Cottage industries are popping up everywhere these days. Lots of people are bottling their own chutneys, packaging their own cakes and selling their home grown produce. I live north of Bristol, but work in Gloucestershire where you are surrounded by the beautiful Cotswolds. Here there is no shortage of great food, lots of it being produced and sold on a small scale. But I was surprised to find out about a small company in the quaint village of North Nibley that sold Greek olive oil and honey.
Couple Jacqueline and Tassos Stamatopoulos run the business called Eleon Fine Foods – Eleon meaning olive grove in Greek – from a beautifully converted hay barn on the outskirts of the village.
It is still a small business, just four years old, so Tassos continues to work in the day as a teacher while Jacqueline, a mother-of-two, works on it full time at home.
At present they just have two products, which can only be bought at Stroud market, Bristol Slow Food Market and a few local farm shops. But the two products are so fantastic I predict they will grow quickly and they should certainly make the items available on the internet.
The two products were given a Great Taste Gold award this year and it is thoroughly well-deserved. Their fresh, 100 per cent extra virgin olive oil, comes from Tassos’ parents olive groves in a small village in the Peloponnese region of Greece. It is cold-pressed and unfiltered and for several months of the year it is consider “fresh”.
It is bursting with olive flavour but has a mild and subtle to taste, delicious for dipping bread, but also great for cooking with, Jacqueline told me.
I was under the impression that extra-virgin oils were not great to cook with but she told me that in Greece they use it for absolutely everything – they even fry their chips in it! Yes it does have a low smoke point, which means it gets hot quickly, but Jacqueline said as long as you keep an eye on it you can use it for just about anything and it will give everything a delicious Mediterranean flavour – plus it’s a healthy choice.
The product I was absolutely seduced by was their Greek honey, which this time is made by Tassos’ cousin, who looks after bees in the Taygetros mountains, where they feed mainly off of pine with a little orange and lemon blossom. The pine diet, which is quite unusual, gives the honey a sublime toffee texture and rich, but not overly sweet, taste. This honey is nothing like the honey you get in the clear squeezy bottles from the supermarket. It would be delicious spread on toast, served with Greek yogurt or drizzled on ice-cream.
I also think there is something to be said for knowing exactly where your food comes from, right down to the tiny village where the olive growers live. It’s not a local product, but no olive oils are, so this is the second best option and I would rather my hard-earned money went towards a small-family business rather than ploughed into a faceless supermarket chain.
(Photos by Steve Richards)