I have chosen Frantoio for the second in my series of posts on the olive varieties most frequently pressed for olive oil. This Tuscan varietal, which shares its name with the Italian word for olive mill, has found its way to many parts of the olive oil world. Its popularity is probably linked to the fact that Italy has managed to convince a good many people that its oils are the best in the world! The truth of this may be debatable but you will find Frantoio widely planted in groves far away from its home land. It is the second most popular variety to be grown in Chile and it is planted in countries as diverse as California , Australia, South Africa and Uruguay.
Regardless of where it is grown the taste profile for Frantoio is generally robust and characterful. Typical flavour tones include strongly flavoured salad leaves such as rocket, watercress, mustard leaf and tobacco. There may also be a some chicory, radishes, raw artichokes and even black tea. All of these contribute to a high level of bitterness and pepper. These in turn indicate high levels of polyphenols.
This style of oil suits the hearty cuisine of the Tuscan region with its wild boar, meaty pork sausages, Ribollita dark cabbage and bean soup and Panzanella bread and tomato salad. In Australia and California it is sure to feature with the popular barbecued hamburgers and steaks.
Much of the Tuscan countryside consists of a mix of olive groves, vineyards and mixed agriculture. The olive groves are typically planted in neat symmetrical groves in groups, of two or three. The trees are pruned to a distinctive basket shape to allow as much sunshine as possible to get to the ripening fruit. Though there are some co-operatives, this is the land of large single estates and small family owned farms. Many have been passed down the generations for centuries. Famous names include Frescobaldi, Antinori, Badia a Coltibuono and Villa Magra , partof Frantoio Franci. Some producers like Villa di Vetrice use up to 90% Frantoio in their oils but others press a mix of varietals including Leccino, Moraiolo and Penolino. A similar mix is used in the much decorated South African oil, Morgenster, and the Californian DaVero.
Local Recipes using Frantoio olive oil
Spaghetti with Breadcrumbs and Pecorino Cheese
This seems such a simple dish but the flavours are really great and you can make it in no time at all. The recipe comes from the chef at the Morgenster homestead and it was a favourite of the orginal Italian owner of the estate.
- 300g spaghetti
- 125ml extra virgin olive oil125g fine dry breadcrumbs made from stale country bread
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
- 125g Tuscan Pecorino cheese, grated
- Freshly ground black pepper
Bring a large pan filled with salted water to the boil. Add the pasta, stir well and cook until al dente. Meanwhile warm the oil in a pan over a medium heat. Add the breadcrumbs and garlic and fry until golden, stirring all the time. This takes about 3 minutes.
Drain the spaghetti and transfer to a warm bowl. Add fried breadcrumbs and the Pecorino cheese. Season with salt and pepper and serve at once with more oil to finish.
In contrast this dish takes rather more effort than the pasta dish but it is a stunning recipe to serve as an appetiser or for finger food. It comes from Swedish chef Jens Folkel who likes to blend his Scandinavian traditions with products from other regions. He came up with the idea while working with Viola DOP Umbrian extra virgin olive oil at an event in Borough Market in London.
This quantity makes approximately 30 crispy balls of chicken rillettes. Serve as finger food at a party buffet or in small groups with a little salad as a first course dish.
- 2 large potatoes
- 8 free range chicken legs with the skin on
- 250ml dry apple cider
- 1/4 bunch of thyme
- 30g good quality lardo
- Salt and Pepper
- 30ml extra virgin olive oil plus oil for frying
- 300g dry panko bread crumbs
- 3 eggs beaten
- 200g seasoned flour
Peel the potatoes and cook in water with a little salt. Drain and keep on one side.
Place chicken legs on top of the thyme on a deep tray, pour the cider and olive oil over the top and season with salt and pepper.
Cut lardo into small pieces and pan fry till crispy. Keep all the fat that comes out, this will be incorporated into the chicken rillettes.
Cook chicken uncovered in the oven at 170˚C for approximately 1 hour and 20 minutes. Take out and leave to cool a little. Take off the skin and replace in the oven for another 2 hours at 75˚C 5. Take chicken meat off the bones and place together with the cooked potato, lardo fat and a little bit of the cooking liquid. Throw away bones.
Blend with a paddle in a kitchen aid and season with salt and pepper. Leave to mix on slow speed for 5- 6 minutes. Place in fridge and cool completely. Divide the cooled chicken mixture into equal sized balls. Put egg wash, flour and breadcrumbs into separate containers and dip balls first into flour, then egg and finish with breadcrumbs and flatten them a bit. Place back into fridge to set. Serve decorated with crispy lardo.