How to get on well with culi­nary oils

The Jewish Chronicle - - JC SPECIAL - BY VIC­TO­RIA PREVER

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.


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.

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