Beef olives actually have nothing to do with olives. They originated centuries ago, and are still wildly popular today! If you have never learned how to cook beef olives from the butchers, then today is your lucky day.
Wow the guests at your next dinner party with your delicious beef olives, and your pub quiz knowledge about the origins and history of this tasty little treat.
Why Are Beef Olives Called Beef Olives?
“Beef olives” have absolutely no relation to those little things that are picked off trees and comes served in brine or stuffed with pimento.
The term “olive” comes from the British way of describing a meat wrapped around a savoury stuffing – this stuffing usually contained meat also.
The meat was wrapped around the stuffing, tied in place, then browned and cooked, and covered with a savoury brown sauce.
Beef olives can be served with your favourite vegetable sides, such as potatoes, broccoli, carrots or green beans.
You can also serve these little treats cold and sliced up – just be careful that the perfectly cooked meat doesn’t fall all over the place!
Maybe it’s because olives can be stuffed, and beef olives are stuffed parcels of meat – but it is more likely from the Old French word that describes little birds.
It is not recommended that you substitute your olive on a cocktail stick for a beef olive in your Martini!
How Long Should I Cook Beef Olives?
Beef olives do need a fairly long cooking time, to ensure that the meat is perfectly cooked and will just fall apart.
You can cook them in a variety of different ways, from braising to oven baking, and use a slow cooker or an air fryer for a different texture.
In order to make a truly delicious, falling-off-the-fork beef olive, you will have to set aside a fairly long cooking time. It will be worth it, trust us!
If you are braising them, go for around an hour and a half:
- Start with browning the olives in a flame proof casserole dish, then stir in a little flour into the meat juices.
- Stir until there are no lumps, then replace the olives into the pan, covered wit a layer of chopped onions.
- Cook the olives in a covered pan for about 1.5 hours.
Slow cooking beef olives also works very well:
- Brown the olives as per the above recipe.
- Make the gravy by stirring a little flour into the meat juices.
- Pour the gravy into your slow cooker, then layer the onions and beef olives in on top.
- Cook on a low heat for 6-7 hours, or on a high heat for 3-4 hours.
These are the two best ways to cook beef olives; any other method will not cook them properly and give them that characteristic “falling off the fork” texture.
For those who like a bit of visual instruction, here is a video showing how you can make your won beef olives – and how to cook them, even if you haven’t made them!
Where Do Beef Olives Originate From?
Beef olives, despite their exotic name, are actually an English invention. They have been documented as far back as the 16th century!
Cooks would use thin slices of beef, veal or mutton, make a stuffing of breadcrumbs, herbs and onions, and braise the whole thing.
The name “olive” is actually not accurate – this term came from a corruption of the Old French word “alou”, which means larks, and references the fact that the finished product looked a little like small birds prepared for the table.
Nowadays, beef olives have gained in popularity and they are cooked in many different countries all over the world. If you taste them, you will understand why!
These days, you can buy beef olives in all sorts of places, from your local supermarket to your local butcher.
Dare we say it – the ones you buy from the butcher may well be of better quality, and are more likely to use locally sourced meat.
So if you don’t fancy making your own, take a trip to your butchers – not only are you supporting a local supplier, the beef olives will be extra delicious!
How Should Beef Olives Look When Cooked?
Beef olives are little packages of meat and tasty stuffing, that look almost like a little row of sausages when they are all laid out.
Their name actually comes from the French for “lark”, which describes how they look like small birds prepared for the table.
When they are cooked, they should hold their shape and keep their stuffing inside – this is why you cook them tied up with cooking twine.
The final result should look neat and tidy, though there may be a little bit of the stuffing leaking out.
They should be a uniform brown colour, and you will be able to see the flakiness of the meat.
However, in some instances, Nitrates can be released when cooking, allowing some oxygen to be locked inside the meat and a little pinkness to remain.
As long as your beef olives are completely cooked through, you shouldn’t have to worry too much about the colour of the meat – after all, beef can be eaten practically raw!
You can, of course, create your own beef olives from scratch – however buying them ready made from the butcher is an easier option, and great for if you’re in a hurry.
Now you know the best ways to cook them, you can enjoy the flavour and texture – and delighted “yum!”s from around the table when you serve these!