Obtained from the ripe fruit of the olive tree native to the Mediterranean region, olive oil has conquered the world and is now one of the key ingredients in modern healthy cooking. It can be used both for cooking and baking, but it’s the raw olive oil in your salads and accompanying your food, that really showcases the actual value of this great product.
Picking out the oil you should choose no other than extra virgin olive oil. Not only because cold-pressed, unprocessed oils are most valuable for your health, but also because in terms of flavour only unrefined high-quality olive oil truly shows off the great range of unique flavours going from tangy, peppery, woody, grassy to mild, fresh, floral or fruity – to name just a few of them.
The flavour of olive oil is a combination of the region the olive trees are growing and the ripeness of the harvested fruit herself: oil pressed from less ripe olives often has a pungent, spicy taste, whereas ripe olives generally produce a milder, sweeter flavour. With time, olive oil loses its bitterness – it mellows and becomes more soft and delicate.
Extra virgin olive oil usually has a slightly bitter taste. This is actually no disadvantage, on the contrary: the bitterness in extra virgin olive oil indicates freshness and a high amount of polyphenols – refined oils are lacking both aroma and the healthy antioxidants. Now, if that’s not going to reconcile you with your oil, what is?
In case you were wondering: green olives are the same fruit as the black ones, with the difference that they were picked still unripe – hence the green colour. As olives ripen they get reddish, then purplish and eventually black.
When buying olives in brine, watch out for the perfectly black glossy kind. The appealing uniform colouring has nothing natural about it and comes from adding an artificial iron compound colourant (Ferrous Gluconate). If you want black olives nobody has been messing around with, you should go for the untreated ones, easily recognised by the various shades of rich dark colours such as purple, green, brown or black. Also, do not buy pitted olives! Removing an olive pit is dead easy, so taking a pass on the satisfying, authentic flavour of a whole olive just because we believe pitting a few olives is going to save us heaps of time, is a real shame.
When buying olive oil, avoid transparent bottles and look for dark ones instead: the exposure to light has a deteriorating impact on the oil making it go rancid much faster. At home, store the oil in a dark cool place. Don’t put it in the refrigerator though: as it is too cold, most olive oils become thick and cloudy and while they recover their texture at room temperature completely, the fine aroma and flavour get lost in the long run.
An olive oil tasting can help you find your favourite kind of oil and introduces you to a huge variety of flavours. Get a few different olive oils and some good baguette or ciabatta bread. Pour your olive oils into little saucers and dip the bread in. Yum!
Infused olive oil
Infusing olive oil with additional flavours using herbs or spices adds yet another delicious dimension to your cooking and transforms well-known dishes into something new and exciting.
Flavours to infuse your oil with:
fresh herbs such as rosemary, oregano, thyme
organic lemon peel
thinly sliced lemon grass
freshly roasted almonds or walnuts
dried wild mushrooms
… and anything you think might taste good. Just give it a try!
Flavouring olive oil is really easy. First you decide on the flavour, then you gather the ingredients you want around you, and finally you choose which way to go:
Put your ingredients into a saucepan or a small pot and gently heat them up. Keep the heat low and be careful not to bring the oil to the boil. After a couple of minutes take it off the heat and set aside to cool off. After two hours take out the herbs/sieve out the spices and pour the oil into bottles – your flavoured oil is ready to use.
When using fresh herbs, always make sure they don’t have any water on them before you go any further. Put the ingredients of your choice into bottles and cover completely with olive oil. Leave the bottles in a dark cool place for about one week so the oil can absorb all the flavours. However: while the infused oils prepared over heat will keep for a long time, this type of oil should be used within a couple of weeks after preparation.
Because the leftover particles in the oil burn very easily, infused oils should not be used for frying.
1 part of lemon juice
4 parts of olive oil
1 tsp of Dijon mustard
sea salt, coarse-ground pepper
In a bowl combine lemon juice, mustard and salt. Mix until the salt dissolves. Add olive oil and whisk until the ingredients blend together. Season with black pepper.