22 Sep

Can Indian food be cooked in olive oil?

By Rasheeda Bhagat,

Can Indian food be cooked in olive oil? When this question was posed to celebrated Indian chef Sanjeev Kapur at a promotion campaign for olive oil and table olives organised by the International Olive Council in Delhi on Thursday, his reply was simple. “Of course it can, that’s a no brainer”.

olive oil green bottleIndian cuisine had always been very receptive. About 400 years ago, it hardly used things such as garlic, onions, potatoes or chillies and “today we describe all of it as tradition ingredients in Indian food. Who knows 500 years hence, we’ll say olive oil is a traditional ingredient in our food,” he added.

The council has zeroed in on the Indian market for popularising the consumption of table olives and olive oil for the year 2007.

Addressing the workshop Franco Oliva, deputy Director and Head of Promotions, International Olive Council, said this year the global production of olive oil had hit the three-million-tonne-mark, with Spain being the largest producer. It produces about 35-40 per cent of the world’s olive oil. Though the per capita consumption of olive oil in Greece – where the olive growing region in the Penelopese area was recently destroyed by forest fires wrecking havoc on the olive cultivation in the area – is the highest at 23 kg.

Collectively, the EU countries have the largest consumption of olive oil (79 per cent) followed by Syria (5 per cent) and Turkey and Tunisia, 4 per cent each.

Touching upon the health benefits of the Mediterranean cuisine, rich in olive oil, he said that two year ago, the US FDA had recognised its positive effect in preventing and reducing cardiovascular diseases and diabetes.

The entire lunch, including desserts, at the Taj Palace Hotel where the workshop was organised was prepared using olive oil.

Santiago Botas, a Food and Olive Oil consultant from Spain, enumerated the different kinds of olive oil I the market – extra virgin, virgin and pomace and said extracted from a fruit – the olive – and sans any chemical treatment, this was the only edible oil which was a “pure fruit juice”.

Sampling session
Conducting an olive oil sampling session, he described the various features of the three samples of olive oil – brand names was strict no-no at the workshop, which Oliva said was only a “promotion” and not a “marketing” exercise by the International Olive Council, a United Nations organisation.

The Spanish expert said just as in the case of wines, where beginners preferred the sweet varieties and white wines, before graduating to the stronger and red wines, in olive oil too, the newly initiated preferred the sweet and fruity taste and flavour of the oil. As one regularly consumed olive oil, the palate graduated to more bitter and pungent varieties. “But it’s all a matter of taste. Nobody can say this variety is superior to another one. But the important thing is that in any olive oil, what is of utmost importance is its aroma and taste,” he said.

But he cautioned consumers to be aware of what they were picking up from the shelves. Olive oil should not be blended with other oils, and if this was done it was only for commercial purposes.

For example, pointed out Botas, during a recent visit to South America, he had come across a product in a store that said the label was a blend of olive oil and refined sunflower oil. “When I tasted it I was sure that there wasn’t more than one per cent of virgin olive oil in it and yet it was priced four times the cost of sunflower oil. So this was pure cheating.”

Shelf life
On the shelf life of olive oils, especially in a country like India, where the high cost prevented regular usage, he said ideally it should be stored between 14 to 18 months, but if the storage conditions were really good… dry and cool – it could be stored up to 23 months before it went rancid.

Oliva added that over the next few months there would be two roadshows on olives and olive oil in Delhi and Mumbai and a mammoth Mediterranean food conference in Delhi by December end.

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One Response to “Can Indian food be cooked in olive oil?”

  1. Ashish Says:

    What are the benefits of olive oil? Can indian cuisine be cooked in it?

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