below), which created a strong and sturdy crown. However, I have also had success using much thinner wire. The process of wrapping tape around the wire helps to strengthen the crown too. Basically, don’t sweat it too much if your wire is a bit thinner or thicker than the one I used. If you really want to get into the subject, this article is full of useful information.

Step 1: Measure out a length of florist wire that is long enough to wrap around your head twice. If you’re using shorter pieces of wire you can wrap the ends around each other to fasten them into one longer piece. I used a total length of 118cm (3.87 ft). If you’re making the crown for someone whose head is smaller than yours, don’t worry: the size of the crown can easily be adjusted once finished by folding and twisting the extra wire at the back of the head. If you’re making the crown for someone whose head is bigger than yours, you may have to estimate – or measure their head!

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Step 2: Wrap half the length of wire around your head once to form a circular crown shape and then take the remaining wire and wrap it all the way around the circle to strengthen it (see image above). You now have your basic crown shape.

Step 3: Cut a length of florist tape and wrap it all the way around the wire crown. This gives the crown a prettier smoother finish and also covers up any sharp edges (see image above). Now you’re ready to add the flowers!

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Step 4: If you have different sizes of flowers, choose one of the largest ones and snip the head off the stalk, leaving a stem of about 5cm (2 inches). Cut a length of florist tape and place the flower against the part of the wire crown that you want as the front. Starting at the base of the flower head, wrap the tape around and around the stem, fastening it to the wire.

Step 5: Take another large flower and do the same, placing it next to and facing the first flower. These two flowers will be right at the front of your crown, which is why it looks best if they’re the largest. Continue the process with your other flowers and leaves. You can do one side of the crown first and then the other, or you can do what I did and alternate between sides. Whatever rocks your party.

Step 6: Once you’ve fastened on a few flowers, you can try on the crown and see how many more you want to add. It’s best to leave some bare wire at the back of your head so that the size of the crown can be adjusted easily. I used 9 flower heads and a similar number of leaves to fill up the crown on the front and sides of my head.

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Step 7: Voila! Your finished crown! You can make these flower crowns a day in advance and place them in plastic bags in the fridge until you need them, thereby reducing last-minute flower crown stress! (That’s a thing, right?)

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And here’s Sophie yesterday taking the role of ‘dancer’ and wearing the crown at her kindergarten’s beautiful Shavuot celebration!

If you’ve ever admired the boho look of fresh flower crowns (or maybe you’ve been overusing Snapchat’s flower crown PNG and are ready for an IRL upgrade) I invite you to try our tutorial! It might become your new favourite addiction.

 

The Olive Branch: April

Spring is swiftly moving towards summer and today (in mid-May) we’ve got temperatures of 36 celsius! Better have a quick look back at April before spring becomes a far-off memory and I forget what the colour green looks like (Israeli summers have a rather yellow/brown tint!).

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This and the first pic are from a little hike we did up Napolean Hill in an area called Rosh Tzipor (Bird Head) in north Tel Aviv. I love these little pockets of wild nature in the middle of the city.

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We celebrated Passover with Tom’s kindergarten by going on a trip to Sharon Beach just up the coast. It was a lot of fun and a little bit wacky as we all dressed up as Moses and his followers and pretended to be fleeing Egypt. Tom made just about the cutest little Moses I’ve ever seen 🙂

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I enjoyed using these vintage bone china dessert plates my parents brought over when they visited. They used to belong to my Nan so they’re very special to me. Just one look at those blue cornflowers and I’m back in my grandparents’ dining room with the net curtains and the electric organ in the corner, drinking tea and eating trifle!

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We shared a recipe for Coconut Cream Malabi, a traditional Middle Eastern dessert which is very trendy in Tel Aviv at the moment. It’s ridiculously easy to make and absolutely delicious! This version is vegan too…

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My little dreamer…

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We went on an epic camping trip in the desert with old friends. There was running through sprinklers, ibex and camel spotting, TWO glorious desert water holes, a bedouin tent, barbecues and toasted marshmallows… but most importantly amazing company. Miss you already, Jess and Jo!

