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On opening the cupboard in my Spanish friend’s kitchen recently I was surprised to find only one type of oil – Extra Virgin Olive Oil. “But where are the others?” I asked. “What others?” she replied, completely mystified. “Sunflower, Corn, Rapeseed, Olive Oil” I listed (and I hadn’t even started on sesame, peanut, coconut …)
After several minutes of me explaining how I use each oil my friend looked at me aghast. “But I use Extra Virgin Olive Oil for all those things” she concluded genuinely perplexed. Which got me thinking, researching and experimenting and here are 3 things that I discovered, and that you might not know, about cooking with EVOO:
Perhaps the most controversial area of cooking with EVOO is whether or not it’s suitable for deep-fat frying (although nowadays many of us either avoid this at home completely or use an air-fryer which uses only a spoonful of oil). The short answer is YES. Arguments tend to focus on the smoke point of an oil and those refined oils (such as sunflower, corn, vegetable and ordinary olive oil) tend to have a smoke point of around 220 degrees C while EVOO is usually quoted as having a smoke point around 190 degrees C. When you consider though that this is also the ideal temperature for deep frying chips, you can see why those skinny fries served in many Spanish bars not only taste so good, but are also pretty healthy.
In addition to the huge volume of evidence about the value of EVOO as part of a Mediterranean Diet, there are also plenty of studies showing the nutritional value of cooking certain foods with EVOO.
Fat soluble vitamins such as Vitamin E (in Carrots for instance) are more readily absorbed by the body when cooked in Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Fish and shellfish similarly benefit from EVOO cooking as higher levels of both Vitamin E and polyphenols are absorbed by the body than would be the case eating fish and olive oil separately. Similarly, the antioxidants in olive oil help to prevent the breakdown of Omega-3 in the fish.
EVOO can be used to bake everything from breads to pastry and cookies to cakes. Where you have to be more careful is
when switching from butter, margarine or lard (which are solid fats) to olive oil (which is a liquid). In this case, simply reduce the amount to three quarters of the original quantity. Thus, if a recipe calls for 1 cup of butter, use 3/4 cup of oil (or 150 mls of oil for 250 grams of fat for those who prefer weights to volume). Although of course there are many fabulous recipes available, where the author has done the hard work of conversion for you such as The Olive Oil Diet by Dr. Simon Poole (a full-time GP and renowned international commentator on the Mediterranean Diet) and Judy Ridgway (acclaimed food writer and olive oil expert).
Yep, you read that correctly! This method of cooking is the exact opposite of deep frying as the food is cooked very slowly on a low heat, submerged in olive oil. This long cooking time breaks down the connective tissue in the meat resulting in a beautifully moist, tender texture.
You might think that submerging food in oil for a long time would result in a finished dish that is greasy but, in fact, the opposite is true.
The oil’s function is to keep the liquid inside the meat and as we all know that oil and water don’t mix so the oil forms a thin layer on the outside of the meat without being absorbed into it. There’s a great sounding recipe for Confit of Chicken in the most recent issue of the North American Olive Oil Association’s (NAOOA) blog. They also advise that fish, garlic cloves and onions are delicious made using this technique and that the oil is reusable after cooling and straining.
So there you have it, three great new ways to add super healthy Extra Virgin Olive Oil into your cooking.
Until next time.