Thursday 23 June 2011

Terra Rossa Luxury Olive Oils and Spices review

One of the things I love most of all about writing this blog is the chance to discover little-known products that I never would have dreamed existed otherwise. When UK Mums TV asked me if I'd like to try out some luxury olive oils and spices from the company Terra Rossa, I immediately said yes please and scuttled off to discover more about the company and their wares.

The first thing that intrigued me was the name Terra Rossa. They explain on the website : "The Fertile Green Crescent, which covers Palestine, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, is home to some of the oldest olive trees dating back to the time of Jesus Christ. The Olive trees are planted in the "Terra Rossa" (Red Soil) region which is the biblical name given to this part of the Middle East. With its magnificent Mediterranean climate, this region has the ideal soil for cultivating olive groves, citrus fruits and grape vines. Growing and nurturing olive trees is embedded in the local culture and olive oil has been used for food, medicine and light in this part of the world for well over 6000 years." Aha, I was just saying in my recent Oloves review (here) that you can't beat the taste of the olives we ate on our holidays in Turkey and Tunisia !

The first product I looked at was this prestigious presentation box containing a range of Terra Rossa olive oils, whose packaging proudly states that this is "an original olive oil from an exceptional origin". As the write-up on the website explains : "The selection box contains the First cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil, Chilli infused olive oil, Basil infused olive oil, the recently launched Garlic infused olive oil, Lemon infused olive oil, and last but not least, its top of the range Un-filtered and Cold-drip extracted Sinolea extra virgin olive oil."

Now, I should explain that I use olive oil all the time for cooking but I'm still a bit confused by all the terminology that goes with it : extra virgin, cold-pressed, unfiltered, ... I never really know what they all mean and tend to assume that price is a good gauge of quality, which I know isn't always the case. I also sometimes use chilli-infused oil for drizzling over pizza and herb-infused olive oil for salad dressings or marinades, so I was keen to try out these new flavours.

I decided to try the infused oils simply as a dip with a piece of fresh bread, straight out of the bread machine, to really appreciate their flavours and I was really impressed. The garlic-infused oil in particular was absolutely delicious and works exceptionally well with warm bread, tasting almost like a healthy and lower calorie version of garlic bread. The chilli-infused oil gives a lovely kick a few seconds after you've started eating it and again works well with warm bread or pizza. We also tried this one drizzled over a warm cheese and bacon fougasse bread (kind of a cross between bread and pizza base, topped with herbs, cheese, olives and bacon, popular in France) and it really heightened the flavours. The basil-infused oil is perfect drizzled over pasta and would also make a lovely salad dressing. The lemon-infused oil gives a lovely flavour to oven-baked fish or chicken fillets if you brush it over the top, and would also be great an an ingredient in marinade. Another idea I gleaned from the website is to mix some into mashed potato (I think the garlic one would be absolutely perfect for this) or over steamed vegetables - these oils would be the perfect ally for anyone (like me !) wanting to lose weight or reduce their cholesterol levels as they can be used to replace less healthy sauces like mayonnaise, cream or butter.

We also received a bottle of mint-infused oil, which isn't in the selection pack because it's a brand new flavour. This works really well with lamb, as a marinade or brushed over a roast, but also in taboulĂ©, a Middle Eastern dish commonly served in France in the summer, which is basically couscous salad with chopped mint, red peppers, tomatoes, lemon juice and olive oil, left to chill, infuse and soak up the flavours and liquid overnight in the fridge. (For a really quick version, empty a tin of chopped tomatoes in a big salad bowl, stir in a sachet of uncooked couscous, any extra ingredients like olives, spices, mint, etc and leave overnight to soak up all the liquid. Instant salad next morning !) The mint-infused oil gives a really intense, natural flavour without all the fuss of finding fresh mint.

I was intrigued to find out more about the three jars of spices - Zesty Sumac, Spicy Dukka and Herby Zaatar - that we also received, as they are all names that I'd never heard of and wanted to know more about. One of the things we love most when we go travelling is discovering the local markets (such as these ones in Turkey that I blogged about here), and we always bring home exotic spices that will remind of us our holidays.

I headed back to the Terra Rossa website for some guidance. They explain : "Zaatar comprises of Thyme, Sesame Seeds and Sumak. Dukka is primarily made with corriander and also contains roasted sesame seeds, sumac and some chilli powder. Goes very well with the Chilli Infused Oil. Sumac is a red berry that has an intense lemony flavour. Use it to add a lemony taste to salads and meat. Ideal for kebabs!"

Now, as I mentioned on my Schwartz spices post (here), I love experimenting with new herbs and spices so I gaily starting flinging pinches and sprinklings of these spices onto meat, fish and into sauces (which works very well), but the website describes another way of using them. They explain : "Terra Rossa was established in 2005 to bring awareness to exquisite Arabian cuisine and offers 6 premium flavours of Jordanian Zait & Zaatar (Arabic for olive oil and thyme mix): Sinolea, Evoo, Basil, Lemon, Chilli and Garlic, which are traditionally eaten as a snack or an aperitif by dipping a piece of bread into the oil and then into a herb mix such as Herby Zaatar thyme, Spicy Dukka Coriander or Zesty Sumac." We tried this with more fresh bread, still warm from the bread machine, and it's delicious. It actually reminded us of a type of Turkish bread that we ate at the hotel every day last year and, again, makes a great, healthy alternative to savoury snacks like crisps. The oil and spice mix is really satisfying and gives a really intense flavour that explodes in the mouth, that is nicely complemented by warm bread. I think these spices would also be great in mashed potato or jacket potatoes and I'm sure there are many more ways we will think of to use them, as they seem extremely versatile.

In just over a month, we'll be back in Turkey for a fortnight but until then, these authentic and exotic ingredients will have us doing lots of armchair (or should that be dining table ?!) travelling before then. They are perfect gifts for any globetrotters who want to rediscover tastes from the Middle East or foodie friends who like to experiment with new flavours. They are really high quality and worth every penny because, due to their intense flavours, a little goes a long way.

star rating : 5/5

RRP : Exquisite Olive Oil Presentation Box £19.95, 250ml Olive Oil infused with Mint £7.65, Herby Zaatar Tub 50g £2.75, Spicy Dukka Tub 65g £2.75, Zesty Sumac Tub 50g £2.75

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1 comment:

  1. I LOVE Olive Oil and these look gorgeous! Lovely review.


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