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And finally, I picked up Middlemarch again – a book which I can honestly say has made me a better person, as well as being a jolly good read. Click through to find out how much this book means to me!

What else? A new haircut, a new capsule wardrobe, a karaoke night, a LOT of school holiday (tiring!) and lots of house viewings (but I think we might have found the one…).

How was your April?

Love Em xx

What I’m Reading: Middlemarch by George Eliot

Thought I’d start a new series about what I’m reading each month – although I may still be reading this book next month and, let’s face it, the month after – because George Eliot’s Middlemarch is l-o-o-o-ng!

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Don’t get me wrong, it’s not hard going or dull in any way. It’s just that weighs in at a hefty 785 pages and my reading time is limited these days, usually to about 10 minutes each night before I look at the clock and realize that it’s fast approaching midnight.

So, a few words about Middlemarch! It’s considered by some to be the best novel written in the English language and I should mention that this is the third time I am reading it. Yes, you read that correctly. What can I say, it’s just so fricking good! The first time I read it was when I was studying it as an English Literature undergraduate as part of a Victorian literature course. Now I’m just reading it for pleasure. 🙂

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Mary (Rachel Power) and Fred (Jonathan Firth) in the BBC adaptation of Middlemarch

Its length hints at the richness of plot: the story follows five or so main characters and their intertwining fates over several years, all in the small English parish of Middlemarch. There’s Dorothea, young and idealistic, fired up, not only with ideas about how she can better the world, but with a love of God that verges on the mystical. There’s the new doctor in town, Lydgate who, despite his brilliance and ambition, makes a bad decision which sets him on the road to ruin. Then there’s the beautiful and self-centered Rosamund Vincy, the intense artist Will Ladislaw and the amusing pairing of Fred and Mary, childhood sweethearts who you just can’t wait to see get married at the end.

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George Eliot, aka Mary Anne Evans

The characters are fascinating and it’s all thanks to Eliot’s writing. I remember reading Middlemarch for the first time and being struck by how real these characters are, how contradictory. There are no heroes or villains here and, though there’s one character that I found myself hating passionately at certain points in the novel (I can get very emotionally involved in books!), Eliot always shows us the characters’ virtues and flaws equally so that it is hard to completely withhold sympathy from anyone. When scientists claim that reading literary fiction improves empathy, Middlemarch is the book I think of. I actually think that reading it has helped me be more understanding and less judgmental of others.

Have you read Middlemarch? Or do you also struggle to find time to read? We’d love to hear in the comments!

Coconut Cream Malabi

Malabi. I’m willing to bet that there isn’t a single trendy Tel Aviv restaurant that hasn’t got its own version of Malabi on its dessert menu at the moment. Certainly this post was inspired by all the various delicious Malabi (Malabis? Malabim?? Help, grammar gods…) I’ve daintily dipped my spoon into recently (by which I mean, attacked with an amount of energy and gusto that usually requires hydraulics).

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If you’ve never come across it before, Malabi, or Muhallebi, is a cold custard-like dessert, similar in texture to Pannacotta or Blancmange. It’s very popular in Israel, but can be found all over the Middle East and North Africa. Though the main ingredients (cream, sugar and cornflour) are fairly standard, the flavourings and toppings can vary. I’ve eaten Malabi flavoured with vanilla, rosewater, orange flower water, cardamom… I’ve devoured it topped with rose syrup, strawberry syrup, date syrup, pomegranate syrup… I’ve scoffed it sprinkled with cinnamon, powdered with peanuts, anointed with almonds, covered with coconut and pimped with pistachios. So far I’ve not had it with all of the above all at the same time. But tomorrow is another day.

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I had the perfect opportunity to crack the Malabi code when we had Mr Olive’s family over for dinner recently. Since my sister- and brother-in-law are vegan, I went ahead and replaced the cream with coconut cream. Almond or other non-dairy milks could also be used, but then the result would be less creamy. And we all like creamy.

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I adore both rosewater and orange flower water so choosing between them was pure agony (I never ever exaggerate) but in the end I went for the more classic rosewater. I figure this is only the first of many Malabis (Malabies? Ick, no, that sounds like a disease) I’m going to make so there’ll be plenty of time for all the other variations 🙂

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And then I decided to throw vanilla and cardamom in there too because I simply couldn’t bring myself to give up on either of them. Perish the thought!

