SELECTING OLIVE OILS

The easiest way to ensure that you are cooking great dishes is to stock your kitchen with quality ingredients. And this includes all the basics from your salt (I only use Maldon sea salt) and pepper to your Olive Oils.

Italy produces thousands of Olive Oils so choosing a good one can be a daunting task. To start you off here is some information on the three types of olive oils that you see in shops; extra virgin, virgin, and olive oil.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil: Olives go through three sets of pressing in order to extract as much oil as possible. Extra Virgin Olive Oil is the first pressing making it the purest and giving it the strongest flavour. It is great for salads and drizzling over cooked food such as fish.

Virgin Olive Oil: Virgin Oil is the second pressing of the olives. It has a weaker flavour and is best used for cooking. This is because when olive oil is heated over 60 degrees Celsius you loose most of the flavour and and goodness of the oil so it is not worth wasting extra virgin olive oil for this.

Olive Oil: When you see bottles of oil that only say Olive Oil or Pomace Olive Oil it means that this is oil from the third pressing of the olives. Personally I would recommend avoiding this. Simply because in order to extract the final drops of oil from the olives both chemicals and heat are added to process taking away from the healthy and natural benefits of oil.

A mistake that people often make when buying olive oil is to judge the oil by it’s colour. The colour of olive oils does not have a direct relationship to it’s flavour, it is simply a reflection on the percentage of dark to green olives that were used to make that oil. If an olive oil is cloudy, however, it means that this is a newer oil and will often indicate a stronger flavour. These oils are good for salads, rich sauces, soups and heavier meats such as lamb.

Oils from various Italian regions will vary in flavour. For example olive oils from Sicily have a grassy flavour whereas Tuscan oils have a more artichoke like flavour. The best way to determine which oil to buy is to decide what you mostly use extra virgin olive oil for and then buy one that you think will best compliment this. Below are the different strengths of olive oils and should help you to determine which strength of oil you should buy.

Strength: Low Intensity/Delicate

  • Flavour:Smooth and mild, delicate, light, elegant flavor, mellow yet rich with a slight bitterness and fruitiness
  • Goes well with: Fish, Eggs, Mayonnaise and Tender Salad Greens 

Medium

  • Flavour: Intensely olive fruity, pleasant bitterness and pungency with flavours of artichoke, avocado and a peppery finish
  • Goes well with: Salads, Grilled Chicken, White Meat, Lamb, Vegetables, Fresh Pasta and great for dipping with bread. 

Robust/ Intense

  • Flavour: Intensely bold and assertive, pungent and spicy with grassy flavours of artichoke, tomato and herbs.
  • Goes well with: Rich Pasta Sauces, Bitter greens, Spicy dishes, Soups, Stews, Grilled meats & roasts and lastly Bruschetta

I cook a large variety of things so I have a great extra virgin olive oil that I feel comfortable serving with pretty much everything. It’s from a great producer and family friend called Marina Colonna and her estate is between Molise and Puglia. She produces very high quality oils and is extremely passionate about her products. You can order her Extra Virgin live Oil directly from the farm. Check out her website for more information. http://www.marinacolonna.it/en/