How to get on well with culinary oils
N THESE days of super-healthy eating, Chanucah might not seem to fit your regime. For eight days it’s all about the oil. But not all oils are the same. Olive oil might have been the Maccabees’ flavour of the month, but why not mix it up a bit this Chanucah?
Sunflower oil is polyunsaturated, a good source of antioxidant vitamin E. It can actually help lower cholesterol. Flavourless, it works well in salad dressings, cakes and, mixed with olive oil, for mayonnaise (on its own, olive oil can produce mayo that is bitter with a greenish hue). Sunflower is not recommended for deep-frying, as it breaks down at deep-frying temperatures.
Olive oil includes monounsaturated fatty acids and antioxidants, to fight heart disease, ulcers and gastritis. It is graded by acidity — the highest quality being extra-virgin, produced from the first press and the least processed. Virgin oil is from the second pressing and the confusingly named “pure olive oil” is actually the most filtered and refined. Save that one for frying.
The less refined the oil, the greater the likelihood of its deteriorating; it is best to store your extra-virgin olive oil away from light and heat — in an opaque container such as a metal tin.
Cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil contains the highest proportion of monounsaturated fatty acids and antioxidants and the deepest flavour. It is more expensive, so reserve it for seasoning and flavouring, rather than cooking. Drizzle it over salads, use as a dip for bread with balsamic vinegar or glaze, or in pesto, or add to soup or risotto just before serving. Fruitier olive oils work well in cakes, particularly orange- or lemon-flavoured ones — a useful parev pudding.
Now well established on the supermarket shelf, this gorgeously golden extravirgin oil has just six per cent saturated fat, compared to 14 per cent for olive oil and 10 for sunflower. It also scores well for omegas, with a ratio of 2:1 omega 6 to omega 3, as recommended for a healthy diet. And it contains vitamin E — which helps to preserve the omega 3 in cooking and maintains its nutritional value. With a high smoke point (see above right), rapeseed is a useful oil for sautéing, frying and even deepfrying.
Pressed from the white flesh of coconuts, this oil is almost 50 per cent lauric acid, a saturated fatty acid. Research suggests this form of fat is used up more quickly by the body and is less likely to be stored as body fat, so it is deemed “healthier” but it is still best used in moderation. It is solid at room temperature, so it’s not ideal for salad dressings. But it is good in parev baking and as a parev replacement for butter on toast or in jacket potatoes. A high smoke point ( see above right) means you can fry or roast with it — but find an odourless version, or your food will taste and smell of coconut.
HEMP SEED OIL
This is richer in essential fatty acids omega 3, 6 and 9 than other cooking oils and has half the saturated fat of olive oil. Just one tablespoonful will provide 94 per cent of your recommended daily intake of omega 3s. It can be used for stir-frying, dipping and in salad dressings, but has a strong, nutty flavour disliked by some.
is perfect for winter salads, especially those with apples and cheese.
distinctive flavour works well for Asian dishes. It’s good for frying, with a high smoke point (right).
is a buttery oil packed with monounsaturated fats as well as lutein, said to be good for heart health. It has a super-high smoke point (see below) but is probably too expensive to use for deep-frying. Instead, use in salad dressings, as a soup garnish, for dipping or for drizzling over pizza.
is richly aromatic and packed with vitamin E. Use it to flavour cooked rice, on pasta, or in salad dressings. Some like to add a few drops to their morning coffee.
Smoke point i s the temperature at which oil overheats. At this level (which varies from oil to oil) the oil will smoke, smell of burning and give food a rancid taste. Nutritional value degrades and carcinogenic free radicals may also be created — so make sure you deep-fry in an oil that is specifically labelled as for that purpose. The oils that have the highest smoke points and are affordable in the larger volumes needed for deep-frying are rapeseed, vegetable and corn oil.
Deep-fried food absorbs less fat than shallow-fried. You can limit fat absorption by frying at the right temperature. If the oil is too cool, food will take longer to cook, absorb more oil and end up greasy. If too hot, it may burn. The optimum temperature for latkefrying is 180° to 190°C. Test with a thermometer or by frying a cube of bread. If the bread browns in 60 seconds, the oil temperature will be about 185°C. To keep the oil at the right temperature, limit the size of your frying batch — overloading the pan will bring down the temperature too far. Give the oil time to get back up to heat before the next batch.