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For toppings, I chose date syrup, known in Israel as Silan, since it reminds me of the marvelous Malabi Mr Olive and I used to scarf down at Hummus Bros in London’s Soho. It can usually be found in whole food shops. Then, toasted desiccated coconut (because it’s traditional and because it’s yummy), and chopped almonds (because they’re delicious and nutritious) and pistachios (because I can’t resist that pop of green).

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And I almost forgot to mention how easy Malabi is to make. It’s basically as easy as throwing a few things together in a pot, bringing them to the boil and stirring them. Then pouring the lot into jars and sticking them in the fridge for a few hours. Ta-da: a new fancy summertime dinner party dessert… that your guests will go nuts for! Pretty sweet!

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Coconut Cream Malabi

SERVES 4-6

4 HOURS, 20 MINS

PREPARATION TIME: 20 MINUTES

CHILLING TIME: 4 HOURS, OR OVERNIGHT

Ingredients

Malabi

3 cups / 710 ml coconut cream,

5 tbsp corn flour,

3 tbsp rosewater,

5 tbsp white sugar,

1 tsp vanilla extract,

1/4 tsp cardamom seeds, ground or crushed,

Toppings

Date syrup to taste (I used 2 tbsp per serving),

1-2 handfuls of almonds,

1-2 handfuls of pistachios, shelled,

Approx 4 tbsp dessicated coconut,

Method

  1. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk half a cup of the coconut cream with the corn flour, rosewater and vanilla until smooth.
  2. Put the remaining 2 1/2 cups of coconut cream in a small saucepan together with the sugar and cardamom and bring to the boil, stirring occasionally.
  3. Add the corn flour mixture, reduce the heat and simmer, whisking vigorously, for about 1 minute, until the Malabi thickens and there are no lumps.
  4. Pour into serving dishes or small glass jars and bring to room temperature. Then chill in the fridge for at least 4 hours, or overnight.
  5. While the Malabi is chilling, prepare the toppings. Toast the almonds and pistachios in a dry frying pan over a low heat. Watch them closely so they don’t burn!
  6. Place the toasted nuts in a food processor and pulse until they are finely chopped.
  7. Toast the desiccated coconut gently in a dry frying pan over a low heat, stirring often so it doesn’t burn. Remove from the pan as soon as it starts to turn golden (if your kitchen didn’t already smell amazing, it will now).
  8. When you are ready to serve, top each Malabi with a couple of tablespoons of date syrup, and a teaspoonful or so each of coconut and nuts.
  9. Yum!

The Olive Branch: February and March

Golly gosh, where is the year going? My aim was to write an Olive Branch update at the end of every month but somehow February got away from me and now it’s already the first week of April! Time for a bumper edition!

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Back in February, we took an overnight trip to the one place in Israel where you can count on seeing snow in the winter: Mt Hermon. As you can see, we weren’t alone there. Yup, Israelis get pretty excited about snow…

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We shared a DIY for a Kids’ Art Wall Collage. Also a great way to spruce up and repurpose an old picture frame! Mmmm, look at the nice tidily-arranged toys and books (it never really looks like that).

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Sophie performed in her ballet show and I was so proud I could burst! I guess ballet love must be hereditary…

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We went on a spring almond-blossom hunt. Every year we take a trip to the Sataf, an agricultural site in the Jerusalem Hills, where they experiment with growing vegetables and orchard trees as they were grown in biblical times. So pretty!

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Yup, still working on that scarf! Pretty slow going, but it is my first knitting project after all. Hope to finish it by next winter! I’ve joined a knitting group and we meet every Thursday. Wouldn’t even have managed one row without those lovely girls…

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I finally dug out my pasta machine, which had been languishing decadently in its box for the last four years, and proceeded to make tortellini, which didn’t take very long at all. I lie, it took A WHOLE DAY! Avoid making all my newbie mistakes by checking out our post: How to Use a Pasta Machine: 10 Top Tips!

