Have you read Bella Figura by Kamin Mohammadi? It's the story of woman moving to Florence and discovering how to live, love and eat the Italian way. I recently read it in my bookclub and I particularly loved the focus on enjoying simple, quality ingredients. Olive oil is a perfect example.
But not all olive oils are the same. Olive oil fraud is a thing, with some estimates that 80% of Italian oils exported to the United States are adulterated with sunflower and canola oils. They also add chlorophyll to achieve the green colour of olive oil. You'll find these same oils on our supermarket shelves as well.
There's also a problem with quality. In 2016 the Australian Olive Association conducted research into Australian supermarket brands. 85% failed to meet the voluntary Australian standard. Some oils were found to be refined and not extra virgin as claimed, others were rancid, musty and fusty (this refers to fermentation that occurs when there's a delay in processing the olives after harvesting). As these industry standards aren't mandated we need to be informed about what we're buying.
3 key things to look for when buying olive oil:
- Harvest date. A quality producer will include this information on the packaging. You want to consume the olive oil within 24 months of this date. This assumes you keep the olive oil in a cool, dark place. Otherwise I'd look to use your olive oil within 12 months.
- Packaged in dark glass or a tin. UV exposure will cause olive oil to go rancid. Never buy olive oil in a clear glass bottle.
- Taste. Olive oil should taste fresh and fruity. You should also experience a peppery flavour in the back of the throat. The more peppery the higher the polyphenol content. It's these polyphenols that act as anti-oxidants and provide many of the health benefits.
Can I cook with olive oil?
Yes! It used to be thought olive oil was best not heated and should only be used cold on salads etc. New research has debunked this. Olive oil is a stable oil you can safely use to pan fry and bake. I use it for everything!
My go to is Cobram Estate. Firstly it's Australian. I choose not to buy overseas olive oil given the uncertainty regarding quality plus the shipping time and subsequent poor temperature regulation. Cobram Estate is also high quality, delicious and available in supermarkets.
I also like to buy directly from producers when I'm visiting wine regions, but unfortunately we can't do that every day!
Foolproof Tahini Mayonnaise
Who doesn't love mayonnaise! Unfortunately store bought mayonnaise is made with pro-inflammatory vegetable and seed oils. This recipe is seriously foolproof, no split mayonnaise I assure you! You can enjoy knowing all the ingredients are good for you. The addition of tahini provides a calcium boost. You can download the recipe here.
More Healthy Recipes Using Olive Oil
I really encourage you to taste your olive oil neat to get familiar with the flavours. You'll start to notice differences between brands and discover your personal preference. Remember the bigger the peppery kick the more health benefits.
I hope these tips make your healthy eating a little easier and tastier :)