Currabinny Cooks: How to make the perfect pasta puttanesca and our best olive recipes

Currabinny Cooks: How to make the perfect pasta puttanesca and our best olive recipes

A tapenade and a fish dish 

 Pasta puttanesca is a spicy pasta dish with dubious roots. Picture: Bríd O’Donovan

Sat, 12 Feb, 2022 – 18:00

William Murray & James Kavanagh

Is there any fruit more evocative of the Mediterranean than an olive?

We don’t know exactly where the first wild olive trees grew, although it’s speculated that they first appeared in Syria, Lebanon, or possibly Jordan.  It’s known that people began cultivating the olive tree about 7000 years ago. Olive pits have been discovered found in ancient tombs around the Levant, as well as fossilized olive wood fragments. The desire to exploit the noble olive spread westward, cultivation spreading to Spain, Portugal, Italy, France and sub-Saharan Africa.

Ancient people soon learned to press oil out of the olive and use it for lighting. It took some good millennia to understand that the bitter olive could be tamed and made edible by leaching out its natural harshness and fermenting it in salt.

My first memory of olives is from going into the English market with my mother as a small child. She would always get me a large Jewish bagel from the Alternative Bread Company and herself a small bag of mixed olives from The Real Olive Company. We would sit on the fountain for a few minutes, side by side, having our market snack. I would always try an olive, wincing at the salty bitter flavour. It would be a few years yet till I would properly appreciate the addictive allure.

The Real Olive Company was one of a few new kids on the block food pioneers when they opened in 1993. A twenty-year-old Toby Simmonds, started to import a handful of different types of olives from the Mediterranean. The Cork public was equally surprised and bemused by this addition to the market, and a common enquiry was “what kind of grapes are you selling?” Since then, olives have become hugely popular and widely eaten. The quality of olives we get here hasn’t always been amazing, especially in supermarkets. The Real Olive Company is still one of the best places to get great olives in Ireland, staying true to their market stall ideals.

Hake with blood orange and green olive salsa verde

recipe by:Currabinny Cooks

The green olive salsa verde should be made rough and ready, with the green olives being roughly chopped rather than finely chopped into a paste. We used big juicy, garlic stuffed olives from the Real Olive Company.

Preparation Time

10 mins


  • 2 nice size fillets of hake

  • Olive oil

  • 4 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced

  • 2 blood oranges, zested and cut into slices

  • Sea salt

  • Black pepper

  • Chilli flakes

  • 60ml of white wine 

  • 50g butter

  • For the salsa:

  • Handful of flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped

  • Handful of coriander, roughly chopped

  • 8 spring onions, thinly sliced

  • Zest of one blood orange

  • 100g good quality marinated green olives, pitted, very roughly chopped

  • ½ small red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped

  • 2 teaspoons of red wine vinegar

  • 60ml extra olive oil

  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed

  • Sea salt


  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C.

  2. Season the fish well with sea salt, freshly cracked black pepper and a pinch or two of chilli flakes if you so wish. Place the seasoned fish on a large piece of baking parchment on top of the slices of blood orange. Drizzle all over with olive oil and sprinkle over the zest of one of the blood oranges. Places the slices of garlic on top along with the butter, divided. Gather up the parchment and pour in the white wine before tightly wrapping the parchment to seal.

  3. Place in the oven for 15 minutes. While in the oven prepare the salsa verde. Mix together all the chopped ingredients with the crushed garlic, blood orange zest, red wine vinegar, olive oil and a good pinch of sea salt. Divide liberally between two serving plates. When the fish is ready, place on top of the salsa verde and serve.

Olive tapenade

recipe by:Currabinny Cooks

For us, tapenade is all about intensity. We usually make this in a large pestle and mortar, rather than a food processor as you will get a nicer, less smooth texture


  • 100g of Kalamata olives, stone in

  • 2 anchovy fillets

  • 1 tablespoon of capers

  • 3 tabelspoons of extra virgin olive oil

  • 1 clove of garlic


  1. Take the stones out of the kalamata olives. Bash them together with the anchovy fillets, garlic and capers in a large pestle and mortar. If you want an even rougher tapenade, you could chop everything together on a large chopping board until you get the desired consistency.

  2. Pour in the olive oil and check the seasoning. It should be punchy and salty enough from the olives and anchovies but add a small pinch of sea salt if needed. Serve on crackers or crusty bread.

Pasta puttanesca

recipe by:Currabinny Cooks

Whatever the true origins of puttanesca, it is one of the most flavoursome and lip-smacking sauces made almost entirely from store cupboard ingredients.


  • 8 anchovy fillets, finely chopped

  • 3 cloves of garlic, crushed

  • Good pinch or two of chilli flakes

  • 1 tin of plum tomatoes

  • 2 tablespoons of capers

  • Handful of flat-leaf parsley, chopped

  • 200g of pitted Kalamata olives

  • Olive oil

  • Sea salt and black pepper

  • 500g dried pasta ( fusilli or penne)


  1. Put the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water over medium heat. While the pasta cooks, heat some oil in a large frying pan over medium low heat.

  2. Add the anchovies, garlic and chilli flakes, cooking for a few minutes until everything is bubbling and fragrant. Add a spoonful of pasta water to the pan and turn up the heat slightly. Add the olives, capers and tin of plum tomatoes. Let the contents of the pan bubble away, stirring everything together until well combined.

  3. When the pasta is al dente, drain and set aside. Leave the sauce to bubble away for 10 minutes until slightly thickened and the plum tomatoes start to pop and fall apart. Season with sea salt and plenty of black pepper. tip the pasta into the sauce and toss well so that the pasta is well coated in sauce. Scatter the chopped parsley over and serve.

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