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Was it worth spending a whole day learning how to use a pasta machine! Absolutely it was! Especially when the result was Chard, Pistachio and Cranberry Tortellini with Shiitake and Lemongrass-Sage Butter. Check out our recipe and I defy not to lick the bowl at the end!

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I made a wig. Not a very realistic-looking hairpiece, I admit, but one that was befitting of a little mermaid all dressed up for Purim. For anyone unfamiliar with Purim, it’s often described as the Jewish Halloween: kid-centered, fancy dress costumed, too many sweets… you get the idea. I gave Sophie a deadline for deciding what costume she wanted and then held her to it. Although I did somewhat modify her initial request to dress up as an ‘evil mermaid’. What the heck?

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Purim was an insane week of costume making, egg decoration (not just for Easter, apparently), goodie basket prep and multiple parties. Super fun and rather knackering! Here are Sophie the Mermaid and Tom the Pirate just before we headed off to Mr Olive’s office Purim party.

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Current obsession: The Curated Closet by Anuschka Rees. This is a book which is basically a step by step system for discovering your own personal style and curating the perfect wardrobe of clothes to meet your style and lifestyle needs. I’ve worked through most of the exercises and am now on the section about working with outfit formulas. Doing the exercises in this book is basically what I would prefer to be doing over almost anything else at the moment and I’m already feeling so much more confident in how I dress. Did I mention I’m obsessed?

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Last but not least, my parents and brother came from the U.K. to visit for a week so I went all quiet on social media so I could focus on really being with them. It was so wonderful having them here and getting to share my Levantine life with them! We did beach walks, hummus lunches, extended family gatherings, road trips… ah, missing them  so much already…

All that plus a baby shower, a Mums’ karaoke night, closing on a kindergarten for Tom for September, and house hunting. LOTS of house hunting.

Sometimes it feels like time is moving so swiftly without much being achieved so it’s fun to look back and see how much we really did in these months! How is spring treating you so far?

Love Em xx

 

Chard, Pistachio and Cranberry Tortellini with Shiitake and Lemongrass-Sage Butter

Mr Olive and I go out on a date every couple of weeks and our favourite type of date consists of heading into Tel Aviv to eat at one of the city’s amazing restaurants. Sitting and chatting in a cool venue over a selection of delicious and surprising dishes and a yummy cocktail is basically our idea of the best quality time ever. Mr Olive’s mother often rolls her eyes at us: “There are so many things you could do on a date!” she says. “Go and see a film or a concert for a change!” She has a point but, in the end, as a couple with young kids and real face-to-face time at a premium, we’d much rather be interacting with each other than looking at something else or staring at a screen (we do quite enough screen-staring as it is!).

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A month ago we went for dinner at one of our favourite restaurants: Dalida, in south Tel Aviv. Named after the Egyptian-Italian singer popular throughout the 60s and 70s, the restaurant describes itself as a European khmara, where ‘khmara’ is the Arabic word for a drinking den – a cave of pleasure where people gather late into the night to eat, get drunk and talk nonsense. While a little scuzzy, the khmara is also joyful and fun. It’s a distinctly Levantine concept. A Middle Eastern stereotype. Presumably, the ‘European’ part of Dalida’s claim alludes both to the food and to the atmosphere of urbanity and self-awareness that lies alongside that down-to-earth khmara vibe. In practice, Dalida is not a dive, but a cozy bar-restaurant, very hip and vintagey, which serves an exciting fusion of European and Middle-Eastern cuisines.

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One of the dishes we ate was described on the menu thus: ‘Tortellini. Inside: Ricotta, chard, cranberries, pistachios. Outside: Fresh shiitaki, scorched cherry tomatoes, sage-lemongrass butter, vegetables, parmesan.’ Um, what? Cranberries and pistachios stuffed inside tortellini? Shiitaki with parmesan? Sage-lemongrass butter? Oh. My. God.

The dish was one of the most moreishly umami concoctions I have eaten in a long time. That hint of sweet and salty crunch inside the pasta, mixed with the powerful (and weirdly complimentary) flavours of shiitaki and parmesan. And the tomato juices mingling with the fragrant notes of lemongrass and sage. It was so good. It was so good that I had to recreate it. Even if that meant dusting off the unopened box in which my pasta machine had been sitting for the last four years. That good.

