Preparing Christmas Lunch with Gordon Ramsay’s Preferred Istrian Olive Oil

The Puhar O’Grady family looks forward to using their Olio Nuovo in a range of traditional Croatian Christmas dishes and celebrating a successful harvest.

The Puhar O'Grady family
By Nedjeljko Jusup
Dec. 20, 2022 14:59 UTC
The Puhar O'Grady family

The Puhar O’Grady fam­ily from Croatian Istria would have noth­ing against Gordon Ramsay, one of the world’s most famous chefs, cook­ing their Christmas day meal.

Yes, but with our Olio Nuovo,” Lena Puhar O’Grady, co-owner of Brist in Vodnjan, told Olive Oil Times with a char­ac­ter­is­tic smile.

She and every­one else in the fam­ily busi­ness do not hide their sat­is­fac­tion with this year’s har­vest. We will remem­ber it for the excel­lent har­vest, healthy fruit and unusu­ally high yields,” Puhar said.

Despite the appre­hen­sion dur­ing the extremely dry sum­mer months, the olive trees showed their resilience and, aided by the autumn rain that came at the right time in Istria, rewarded the olive grow­ers with plenty.

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The har­vest took a lit­tle longer for us since we har­vest by hand and trans­form the olives on the same day to pre­serve the integrity and fresh­ness of the fruit as much as pos­si­ble,” she said.

Brist’s story began 19 years ago when Lena’s father, Silvano Puhar, now 70, an elec­tri­cal engi­neer, bought a neglected olive grove near Vodnjan. With a lot of effort, he revi­tal­ized the land and pro­duced the first oil, which was awarded at local com­pe­ti­tions.

After the ini­tial suc­cess, he pur­chased more land, and now the olive groves include 2,500 trees on 10 hectares.

The entire fam­ily is involved in farm­ing and the pro­duc­tion process. Silvano is in charge of pro­duc­tion, man­ag­ing all oper­a­tions in the olive grove and every­thing nec­es­sary to cre­ate award-win­ning olive oil.

See Also:At Brist, It’s All in the Family

Lena, an archae­ol­o­gist and art his­to­rian, is in charge of pre­sen­ta­tion, edu­ca­tion and mar­ket­ing. Her hus­band, Paul, an Irish ex-pat, man­ages retail and export.

I also have to men­tion my mother, Ines, with­out whom any of this would have been pos­si­ble,” Lena said.

Puhar uses her rare free moments to take a pre-hol­i­day walk through the olive grove, which boasts breath­tak­ing views over the Brijuni Islands.

It is Advent sea­son, and the Vodnjan is adorned with Christmas dec­o­ra­tions. People are in a hurry but still find time for short gath­er­ings in the squares and streets, in restau­rants where it is pos­si­ble to taste cod and other hol­i­day dishes made with an essen­tial hol­i­day sea­son ingre­di­ent: extra vir­gin olive oil.

Our mono­va­ri­etal olive oil from autochtho­nous Buža and Blednovi has just arrived from the chem­i­cal and sen­sory analy­sis,” Lena and Paulo said. The results are excel­lent. Low fatty acids, intense fruiti­ness, medium to intense spici­ness and bit­ter­ness.”

All oils are described as har­mo­nious,” the cou­ple added. Harmonic. We are very sat­is­fied, and the first impres­sions of our faith­ful and our new clients con­firm this.”


They are con­vinced Ramsay would be sat­is­fied with their olive oil this year. Perhaps even more sat­is­fied than when he vis­ited Istria two years ago and tried sev­eral clas­sic Istrian del­i­ca­cies for his National Geographic series, Gordon Ramsay: Uncharted.

During his visit, he praised the qual­ity of Brist’s olive oils and used them for the dishes he pre­pared on the pro­gram, includ­ing crab and shrimp brudet, a tra­di­tional stew.


I met Ramsay five min­utes before the shoot, and we talked dur­ing the breaks,” Puhar said. He is a great pro­fes­sional, extremely recep­tive and nice. He was gen­uinely delighted with our oils, which his assis­tant con­firmed.”

She added that Ramsay stayed in Istria for four days dur­ing the Covid-19 pan­demic. As a result, he said, the pro­duc­tion process behind the entire episode took place incog­nito.

We had to sign a con­fi­den­tial­ity agree­ment, and they con­tacted us directly, as well as all the other pro­tag­o­nists whose sto­ries were par­tic­u­larly inter­est­ing,” Puhar said.

After the video aired on tele­vi­sion, Brist olive oils became increas­ingly famous. Top chefs still praise them for their ver­sa­til­ity.

The extra vir­gin olive oils are great for cook­ing at high tem­per­a­tures and as a final sea­son­ing for many dishes, from grilled fish and light sal­ads to grilled meat and baked pota­toes.

Some of these dishes, along with the indis­pens­able cod, will be on the hol­i­day menu for Christmas day at the Puhar O’Grady house and in many oth­ers across Istria and Croatia. We’ll man­age with­out Ramsay,” Puhar said.

The fam­ily is par­tic­u­larly happy at Christmas because it is their first break of the year after a busy olive grow­ing and tourist sea­son, includ­ing daily work with guests, tast­ings, guided tours of olive groves and pic­nics among the olive trees.


Lena Puhar O’Grady leads guests in an olive oil tasting at Brist

Immediately after the tourist sea­son ended, the har­vest arrived. After trans­for­ma­tion, the oils had to be fil­tered. Finally, the bot­tles had to be filled and pack­aged, with orders being sent out to arrive at their des­ti­na­tions in time for the hol­i­days.

This year, we also exhib­ited at the Olio Nuovo days in Vodnjan, Istravirgin, and did sev­eral pre­sen­ta­tions of our Olio Nuovo, so we all need to rest and social­ize in peace with our fam­i­lies,” Puhar said.

Christmas Eve in the Puhar O’Grady fam­ily is tra­di­tional. In mem­ory of our nuns who are no longer with us, we pre­pare home­made maneš­tra made of chick­peas and white cod,” Puhar said.

Posutice, pasta topped with fried bread­crumbs, onions and anchovies, is pre­pared as a side dish, with greens, all abun­dantly fla­vored with the best Olio Nuovo,” she added.

We are still arrang­ing the Christmas lunch,” Puhar con­tin­ued. That part is left to my mom, who always pre­pares some­thing new. What is manda­tory is a plate of hearty meat soup and some roast.

After lunch, the fam­ily enjoys a panet­tone for dessert pur­chased from a local bak­ery. We’ll add a few drops of green gold to the panet­tone, too,” Puhar con­cluded.

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