01 Sep

Extra virgin olive oil by Manfredi

By Steve Manfredi,

When it comes to oil, I have a preference for extra virgin olive oil. Whether it’s for cooking, dipping or dressing, no other oil will do. There are still some people who advise against cooking with this oil because, they say, it burns easily. Its high smoking-point is 210C, well above the ideal frying temperature of 180C.

But it must be extra virgin, the unadulterated oil from pressed olives. At home, you’ll benefit from having two or three different olive oils. The first is an all-round cheaper one for frying fish, rubbing on a lamb leg before roasting, tossing through vegetables before baking and frying chips.

Next you’ll need an estate grown, light- to medium-bodied oil for dressing delicate seafood salads and vegetables or even dipping your bread into. The third oil should be robust and peppery, able to stand up to big flavours. Use this oil raw as well, drizzled over oxtail and barley soup or mixed with mashed roast garlic and anchovy then spread over good bread as a base for a corned beef or roast lamb sandwich.

Extra virgin olive oil is good with

All meats, especially roasts; carpaccio (raw, thinly sliced) tuna, swordfish, beef and yearling beef; raw vegetables, especially fennel, carrot, celery heart, radish, tomato; fresh cheeses such as mozzarella; aged cheeses such as pecorino and parmesan; all salad leaves; cooked vegetables such as artichoke, spinach, mushrooms and beans; eggs, especially soft-boiled and runny.

Ocean trout poached in extra virgin olive oil (pictured)

Lightly salt 4 pieces of skinned ocean trout, each weighing about 160g, and refrigerate for an hour. In a frypan wide enough to fit the fish pieces comfortably, add 2 1/2 cups of olive oil, 4 sliced garlic cloves and a sprig of thyme. Simmer gently until the garlic is lightly golden, turn off the heat and discard the garlic and thyme. Remove the fish pieces from the fridge, pat them dry and leave out for about 10 minutes to reach room temperature. Using a thermometer (and a low flame) bring the pan of oil up to 70C. Add the fish pieces gently. If the fish is not completely covered, add more oil. Once the temperature reaches 70C turn off the heat and leave for 20 minutes. Remove with a spatula, season with salt and pepper and serve with rhubarb, cucumber and rocket salad.

Rhubarb, cucumber and rocket salad

This Iranian salad is adapted from a recipe by Paula Wolfert. Wash 3-4 young rhubarb stalks and strip away any tough outer membrane. Peel one or two cucumbers. Slice the vegetables finely at an angle and toss in a bowl with 2 tablespoons coarse salt. Let stand for 10 minutes, rinse, drain and pat dry. In a salad bowl place a bunch of washed and chopped rocket leaves (not wild rocket – it has little flavour) with the cucumber and rhubarb. Dress with 2 tablespoons lemon juice and 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste and garnish with a good handful of chopped mint leaves.

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