1. Olive oil
“Olive oil is a good-quality oil to cook with and must be used with good quality ingredients”, says Keith Frisley. He uses olive oil for unusual dishes such as black olive and olive oil sorbet. “Look at what you are going to cook before choosing the oil,” says Keith. “Use extra-virgin, cold-extracted oil for fish, vegetables and salads.”
Keith suggests developing your own discerning taste for good oil, not simply accepting a label’s claim that it is “best quality”. “You are the person who defines what quality is,” he says. Keith says our local olive oils are every bit as good as those imported. “If your knowledge of oils is limited, learn more about them. Develop and build up your knowledge, and most importantly, ask questions. To really experience and appreciate oil, do an oil tasting as you would a wine tasting. It may not be appealing, but pour a little oil in a glass, swivel it, smell it, sip it, and experience it fully. Let the oil speak for itself.”
GREAT FOR: Pasta, salads, vegetables and even desserts.
TASTE: Distinct characteristics of the olive.
SMOKING POINT: About 240 °C.
HEALTH BENEFITS: Low in cholesterol, it helps keep the heart and circulation system healthy.
Keith Frisley is executive chef at the Fairlawns Boutique Hotel & Spa, 1 Alma Road, Sandton 2191, Johannesburg.
Call 011 804 2540.
2. Infused olive oil
“I love using extra-virgin olive oils infused with lemon, basil or white truffle,” says Chantel Dartnall. “I use olive oil in everything.” Be cautious in your use of flavoured oils, says Chantel: “Flavoured oils should never be used for cooking, as the flavour will disappear and the oil may also turn rancid.” She suggests drizzling these oils on after the cooking is done or using them in salad dressings. “Always consider the smoking point of oil,” she says. “When it is overheated, it will start to smoke, which can give the food a very unpleasant taste. When choosing flavoured oils for salads, use virgin or extra-virgin olive oils. Purchase a very small amount of the oils and keep them aside just for salads. If you are selecting oil purely for cooking, plain olive oils are the best choice.”
GREAT FOR: Fish (lemon-scented oils). Drizzle a bit over the fish just as you take it out of the pan.
TASTE: Sweet and velvety.
SMOKING POINT: 210 °C. Optimal frying temperature is 180°C.
HEALTH BENEFITS: The natural antioxidants in olive oils combat free radicals in the body and have been shown to help protect against certain cancers,” says Linda Costa, microbiologist and consultant to the olive industry.
Chantel Dartnall is chef patron of Restaurant Mosaic at The Orient Boutique Hotel, Elandsfontein.
Call 012-371-2903/4 .
3. Sunflower or canola oil
“Sunflower and canola oils are great for cooking, especially deep-frying,” says Stephen Billingham. “They are my preferred oils because of their ability to make things golden and crisp. They have proved to be the best oils for longevity and provide food with the best taste.” Stephen uses sunflower or canola oil for his fish in beer batter, to make it rich and crispy. When choosing cooking oil, he says, “Look at the price and the life of the oil. There are a lot of substitute inferior oils on the market. Look at the back of the label to see where and how it is made. Oil is not as cheap as it used to be, therefore you must cherish and look after it. If it is cleaned and filtered carefully according to instructions, you can reuse oil, but do not reuse oil that has been burnt. Treat your oil with tender loving care. Some restaurants push their oil too far and try to make it cook for as long as possible, which is why you get food such as chips that look brown or black. Get rid of your oil as soon as it begins to darken.”
GREAT FOR: Deep-frying and bulk cooking.
TASTE: Pleasant, non-greasy and light in texture.
SMOKING POINT: 230 °C.
HEALTH BENEFITS: Rich in Omega 6, according to Professor Nola Dippenaar of Health Insight.
Stephen Billingham is president of the South African Chefs Association and director of the HTA School of Culinary Art, 128 Bram Fischer Drive, Randburg. Call 011-285-0916/37.
4. Apricot kernel oil
“Apricot kernel oil is not an everyday oil,” says Reuben Riffel. “It is best to use it carefully in dishes as it is can be expensive.” Reuben likes to use apricot kernel oil to add flavour to salads. “It also works well with interesting dessert combinations, dressings and vinaigrettes. Use it over cooked fish or poached fruit.” When using oil in cooking, Reuben favours canola oil as well as grapeseed oil: “It is the most neutral oil. I find it excellent for the preparation of Mediterranean-style food.” He says that the smoking point of the oil is very important as the heat affects the flavour of the oil, and thus the food.
GREAT FOR: Drizzling over warm dishes or salads.
TASTE: Slight almond, almost amaretto flavour.
SMOKING POINT: Apricot kernel oil is better uncooked. Grapeseed oil can safely be used for high temperature cooking.
HEALTH BENEFIT: It is believed to slow the ageing process as it is high in monounsaturated fat and contains no trans-fatty acids.
5. Truffle oil
“I love truffle oil,” says Coco Reinarhz. “I could put it in a glass and place it in front of my desk. I first fell in love with it in Brussels, in a two-Michelinstar restaurant called La Trusse Noire, which means black truffle. Everything that they serve has truffle in it, including their desserts. I had a black truffle ice cream with mixed berries marinated in truffle oil.” Coco uses truffle oil for his veal sweetbreads with oyster mushrooms. “When I serve this in my restaurant, I drizzle a bit of truffle oil on the hot plate so that the guests will be engulfed in the captivating smell of the truffle.” For healthy cooking, Coco says, “Most vegetables oils are rich in vitamins, antioxidants, which reduce bad cholesterol and the risk of cancer.” He recommends looking at the smoking point of the oil, which will indicate what you can cook with it. “You must be able to distinguish which oils are good for cooking and which are good for salads. Don’t use expensive olive oil for cooking, and don’t cook with salad oils as you will destroy the oil and the food.”
GREAT FOR: Surprisingly, truffle oil can work with almost any dish, but it should be used sparingly as it can overpower other flavours.
TASTE: Mushroom taste with a touch of fresh rain on soil.
SMOKING POINT: It depends on which type of oil has been used.
HEALTH BENEFITS: According to Professor Nola Dippenaar of Health Insight, the tiny amount of truffle doesn’t confer any nutritional benefits, so again it depends on which oil has been used.
Coco Reinarhz is chef patron of Sel et Poivre, 60 West Road South, Morningside, Jophannesburg.
6. Avocado oil
Avocado oil is increasingly popular in South Africa because of its usefulness in cooking as well as its light, neutral taste. Alan Snyman, marketing manager of Westfalia Fruit Products, has been involved in the avocado industry for 25 years. He says avocado oil is obtained naturally and directly from the flesh of the plant (not the pips or skin), enhancing its health benefits. Apart from its other culinary qualities, he says it makes an excellent meat tenderiser. “When you are braaing, lightly brush avocado oil on the meat and see how tender it becomes.”
GREAT FOR: Avocado oil can be used for marinating, roasting, stir-frying and deep-frying. Also for savoury and sweet bakes, desserts and salad dressings.
TASTE: Neutral with a slight buttery, nutty note.
SMOKING POINT: +/- 250°C.
HEALTH BENEFITS: Omega 3, 6 and 9, naturally cholesterol-free and packed with antioxidants.