Three times a year, my parents visit a small independent mill in the South of France to stock up on olive oil. The production quantity is tiny, the oil is delicious. I have been known to bring back a couple of jerricans at a time in my luggage. If you are lucky to have enough olive trees in your garden, the miller will even extract and bottle your own homegrown olive oil.
The Mediterranean Diet is highly credited for its health benefits and relies heavily on olive oil. What makes this oil so special is that it is high in monounsaturated fats and these are considered much healthier than saturated fats or trans fats. Besides healthy fats, olive oil is also high in antioxidants.
Even though it is great for our health, let’s not forget that the Mediterranean Diet is also built upon balanced nutrition, rich in fruit, vegetables, wholegrain, fish, nuts, pulses and little meat.
I use plenty of olive oil in my cooking. I tend to keep two kinds: extra virgin and light. As a general rule of thumb, I use extra virgin for dressings, hummus, dips or any dish that is eaten raw. There is conflicting advice when it comes to cooking with it. Frankly I do not have the answer on whether you should or not. I simply don’t, because I feel it is a waste of money and prefer using a cheaper light olive oil for cooking and baking.
The aroma of olive oil can be dramatically different from one brand to the next. Everyone’s taste is different, so it is worth shopping around. Also, spending a little bit more on a quality extra virgin quality can make a really big difference on how your dishes will taste.
Olive oil is a favourite ingredient at Jamie’s Italian (including the branch in Norwich). They have produced the following handy infographic to show how best to choose and use it. Clear and concise, it will help you choose the right type depending on your own personal taste and the dish you are making.