So I made tortellini from scratch for the first time in my life (that time back when I was in my 20s and didn’t have a pasta machine so I used a rolling pin and each tortellini emerged resembling a baseball mitt? We don’t mention that time). And it was soooo worth it. I may have stuck my face into the bowl and licked it clean at the end. Ok, I definitely did.

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If you are experienced at making fresh pasta, this will be easy peasy for you. I am not so I can’t deny that it took me a while. However, the only actual challenging part was getting the hang of the pasta machine so, if you’re also a newbie pasta maker (or even if you just haven’t done it in a while) I highly recommend that you check out our previous post, How to Use a Pasta Machine: 10 Top Tips. I learned a lot while using my machine for the first time and next time it will be much quicker and easier! And I think the next time is going to be very soon…

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Chard, Pistachio and Cranberry Tortellini with Shiitake and Lemongrass-Sage Butter

MAKES APPROX 36 TORTELLINI / SERVES 4

PREPARATION AND COOKING (INCLUDING DOUGH RESTING TIME): APPROX 2 HOURS

Inspired by the Tortellini served at Dalida Bar-Restaurant, Tel Aviv.

Pasta dough recipe based on the one in Jamie Oliver’s The Naked Chef. I used a food processor to make the dough, but you could also use a stand mixer, or do it by hand in a big bowl.

Ingredients

Pasta Dough

250g / 2 cups strong pasta flour (Tipo ’00’)

2-3 large free-range eggs

1/2 tsp turmeric

Lots of semolina flour for dusting

Tortellini Filling

100g / 3.5 oz swiss chard, roughly chopped

100g / 3.5 oz roasted, salted pistachios, shelled

50g / 1.75 oz dried cranberries

200g / 7 oz ricotta

3 tbsp lemon juice

Salt and pepper to taste

To Serve

20g / 0.75 oz dried shiitake mushrooms

Cooking oil spray (I used a coconut oil based one)

400g / 14 oz cherry tomatoes

50g / 1.75 oz unsalted butter

White part of a stalk of fresh lemongrass (usually the bottom third)

20 sage leaves

Juice of half a lemon

Salt and pepper to taste

25g / 0.9 oz grated parmesan

Method

  1. First make the pasta dough. Put all the dough ingredients, except the semolina flour, in the food processor and turn it on. At first, as the dough starts to come together, it will look similar to breadcrumbs, which will then start to stick together to form a larger ball of dough. When this happens, take it out of the processor and see how it feels. Remember that eggs can differ in size and different flours can have different absorbencies, so squeeze and knead the dough a little bit and, if it feels too wet and gloopy, return it to the processor with some more flour. If it feels too dry and not stretchy enough, return it to the processor and add another egg. The final consistency should be smooth, silky and elastic, similar to bread dough.
  2. When you’re happy with the texture of the dough, remove it from the processor (it should leave the bowl clean) and knead it for 2-5 minutes until it’s soft and stretchy. I usually put on some music and knead for about the length of an average pop song. This time my musical accompaniment was this 😉 Wrap the dough in plastic and put in the fridge to rest for 1 hour.
  3. While the dough is resting, clean the bowl of your food processor and put the shiitake mushrooms to soak in a mug of lukewarm water.

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  1. Make the tortellini filling. Put the chard, pistachios and cranberries in the food processor and pulse until roughly chopped and combined.
  2. Add the ricotta, lemon juice and some salt and pepper and whiz until the mixture is a similar colour and texture to guacamole. Taste to check seasoning and add more salt and pepper if needed.

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  1. Heat a large frying pan over a high heat and spray with cooking oil. When the pan is very hot add the cherry tomatoes and leave them to sear for 5 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally to make sure they don’t stick. After 5 minutes they should have some brown sear marks on them. Remove them from the pan and set aside.
  2. Sit down, have a cuppa and, if you haven’t already, read this post: How to Use a Pasta Machine: 10 Top Tips. Clamp your pasta machine to your work surface.
  3. When the dough has rested for an hour, take it out of the fridge and divide it into 2 balls. Re-wrap one ball in plastic while you work with the other one.
  4. Dust your work surface with semolina flour and then flatten the ball of dough with your hand. Run it through the pasta machine on the lowest (widest) setting until it becomes a thick sheet. Dust both sides generously with semolina flour.

