Not only does olive oil have a wonderful flavour, but has a wealth of health benefits as well - rich in mono-unsaturated fats, which reduce the "bad" cholesterol in our blood and increase the "good" cholesterol, and a wide range of natural anti-oxidants, giving protection against cancer and heart disease.
Here are some ways you can include some of this good oil in your diet:
- Drizzle a light spring soup with a little extra virgin olive oil to add flavour and aroma.
- Add a little olive oil to mashed potatoes - the perfect accompaniment to a robust, slow-cooked meat dish.
- Fry fresh sage, basil and parsley leaves in olive oil for a few seconds to garnish savoury dishes. Pat the herbs dry before frying and be careful, as the oil will bubble fiercely. The remaining oil will be infused with the herb flavour.
- Pour olive oil in a thin film over the surface of tomato paste to prevent mould forming.
- The olive oil used in jars of vegetables, olives and fetta cheese can be used again in cooking. Keep it refrigerated. It may solidify or become cloudy, but will liquify at room temperature.
Buying olive oil
Olive oil varies in flavour from country to country and region to region. If you are new to olive oil, buy a small size first to find out which one you like, especially if it is extra virgin. However, olive oil is best used fresh, so buy in a size which you will use fairly rapidly. Four-litre cans are excellent value if you use a lot of oil.
Olive oil is best kept in a dark airtight container in a cool (not cold) place. It will solidify slightly and go cloudy in the fridge, though this will disappear as it returns to room temperature.
Olive oil can be safely re-used up to 10 times after deep-frying, as long as you filter it after each use. Although the natural anti-oxidants in olive oil inhibit rancidity, ideally, olive oil should be used within one year of production.
Increasingly, we are starting to see olive oils named after the variety of olive from which they are made, in much the same way wines are labeled in Australia.
See Recipe Finder's article Which olive oils to use