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I was thrilled the other day when my Spanish teacher asked me where she could buy decent EVOO for everyday cooking here in Cardiff and I didn’t hesitate to recommend a Spanish EVOO from Aldi (the first one reviewed below). Whilst Aldi do sell some very lovely looking EVOO – mainly I think from Italy and I’ll review their ‘special’ oils in another post but for now, for the next month, I’m going to use exclusively Aldi Olive Oils to cook with. I’ve got four in my kitchen to choose from: three are Solesta – Extra Virgin; Olive Oil; and ‘light in colour’ Olive Oil plus their Kalamata Extra Virgin Olive Oil and I’ve taste tested each one.
First up we have the Solesta Extra Virgin Olive Oil (£2.39 for 750mls), described on the front label as Product of Spain and on the back label as ‘Produced in Spain using EU extra virgin olive oil’. Which brings me to a point worth mentioning. Supermarket EVOOs such as this one are usually a blend of oils – otherwise they couldn’t maintain continuity of flavour from batch to batch. Let’s remember that to be designated as an Extra Virgin oil it has to pass strict chemical analysis and a taste test and be deemed to have no defects. So all the oils used in this particular blend have been approved as Extra Virgin. And what did I think of it in a taste test?
Smell – light, nutty, grassy and a faint hint of peppercorns.
Taste – bitter, walnuts, slightly leafy.
The aftertaste – the peppery taste lingers
With bread – creamy and peppery.
I’d describe this as a robust oil – great on salads or with pasta or bruschetta. Sprinkled across a cooked pizza would really give it a lift.
Next up I turned to the Olive Oil and the Light in Colour Olive Oil and although I did do a tasting of them, frankly there’s not a huge amount to say about them – they aren’t EVOO, they are a blend of virgin and olive oils. They are in the same box on the shelf and from memory are £2.99 for a litre. One has a green cap and the other gold. I probably wouldn’t have paid much attention except I was with a friend who makes fabulous salad dressings and she had bought 6 bottles. When I asked her why 4 had green and 2 gold caps she hadn’t noticed. Now, here’s the interesting bit. The green cap is ‘Ideal for cooking’ and described as: Olive oil composed of refined olives oils and virgin olive oils (20%) while the gold cap is Light in colour Olive Oil ‘Ideal for baking and cooking’ and described as Olive oil composed of refined olive oils and virgin olive oils (1%). That’s a pretty big difference in terms of how much virgin oil it contains. Remember that a virgin oil is extra virgin with 1 or more defects (up to 3.5) so it might almost be an extra virgin!
The green cap Olive Oil has a light, fruity smell, tastes of apples and has no discernible aftertaste. It’s mild and would be great with fish, frying, in homemade bread, croquettes, chocolate or fruit cake. The Light in Colour doesn’t smell of anything, tastes like oil and no aftertaste. It is really mild and would be very good for cooking where you don’t want a flavor from the oil, baking sponge or vanilla cakes. Another point I want to highlight is that the light in colour olive oil is not lighter in calories (and nor does it claim to be) Both the green and gold cap olive oils have 124 calories per tablespoon and the Extra Virgin has 123 calories.
So I’m not making a judgement about which of the olive oils is better to use – they both have a place in your cupboard BUT in terms of quality the Olive Oil with the green cap is a superior grade as it has 19% more virgin oil in it. I’m going to try baking the same cake using both oils and will report back because I’m not convinced you would ever need the ‘Light in Colour’ – to be continued!
And last, but by no means least because it’s actually the best quality of the four oils is the Kalamata EVOO. It is PDO – Protected Designation of Origin which means all the olives used are from the protected region of Kalamata in Greece.
Smell – grass and fruit
Taste – grass, bitter, peppery
Aftertaste – the pepper fades and grass lingers
With bread – peppery and creamy
I’d describe it as a medium oil, great with feta salad, grilled meat or poultry and bruschetta. I’d use it for Greek dishes such as Moussaka and Souvlaki. From memory it was £2.79 for 500mls and it’s a single varietal – i.e. not a blend. It also states the calories per tablespoon as 124.
The point of this experiment is to demonstrate (hopefully) that you only need two or three olive oils in your kitchen (okay I’ve started with four!), from a single supermarket and costing no more than £15 in total. I want to debunk the myth that you need sunflower, olive, rapeseed, coconut, corn etc. – I’m convinced that different grades and types of olive oil will cover everything that most domestic cooks require. We cook from scratch 90+% of the time so let’s see how we get on.
Until next time,