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  1. Fold the two short ends of the pasta sheet into the middle and run through the rollers at the thickest setting 2 or 3 more times, folding the ends into the middle each time – this creates a more rectangular sheet of pasta which is also the full width of your pasta machine. Dust with flour each time!
  2. Continue, running the dough through each of the width settings until the pasta sheet is 1-1.5mm thick. On my machine (the Marcato Atlas 150) this was setting 6.
  3. Repeat the process for the 2nd ball of dough.
  4. Making sure your work surface is well-dusted with flour, cut your pasta sheets into 8 x 8 cm (3 x 3 inch) squares.

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  1. Taking one square at a time, place a teaspoon of tortellini filling in the centre of each square. With a clean pastry brush and some water, brush evenly around the edges of the square. Make sure you use enough water so the tortellini will stick together properly.
  2. Fold the pasta square over the filling diagonally (see pic above) and press the edges together firmly. To get rid of any trapped air you can hold the triangle in the palm of your hand and squeeze it gently. Fold in the two flaps and press them together to join. You’ve just made tortellini! Repeat for all the remaining pasta.

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  1. Cook the tortellini for 3-4 minutes in boiling, well-salted water, then drain. While it’s cooking, drain the mushrooms and finely chop. Save a few sage leaves for a garnish, and finely chop the rest, along with the lemongrass.
  2. Using the same large frying pan you used for the tomatoes, melt the butter on a low heat, then add the mushrooms, lemongrass, sage, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Fry for a couple of minutes.
  3.  Add the drained tortellini to the pan and toss gently. Add the seared cherry tomatoes and squash them slightly with the back of a spoon so that some of the juice runs out to mingle with the butter.
  4. Sprinkle over the grated parmesan, toss again and check seasoning. Garnish with the reserved sage leaves and serve with extra parmesan. Lick the bowl clean with abandon. 🙂

How to Use a Pasta Machine: 10 Top Tips

Funny story: on my 34th birthday I was 35 weeks pregnant with our first, Sophie. A few weeks earlier Mr Olive had asked me what I would like as a birthday present and I told him that I desired nothing so much as a pasta machine. Thing was, Israel at that point was in some kind of unprecedented pasta making frenzy. Put it this way: I was not the only person in the country who desired a pasta machine – to the point that (as he never tires of reminding me) Mr Olive ended up having to to comb the land back, front and sideways in order to find me one. Every supplier he tried was out of stock. Who knows into which distant and obscure regions poor Mr Olive had to venture, or how much he had to pay in order to procure me this highly desirable piece of kitchen equipment. Maybe as far as Petach Tikva. Maybe as much as 200 shekels. 😉

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However, all kudos to the mister: I received that coveted pasta machine for my birthday.

And then I gave birth to a baby.

The pasta machine never even made it out of its box.

So there it sat, at the back of the cupboard, staring at me petulantly every time I opened the door to get a saucepan. It started to become like one of those embarrassing memories you think you’ve successfully repressed until, oh no, here it comes bouncing back up again. Except that pasta machines don’t bounce. They clunk.

In order to put an end to the annoying clunking in the back of my mind I made the decision this month to finally address the issue and – gosh darn it – just flipping use that pasta machine! Sophie is now 4 years old. Tom is 2. I really had no more excuses.

So I cracked open the box and last weekend I made tortellini stuffed with ricotta, chard, pistachios and cranberries and it was amazing (recipe coming to the blog soon)! But there were a few lessons I learned along the way about old Clunk (as he will forthwith be known).

Here’s the thing about using a pasta machine: it’s easy. When you know how. I used the instructions in Jamie Oliver’s first book as a guide. But still, there was a bit of trial and error involved, a bit of dumbfounded head shaking and a bit of waving my arms around like a duck before I mastered the art. And so I would now like to share the lessons I learned using a pasta machine for the first time, so that when you use one for the first time, or even for the first time in a long time, you will sail through it like some kind of stereotypical apron-wearing, top-knotted Italian mama.

