August 24th, 2010
Olive Oil is produced by pressing olives, the fruit of trees native to the Mediterranean Basin. In Mediterranean countries olive oil is the main cooking oil and probably the only oil used in salad dressings. On the whole the oil is strong tasting and not necessarily to the taste of the English, who are more used to vegetable oil. Personally, having lived in France and Spain for a few years, I went native and never looked back. I used olive oil for almost everything, with the exception of goose fat for cooking roast potatoes and some meat dishes. Olive oil often has fruity, peppery flavours, though when you get on to the really good quality oil it becomes similar to choosing expensive wine.
I’m sure you’ve seen expensive oils lining the supermarket shelves, containing all sorts of odd flavourings – particularly at Christmas time. I make my own, it’s very quick and easy to do, plus you know the ingredients are of a reasonable quality (in particular the oil). I’m not suggesting buying very expensive oil for flavouring – that would be a waste. Keep a bottle of Cold Pressed, Unfiltered, Extra Virgin Oli Oil for things that you want to taste of good unadulterated olives. Buy a supermarket brand of Extra Virgin Olive Oil and add flavouring to that, enthuse it, so that you are adding taste to an ordinary, good quality oil.
I have two flavoured oils in the cupboard all the time. One contains garlic and rosemary – I add 6 peeled and squashed pieces of garlic and 8 sprigs of rosemary. Make sure the rosemary is clean and if you wash it, make sure it’s dry before adding it to the oil. If you get water in your oil it will spit when cooking. My other, to hand oil, just contains 10 dried chillies. I recommend leaving any infusion for about a month, in a dark cupboard, before using.
The chilli oil is great on pizza and for cooking spicy foods, while the rosemary and garlic is good for general cooking and very tasty in salad dressing. I’ve noticed that as you use the garlic and rosemary oil, eventually the rosemary will stick out above the oil, when this happens, it’s a good idea to decant it – I did once get some white, powdery, fungus growing on the exposed part (I discarded that and resented wasting it).
Olive oil is considered to be very good for you and is supposed to lower blood pressure and guard against high cholesterol.