Olive oil is one of those products that should be in everyone’s store cupboard. It is not only beneficial for a healthy diet but can also be used to replace butter, margarine, and other spreads. While butter may taste delicious it is made from saturated fat while margarine is likely to have been chemically treated, and is often combined with other ingredients.
Virgin olive oils are made solely from the fruit of olive trees, and are produced through natural extraction that won’t change the oil. The oil can, however, be a blend of refined olive oil and virgin / extra virgin olive oils.
Countries with regions that have mild winters and dry hot summers are likely to have olive trees, and plantations can be found as far away as Israel, China and India. The label identifies where the oil is from, and it is worth noting that colour is not an indication of quality.
Olive oil doesn’t last forever, and when shopping it is worth considering how much you are likely to use. Shelf life, once opened, is anywhere from eight to twelve weeks as it degrades over time. The fresher the oil the better but it can be kept sealed for up to two years so it is important to check the ‘best by’ date.
Enemies are heat, light and air. Store your oil in a dark bottle or tin. Putting oil in a bottle with a spout may look lovely but if left exposed to the air it is likely to oxidise and become rancid. Avoid plastic bottles or metal containers made from iron or copper as they could cause a reaction. Store in a cool, dark place, never near a stove.
Olive oil tastings aren’t as common as wine tastings but are a fun way to learn about di erent extra virgin olive oils. Arrange a tasting with friends, asking each person to bring a bottle, making sure that they are all di erent. This may include oil where
the producer has infused di erent herbs. Pour a little into a glass, cupping the glass with your hands to warm the oil, and then sni it. Drink
some sparkling water between tastings to cleanse your palate.
For a quick starter or light lunch, where extra virgin olive oil isamust,one of my favourite recipes is Italian Bruschetta
- Ciabatta bread cut into thick slices
- Large ripe beef tomato(s), the redder the better, chopped finely removing the centre pith
- Garlic clove
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Fresh basil leaves
- Salt & PepperPreheat the oven to 200o C. Put the slices on a tray and bake on both sides until the bread is a golden colour. Take out, and immediately rub the garlic over the hot bread so it sinks into the toast. Drizzle the olive oil over each slice. Stack the chopped tomato on top and finish with a leaf or two of basil. Drizzle over some more olive oil and season. Delicious eaten warm but can also be served cold.The Magazine Connection is a group of four high quality magazines delivered to 23500 homes on the North Hampshire/Surrey borders. Designed to help local businesses promote their products/services to residents the magazines (the first of which was published in 2005) have a truly local feel, with local photos on the covers and lots of Community Content. They also include interesting articles among which is a regular column “Food Trends” written by Natasha Blair. www.themagazineconnection.co.uk