  1. Don’t think you can get away with not clamping the machine to your work surface. If you don’t it will jump around. Also, you need a work surface with a straight edge (no lip) and enough space on the underside on which to place your clamp. Our kitchen counter didn’t fulfill either of these criteria, so I used the dining table.
  2. Divide your dough into 2-4 balls and work with one ball at a time. (Keep the other balls wrapped in plastic).
  3. Run a small amount of dough through the rollers to clean them before use and discard the dough. (The rest of the machine can be wiped and carefully dried after use).
  4. Use a ton of semolina flour for dusting (you could probably use any type of flour but semolina is the most authentic). I really don’t think you could use too much. You’ll need flour to dust your work surface, both sides of the dough (before and after each time you roll it), and absolutely loads if you’re stacking sheets of dough in a pile, so they don’t stick to one another. Go crazy with the flour!
  5. In general, you’ll need one hand to crank the handle which means that all the feeding through the rollers needs to be done with your (one) other hand (unless you are an octopus). I found a technique where I would feed the dough through from the top a bit and catch it as it came out the bottom, then go back to feeding from the top, and take turns, catching from the bottom and feeding from the top until the whole sheet had gone through.

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  1. Flatten the ball of dough with your hand before the first time you run it through the rollers. Then run it through on lowest (widest) setting first until it becomes a thick sheet. Dust both sides generously with semolina flour.

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  1. Fold the two short ends into the middle and run through the rollers at the thickest setting 2 or 3 more times, folding the ends into the middle each time – this creates a more rectangular sheet of pasta which is also the full width of your pasta machine. Dust with flour each time!
  2. Continue, running the dough through each of the width settings until the pasta sheet is 1-1.5mm thick. On my machine (the Marcato Atlas 150) this was setting 6.

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  1. As the pasta sheet gets thinner it also gets longer and you may find it easier to maneuver if you cut it in half width-ways. Just make sure you remember to run each piece through all the settings.

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  1. Stack the pasta sheets in a pile, dusting the top of each one generously with semolina flour. Next time I might try putting sheets of parchment paper between the pasta sheets too, but still I wouldn’t scrimp on the flour.

Now your pasta sheets are ready for anything! Keep them as they are and use them as lasagna. Cut into strips to make tagliatelle. Or cut into squares for tortellini like I did.

Just remember, using a pasta machine is one of those things which can seem a little intimidating the first time you do it, simply because it’s a new skill to learn. But hopefully this list of tips will help you avoid making all my newbie mistakes and, really, as soon as you’ve done it once it quickly becomes very straightforward. You’ll soon be whipping up a batch of fresh pasta with one hand while applying your lipstick with the other. (Actually, I’m not quite sure how you would do this since you do need both hands to operate the machine – unless you are in fact an octopus. Who wears lipstick. Um… where was I?)

I’ll keep you posted on my further adventures in pasta and stay tuned for a surprisingly umami tortellini recipe coming soon!

Vancouver Island Travel Guide: Tofino and Ucluelet

Hi! It’s Em here with Part 4 of our Vancouver Island Travel Guide! (You can read Parts 1, 2, and 3 here). Just in case you haven’t been following avidly along with my overgramming of shots from our Canada trip last summer, here’s the rundown: Mr Olive, myself and our two kidlets (age 2 and 4) spent last August on an epic road trip around Vancouver Island and the Rockies (in a Winnebago!). It was an incredible experience for all of us, both the travelling itself and the intense family time it gave us, and I’ve been sharing our adventures here at Olives and Peaches, along with recommendations for the places we visited. Today I want to tell you about Tofino and Ucluelet, two neighbouring towns on the wild west coast of Vancouver Island.

The Island’s west coast is different from the east. While the east looks out onto the mostly calm Georgia Strait, the body of water separating the Island from mainland Canada, the rugged west coast is pummeled by the crashing waves of the Pacific Ocean. In general the west coast is much less populated and the beaches of the Pacific Rim National Park are vast and open to the elements.

