Choose this gentle extra-virgin olive oil to make mayonnaise, says Gianpaolo Abbo, nephew of the company's founder and now chief oil taster. He is right, the result is fragrantly delicious.
Secondo Abbo set up his olive mill in 'Ventimiglia at the French end of the Italian Riviera in 1893. He was a familiar sight riding his heavy bicycle - it weighed more than 10 kilograms - over the steep mountain passes to drum up business.
Since then the company has grown considerably and is now a member of the prestigious Mastri Oleari, the Oil Masters Corporation. It has plants in three centers but the local Taggiasca and Ogliarola olives are still pressed in Ventimiglia. If you want to see the original premises visit Abbo in midwinter when the mill is in full swing. At other times of the year you will have to make do with the offices and high-tech packaging plant in Saluzzo in Piedmont, 100 kilometers to the north.
The olives for the Abbo oil come from different groves in the steep valleys which run inland from the coast in this part of Liguria. They are picked by hand when they are very ripe and this gives the oil its particularly sweet and mild flavour. The Abbo mill is often still in operation when the others have closed down.
The oil has a delicate grassy aroma with a hint of apples. The flavour is pleasingly nutty with light to medium pepper. As well as making good mayonnaise, the oil is used locally to bake cakes and biscuits.
BRUSCHETTA WITH ANCHOVIES
Drain the oil from a 50 g tin of anchovies in olive oil and mince the anchovies in a bowl or food processor. Add four minced cloves of garlic and the juice of half a lemon. Very gradually add 150 ml extra-virgin olive oil, beating with a fork or running the processor. The texture should be like mayonnaise. Spread onto toasted country bread and dot with halved, pitted black olives. This can also be served as a dip.
Extra-virgin olive oil
Olives in brine Pitted olives in olive oil. Pesto sauce, artichoke paste in olive oil and rocket cream in olive oil.