A Sort of Tapenade, A Well-Known Musician and A Box Hill Picnic

Tapenade and I have a complicated history. This is my latest version of that intensely flavoured paste and it really shouldn't be called tapenade - it's a bit like tapenade's distant relative. It's more of an almond, olive and sundried tomato dip with other things in it. Very tasty and very easy, though.

If my memory is to be trusted (it's probably not) the first time I ever ate tapenade was back in the 1970s. Somehow or other I'd got involved in selling 'antique' furniture and other pre-loved collectible items. I'd become the largely useless assistant to a guy who most days knew a secretaire from a settee. I said ‘antique’ furniture but I think the word we used most often was ‘tat’.  Occasionally we'd get a decent piece and one day we sold a pleasant little oak table to a well-known musician. (I'm not saying who – he's still around and probably even better known now and I've got save something for the third volume of my autobiography provisionally titled ‘Phil in the Kitchen: The Lovejoy Years’).
The Old Shop
We turned up in the battered van at the musician's house somewhere in the depths of Surrey one summer evening and found that there was a party going on. We thought it was perfectly in tune with the spirit of the times to dump the table in the hall and join the happy throng. Several hours later the well-known musician discovered we were there and threw us out with nothing more than the remains of a bottle of wine and a handful of canapés to show for our trouble. He seemed to think that we were freeloaders. He was absolutely right.

And so as the sun came up on the next, fine summer day we were sitting on the slopes of Box Hill (not far from where Emma fictionally attended her picnic some years earlier) eating canapés and drinking the well-known musician's wine. I remember thinking two things. First, the canapés with the black stuff on them were really unpleasant and, second, that I was determined never to buy one of his records again. Although I've mellowed on the subject of tapenade over the years, Dear Reader, to this day I have yet to shell out any cash for his recorded works.
A Sort Of Tapenade
50 g almonds
70 g black olives
50 g sundried tomatoes (in oil)
½ - 1 clove of garlic
½ - 1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves (or a mix of thyme and lemon thyme if possible)
1 tbsp capers
1 tbsp lemon juice
3 tbsp olive oil
a few turns of black pepper

This amount works best in a small processor, although these can vary a lot in power and effectiveness. If yours isn't very powerful, you may want to crush the almonds a little first. Otherwise simply place all the ingredients in a suitable processor and whiz until you get the texture that appeals. I like it quite smooth with the occasional larger piece but most people seem to prefer a chunkier version. It's likely that the resulting paste will be a little thick and so add 1 or 2 tablespoons of water to thin it down.

Finish the dip by drizzling with a little extra lemon juice and olive oil or, even nicer, a drizzle of lemon infused olive oil. Serve with toasted slices of baguette or with whatever it is that you prefer to dip into dips.

Pick out some fine music and I'll see you on Box Hill for a picnic. Just don't ask me anything about antique furniture - I won't know the answer.


  1. Quite right that you should never purchase any of the misguided musician's work, how dare he be so disrespectful of his fans/suppliers of antiques. Put me down for a pre order of The Lovejoy Years.
    Will try your recipe for tapenade, I like it but Nick's not so sure. Maybe homemade will convince him. By the way, I thought you'd somehow got hold of a photo of our spare room until I realised I never had a cardboard box with Jaffa on it........

    1. Not sure that I would have counted myself a fan back then and I'm not too sure about now. I seem to remember that he was quite polite about throwing us out at least. Most cardboard boxes in the 1970s had the word Jaffa on them as far as I can recall. Not sure why.

  2. This made me laugh Phil, especially joining in the party, and why not! I'll put in an order for the Lovejoy Years too. Sounds fascinating, and the tapenade sounds good too.

    1. Very kind of you to say so, but I'm not sure it would be all that fascinating. I think it might be considered a a horror story of cruelty to furniture.

  3. A lovely tapenade with the addition of the almonds - will have to give this one a try.

    1. It may not be authentic but the almonds do add substance and change the overall style of the tapenade in a way that I like. I'm sure that there would be plenty of people who'd disagree, though.

  4. Great story Phil and a fab recipe too.....I adore tapenade and always associate it with a long distant holiday in Provence, when I was much younger.....it was all about music, wine and cheap eats, of which tapenade was one! Thanks for linking up to Cooking with Herbs too - Karen

    1. Music, wine and cheap eats sounds like a very fine holiday to me. Come to think of it, olives may be cheap in Provence but they may have been quite costly back in 1970s England. Another reason for getting thrown out, I suppose.

  5. With this title I just had to read this blog. I'm not a tapenade fan, perhaps because of my first taste many years ago not appealing. Glad to be back reading your blog. Not even a hint of the musician? lol

    1. Well, I'm tempted to give a hint, but I'd need a little more red wine to make me indiscreet.


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