Of the two towns, Tofino is the recognized tourist destination. Well-known internationally for its world-class surfing beaches and young nomadic population, it’s where the surfer girls and boys flock to and where you’ll find all the best coffee shops, pizza joints and places to get your board waxed (or maybe surfers wax their own boards? Ok, I’m clearly not a gurfer. Which means girl surfer. And, yes, I did Google that).

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Because Tofino is such a tourist hotspot, we had trouble finding high season accommodation there for our family of four, even 3 months in advance. So we decided to check out Ucluelet instead, a half hour’s drive down the coast. Ucluelet is traditionally considered to be more of a working fishing village than trendy Tofino, but it’s clearly developing a flourishing tourist industry all of its own: everywhere I approached was booked up. On the upside, everybody was also keen to direct me to their brother / neighbour / mother-in-law who also rented out rooms… and who also turned out to be booked up!

The moral? Book your accommodation for either of the two towns a good six months or so in advance, since the most special places get bagged early. And most of the not-so-special places too. Luckily (finally) we ended up finding a delightful and reasonably priced little cabin resort right on the edge of Ucluelet. The self-catering resort is called Little Beach and takes its name from the sheltered sandy cove located across the quiet street. Hooray!

Little Beach is also walking distance from the start of the Wild Pacific Trail, one of Pacific Rim National Park’s must-do hikes. We did the Lighthouse Loop section of the trail, which follows the rocky coastline through stretches of temperate rainforest to the Amphitrite Lighthouse. The trail was easy with dramatic views out over the ocean. Unfortunately, we spotted neither whales nor mermaids. But there’s always next time. The other hike we did was the Rainforest Trail, much of which is along a wooden boardwalk suspended above the ground, deep among giant cedars draped with moss. Both hikes were lovely and definitely doable with kiddos.

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There are several famous beaches along the stretch of coastline between Tofino and Ucluelet. Chesterman Beach is one of them: a wide stretch of sand wonderful for strolling along. We were there on an overcast day and it was fun to look out to sea at the surfers, and watch the waves crash against the several small islands that decorate the coastline. In the winter Chesterman Beach is a favourite spot for storm watching and there are many beautiful accommodation options overlooking the beach (did I mention book early? Yes I did).

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The other must-visit beach is the aptly named Long Beach. Bordered by old-growth forest and over 16km in length, Long Beach is the longest stretch of beach in the Pacific Rim National Park, and its extreme waves (especially in winter) have made it one of the most popular surfing locations in British Columbia. Strewn with driftwood and seaweed, it’s great for walking and beach-combing. When we were there we found small forts built from logs and driftwood up and down the beach, and it was entertaining to watch the surfers and kite-flyers doing their thing. For us, it was the first sunny day after a few days of rain and clouds and neither Sophie nor Tom could resist running into the (freezing) sea, going crazy in the waves and then rolling in the sand until they looked like a couple of little schnitzels.

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After removing the kids’ crumb coating, towelling them off and bundling them up, we set off for Tofino to stroll the streets and find a place to eat dinner. The town is full of young travellers from all over the world and seeing all those kids with their backpacks reminded me of the big New Zealand trip that I did in my twenties (the trip on which Mr Olive and I met!). Speaking of Kiwis, they seemed to like Tofino too, since they almost exclusively made up the service staff at the cute little pizza place where we ate dinner, Tony’s Pizza! The pizza was great, the kids were happy and we were happy that they were happy. Win-win-win!

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Although this is technically a Tofino-Ucluelet post I can’t not mention an extremely successful pitstop we made on the way back across the Island, at utterly glorious Sproat Lake near the town of Port Alberni. It was one of those unplanned stops which really end up being a trip highlight – partly because the weather had suddenly turned amazing and partly because of the awesome natural beauty of the lake and its surroundings. It was such a joy to see the kids running into the crystal clear water to paddle and afterwards picnicing in the sunshine at the lake’s edge.

We loved the magnificent natural scenery of Vancouver Island’s west coast and the laid-back hippie vibe of Tofino and Ucluelet. These two towns were also significant to us as they marked the end of the Vancouver Island portion of our Canada trip, before we picked up our Winnebago and headed off to the Rockies! Look out for our next Canada trip post coming soon!