Tuesday, 22 June 2010

From black gold to golden goodness!


And midsummer's day came and went, as ever in sub zero gloomy weather and prompting the predictable comment 'can you believe it's midsummer?'

And in the same way as England's footballers each get paid the same amount as the GDP of the smaller nations that beat them and in the same way there's a near first round coup at Wimbledon and in the same way we're all going to be stung by huge tax rises at today's budget, 'yes, we can believe that it's midsummer!

n.b. why didn't we set a deal with the England team that for every World Cup match they fail to win, they pay back some of their extortionate unjustified earnings to refill the nation's empty coffers...

Midsummer also marks the end of the British asparagus season so...

This week's Food of the Week is Oil (...and not the BP variety)

Did you know 95% of the world's olive trees are found in the mediterranean region and Spain accounts for over one third of the world's olive oil production?

If you ever travel to Andalucia, drive through the area close to Baena and you'll be blown away by a polka dot frenzy of olive trees as far as the eye can see in every direction. Alternatively, the best olive trees I've ever seen were in Puglia (the heel of Italy and biggest region for italian olive oil production) where the trees are ancient and gnarly, looking as though they're about to come to life!

Extra Virgin Olive Oil doesn't make you fat

True or false?! I don't have clinical evidence to prove this but I was once told by a very slim Sicilian Mamma who was merrily sloshing oil over every foodtype possible that I shouldn't worry as good oil goes straight through you and doesn't make you fat. Fast food and processed food make you fat.
I'll leave the math to you!

There are huge numbers of olive oil varieties - from different olive types to different methods of extraction to just basic industrialised olive oil made up of any old olive. The million dollar question always remains...

How much should you spend and is it worth it?

...and as always the answer is 'depends'

For day to day use in cooking, I think it's fine to have a good quality cheap-ish oil that's not specialist

For salads, or dishes where you will really taste the oil, I think you should spend a bit more and have an oil which adds to the dish rather than takes a supporting role

How much you spend is up to you but £12-15 for one litre of excellent olive oil is a good investment as you'll only use a little at a time.

Where can I find good olive oil?

Taste is subjective so you need to try different oils. Personally, I like Brindisa's choice of Nunez de Prado oil (helped by the fact my big sister helped the old men put the labels on the bottles) but my favourite by a long way is Giuseppe at Borough Market's Calabrian extra virgin olive oil.
Beautiful oil, beautiful flavours from varieties that I've never seen anywhere else and oil that is clear in warm temperatures and cloudy and thick in midwinter. Put this oil on anything and you'll love it AND it's about £12/£13 a bottle!

Giuseppe has funny hair and a strong Italian accent. He is passionate about the food from his home town selling all sorts of beautiful produce from n'duja to wild oregano to jars of olives so jampacked with herbs they ooze the wild aromas of Southern Italy.

Sometimes Giuseppe disappears for a siesta but you'll probably find him under the counter of his stall!

Normally, you can find him in the Jubilee section of Borough Market on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

Note to tree huggers
If you want to reduce your food miles, try RAPESEED oil that is produced in Britain. Great for frying anything as it has a really high smoke point (better than olive oil) with lots of health benefits and now becoming more widely available. I haven't found one that is as tasty as Giuseppe's for use in salads yet but I'm sure it won't be long

Note to gourmets
Walnut oil (France) or Pumpkin seed oil (Austria) are beautiful oils with amazing flavours that make something really really special. They're expensive though but you can find walnut oil off the side of the road in Dordogne (see pic) or pumpkin seed oil cheap as chips from the supermarkets in Austria if you have holidays planned!!!

Restaurant of the Week

No restaurant of the week this week. It's World Cup and Wimbledon so everyone's staying in!



  1. I second your liking of Nunez de Prado so now I may have to try the Calabrian at Borough. Francesco Mazzek swears by it.

  2. another beautiful olive oil is from Lino Olivieri Olive oil, it is very peppery and intense - he sells it in Dublin, however he has shipped some to my family in the UK for me, and because it is from his farm in Puglia, there is no middle man, the prices are extremely reasonable.

  3. Dear Susan, i am happy that you find the best olive tree in Puglia, i am from the north of Puglia, Vieste, Gargano. we are producing some very good extra virgin olive oil in our farm where some of the tree are more than 300 years old. we are selling in Ireland and soon New Internationalist in Oxford will start to sell in their Christmas Catalogue in UK, please let me know if you would like to try some, free of charge of course. our website is olivierioliveoil.com