Food For Thought: Good Oil

We are somewhat horrified at the consumption of olive oil in our house and have started purchasing in bulk and direct from the producer to feed the habit.

This liquid gold can fetch some pretty hefty prices and I always wonder how many people are discouraged by the price tag and choose to purchase inferior oil? For us, it has to be local, full-bodied virgin olive oil and preferably on tap! Although it can be an expensive kitchen commodity, it is really how and when you use it that makes it worthwhile. Expect to pay more for Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) it is the best oil from the harvest and cannot contain more than 0.8 percent acidity. EVOO is completely unadulterated oil, extracted mechanically from the fruit without the use of chemicals or high temperatures, resulting in an herbaceous, creamy, grass like oil. This gentle method of extrusion and the absence of chemicals, produce an oil full of health benefi ts that other oils struggle to rival. Purchase EVOO in dark bottles to avoid light damage and small quantities to avoid it going rancid whilst in your pantry. Virgin Olive Oil (VOO) should be slightly more affordable and used more freely. VOO is the one to buy in bulk and use everyday. Avoid labeling that mentions refined, extra light or pure olive oil as they have most likely been chemically processed and/or diluted with other oils. Refined oils and the ones most commonly used in processed foods should be avoided. Refined canola, vegetable and sunflower for example are relatively new inventions and far from natural. In the 1900s we discovered ways of modifying crops and chemical methods to extract the oil from them. Some crops reportedly use petroleum solvent to extract the oil and then it is again chemically treated to give it a clear and more glossy hue for the end consumer, us! The success of these oils, other than the cost, is most likely due to its high smoking point, providing the perfect oil for the deep fryer. Many say not to cook with extra and/or virgin olive oil but when used at lower temperatures it can provide a dish with sensational body and flavour. When you find yourself frying, grilling or barbequing look for oils that have high smoking points but are organic and naturally processed. Organic cold pressed grape seed oil is a great alternative and becoming readily available. Buy direct and in bulk from the producer for your everyday virgin olive oil, the cost is significantly less and you will know exactly where and how your oil is being produced. Treat extra virgin olive oil like liquid gold, invest in the good stuff and it will reward you will countless health benefits and sensational flavour. Virgin Olive Oil Poached Salmon with Pickled Cucumber Recipe Ingredients • 1 side of salmon (leaving the skin on makes it easier to handle) • 2 litres of virgin olive oil • Dill sprigs • 2 tablespoons fennel seeds • 2 bay leaves • 12 peppercorns • 3 Lebanese cucumbers • 6 tablespoons white wine vinegar • 1 tablespoon caster sugar • 1/2 teaspoon salt Method 1. Pour the olive oil into a shallow heavy based baking tray that can be used on the stovetop and will be a snug fit for your side of salmon. 2. Add the dill, fennel seeds, bay leaves and peppercorns. 3. Heat the oil to 60 degrees (I place a candy thermometer on the side of the pan). Gently slide whole side of salmon into the warm oil and maintain the temperature of 60 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes or until the salmon has just turned opaque. 4. Turn the heat off and leave the salmon to steep for 10 minutes. 5. Carefully remove and drain on paper towel. 6. For the pickled cucumber, bring the white wine vinegar, sugar and salt to the boil. Turn off the heat and leave to cool completely. 7. Peel and slice the cucumbers, sprinkle with a ¼ teaspoon of salt and leave to drain in a colander for 10 minutes. 8. Combine the drained cucumber and vinegar mixture. 9. Serve the salmon at room temperature with the pickled cucumbers, mayonnaise and toasted rye bread for the perfect starter or make up bite size versions for delicious canapés.

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