by Donna Scopelletti, Varapodio Estate
When we hear about ‘extra virgin olive oil’ we mostly associate it with healthy salads or light cooking. But it’s really so much more that in which you can do with this miracle-working/versatile ingredient.
To those in the process of developing their culinary skills as well as foodie lovers out there – there’s a whole new world of foods awaiting you! Cooking, baking, salads, roasting, frying, you can do just about anything with it. But you do need to keep in mind that you opt for extra virgin olive oil and not just anything and this comes back to a conversation about taste or flavour. Extra Virgin is also an expression of health and goes hand-in-hand with the health benefits which are synonymous with this product.
Olive Oils can be defined as:
- Extra Virgin olive oil – from fresh olives has a low Free fatty acid content
- Virgin olive oil – is an old extra virgin olive oil or oil is from poorly harvested or handled fruit and oxidation have occurred
- Refined olive oil – is typically an old virgin olive oil and has been refined to strip away Free fatty acids (sometimes this process occurs several times)
Refined oils are chemically treated and offer far less in terms of health benefits compared to Extra Virgin Olive Oil from fresh olives. Chemical processing refined oil strips away the flavour and antioxidant properties thereby leaving you with a tasteless gutted oil.
SMOKE POINT MYTH: Extra Virgin olive oil .. particularly Australian produced has very low smoking point due to the low Free Fatty acid (FFA) content. As oils age the FFA raises with the age of the oil and this directly correlates to smoke point… (this is essentially oxidation and no olive oil gets better with age). Older virgin oils typically will not be able to tolerate heat as long as an extra virgin olive oil in comparison. Here is more on the Science. Smoke point may be a dead argument as depending on the type of food and what you want to do, each type of food will have a different point which you want to cook it to. So, in cooking you are taking the food to the desired temperature rather than the argument at which olive oil will smoke at. Many fresh Extra Virgin Olive Oils with low FFA could be taken to 200-220 degrees celcius without issue. However, all cooking oils smoke at a certain point.
For the sake of cooking and health, you’re really better off by choosing premium quality extra virgin olive oil because of the flavour value. Typically, EVOO sourced from Mildura and other parts of Australia are generally true to label. Having said that let’s look at all the cooking mediums you can explore with a fresh extra virgin olive oil!
Dress away!: This is how you take baby steps when learning how to cook with extra virgin olive oil. Using this in your salad dressing means you get to keep things delicious and healthy at the same time. With its earthy flavour, it enhances the flavour of the other ingredients. Nuts, seeds, honey, and mustard make for hit combinations. These dressings will keep you coming back for seconds.
Indulge in those roasts: Think roasts and you’re bound to deem it unhealthy! Using virgin olive oil can definitely help reduce the calorie carnival you’re about to dig into. This miracle-worker compliments the flavour that the roasting technique generally gives off.
Its peppery finish is bound to take your roasted dish to a totally new level. When roasting you need to keep in mind that you opt for premium quality extra virgin olive oil to tolerate higher heating.
Frying done right: Remember all those fried food items you feel guilty about? Here’s a way to do it right – fry with extra virgin olive oil. Not only does all that good fat maintain the health quotient, you’d be surprised at how good the food tastes too! Having so many flavours at your disposable just might inspire the chef in you.
Making baking better: You’re bound to have used extra virgin olive oil for your baking at some point or the other. And if you haven’t, you don’t know what you’re missing out on! It is an excellent substitute for butter and no, it doesn’t result in burnt food. Oh, but here’s the best part, by baking I don’t just mean main courses but also desserts! Yes, that’s right! Get ready to be delighted with moist and delicious dishes straight out of the oven.
The best marinade: With its distinct flavour, it works wonders when used in meat marinades. If you’ve been looking for healthy marinating options, you’re going to fall in love with this newbie ingredient you just met. Combine it with citrus ingredients and spices and you’ve got yourself a winner!
Say good-bye to savouring the amazing taste of olive oil just by dribbling it on your food. It’s time to get into your kitchen and enjoy all your favourite meals with the goodness of extra-virgin olive oil. And you never know, you just might land up cooking up an entirely new dish!
About the author:
Donna Scopelliti is one of the owners of Varapodio Estate, which is known for its extra virgin olive oil processing. If ever in the area don’t forget to opt for an olive oil tour in Mildura. Varapodio Estate based in Mildura, VIC offers olive oil processing facilities throughout the season, functions, tours and kids parties.
For further details: contact Donna