With a tennis-coach for a brother and a father who, in his forties, played hockey (the grass variety, that is) for the amusingly named Geriatrics team (they would beat the Pensioners, mere children in comparison, often) one could say that mine is a sporting family.
I, on the other hand, was shy and uncoordinated, and, as I got older, found that team sports were reserved for the popular girls, not misfits like me. The netball girls weren’t awkward; instead they were pretty, long-legged and looked good in their tiny pleated skirts. In our final year of school, two friends and I felt vaguely guilty about our lack of sporting prowess in a school that rewarded even average sporting results well above academic or creative ones. So, we padded-up and joined the cricket team. We spent most of our time far out in the field, making each other laugh hysterically. It was, thankfully for the team, short-lived.
Summer is cricket season in these parts. Indeed, it wouldn’t be summer without the radio gently simmering in the background, the occasional call going up as a wicket is taken, waking you from your lazy, heat-induced lethargy. Though I know precious little of the actual rules, secretly I love the cricket being on. The language of the game is esoteric to say the least – a yorker is beyond me and the less said about googly's the better – but what I do know is that sports fans need a little something on which to snack while they watch. And that’s something I can provide you with.
While I think these are better with a glass of wine, they are very good with a beer, too.
Maggie Beer’s Baked Olives – for 6-8
Fast to make, these are better than most marinated olives you can buy. Baking them makes them juicy and flavourful. I used Mount Zero’s mixed olives – a delicious mix of teeny-tiny ones, Manzilla and a giant variety whose name escapes me. By ‘cured’ olives, I mean the kind in brine rather than already in oil. The recipe is only slightly adapted from this, magnificent, book.
2 cups of cured olives
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
Zest of 1 orange
4 fresh bay leaves, torn in half
1/3 cup of extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons of lemon juice
1 teaspoon of fennel seeds
Preheat the oven to 180 C (375 F).
Toss all the ingredients together in a baking dish and cook for 10 minutes. Leave to cool a little before serving – remember, there are hot pits in the centre of each little morsel. Stir through a little more oil or lemon juice if you like and serve.