Ode to Oils

Oil, be it a fruity olive oil, an aromatic sesame or walnut oil or a mild safflower, peanut or canola oil, adds the finishing flavour to any salad or main course.

It also complements or accentuates the taste of the individual ingredients. For the best results and maximum flavour, always buy the best oil that you can afford.

Store oils in tightly sealed bottles in a dark, cool place, but not in the refrigerator. Nut oils have an intense flavour and should be used sparingly. They are much more susceptible to spoilage and quickly turn rancid in hot conditions, so buy them in small quantities and use them as quickly as possible.

Canola (rapeseed) Oil

A mildly nutty monounsaturated oil that is good in salads and for use as a general cooking oil.

Grapeseed Oil

This oil varies in taste from delicately dry to mild and fruity. It is rich in the antioxidant vitamin E.

Peanut (groundnut) Oil

The mild flavour is good for lighter salad dressings. It is a very good cooking oil for stir–frying as it does not intrude on the other flavours.

Olive Oil

Olive oil is the classic for most vinaigrettes. Different varieties of olive and a different growing region will give the oil its own special properties, and it can be peppery, salty, fruity, creamy, mild and so on. Ideally, have at least one basic mild extra virgin olive oil in your pantry and experiment with other types. Olive oil, used in moderation, is considered one of the healthiest oils available, because it is high in monounsaturated fatty acids, which seem to help to lower blood cholesterol. Olive oil is also rich in phytochemicals and vitamin E.

Safflower Oil

One of the very mild, virtually flavourless oils, like sunflower, peanut or canola oil.

Sesame Oil

This is pressed from unroasted or roasted sesame seeds and ranges from mild to strong and darkly coloured. Use just a few drops combined with a more neutral–tasting oil. Use the darker type in Asian–style salads with chilies and soy sauce.

Nut Oils

Walnut and hazelnut are the most popular nut oils. Only a few drops are needed, as with sesame oil. Use combined with another mild oil such as peanut to impart just a hint of their flavour. The nutty taste and aroma go well with salads that include cheese, chicken, celery, spinach, apples and green beans.

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