Tapenade Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything


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Possibly the ugliest food ever invented, this recipe originated in France about a hundred years ago. It takes the strongest tasting ingredients one can think of, and combines them to make a sublime spread or dip; a symphony of Mediterranean flavours1.

The name comes from the Spanish for 'caper'. It's best of all spread on ciabatta, topped with some feta cheese and toasted lightly under the grill, although some maintain that it makes the perfect accompaniment to a hard-boiled egg.



  • 225g Pitted black olives (tinned and drained will do, but fresh are better2)
  • About 8 - 12 anchovy fillets (or 2tbsp anchovy paste)
  • 2 tablespoons Capers
  • Lemon juice
  • Fresh black pepper
  • Olive oil
  • Brandy (optional)


  • Place the olives, anchovies and capers into a food processor, and whizz until coarsely chopped. Then dribble in the olive oil until a fairly sloppy paste is obtained. Add a squirt of lemon juice, and some freshly ground black pepper.

  • If you want to, add brandy. The flavour will probably be strong enough already, but if your taste buds are on their way out then a dessert spoon or two won't hurt.

This appalling-looking brownish-black paste will keep for about four days in the fridge (four hours is generous, given how good it tastes). Variations involve chucking in some chopped garlic, and rosemary and thyme3. The use of anchovy paste tends to give a smoother, more 'integrated' flavour to this dish. True tapenade is not cheap to make, but beware of adulterated variations of this recipe that mess about with the Holy Trinity of olives, anchovies and capers.

1Its wonderful flavour bears no relation to its appearance. It looks like... well... use your imagination.2If you really want to frighten your dinner guests, try some of the brownish kalamata olives.3These additions are of dubious value, as the herb flavours tend to get swamped by the main ingredients.

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