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You’ll have guessed by now that there is more to oil than olives and this is truer than ever in the warm months, when oil is being used at its best, in cold applications to create bold or subtle flavor combinations. From the barely there grapeseed oil (perfect to make your own infused oil) to the fiery mustard seed oil common in Indian cooking to the misunderstood coconut oil, there is no doubt all oils are not created equal but they all have something unique to offer if you dare look away from the good old olive.

Grapeseed oil

Description: Grapeseed oil is pressed from the seeds of grape, making it a significant by-product of the wine making industry. Grapeseed oil is good as a barely there background oil which will not distract from the flavors of the dish.

In the kitchen: It has a fairly high smoke point (216 °C) and a light clean flavor, making it ideal for frying, sauteing, and stir-frying, as well as salad dressings and mayonnaise. It also works well as a base for oils infused with garlic, rosemary or chilies. Grapeseed oil is also found in many cosmetics as a skin hydration controlling agent.

Health: As a vegetal source of fat, grapeseed oil is believed to increase HDL (good cholesterol) and decrease LDL (bad cholesterol).

Pumpkinseed oil

Description: Pumpkin seed oil is an Eastern European specialty and considered a delicacy. It is made by pressing roasted, hulled pumpkin seeds from a local variety of pumpkin – the Styrian pumpkin. The oil has an intense nutty taste and is best used cold.

In the kitchen: Pumpkin seed oil serves as a salad dressing when combined with honey or olive oil. The typical Styrian dressing consists of pumpkin seed oil and cider vinegar. But the oil is also used for desserts, giving ordinary vanilla ice cream a nutty taste. It is considered a real delicacy in Austria, and few drops are added to pumpkin soup and other local plates, including, as mentioned, vanilla ice cream. Using it as a cooking oil, however, destroys its essential fatty acids.

Health: The Styrian variety of pumpkin seed oil is loaded with A, B1, B2, B6, C, D, E, and K, and an assortment of other minerals including magnesium, iron and calcium. In addition to all those vitamins, it also contains somewhere between 60 to 90 percent unsaturated fats, is rich in vegetable protein and has both omega-6 and omega-3 essential fatty acids in a 3- to-1 ratio. It also contains 45 to 60 percent linoleic acid.

Mustard seed oil

Description: Mustard oil is a staple of Indian cooking. It has a strong smell and a hot nutty taste. Because of its distinctive taste, it is used for frying, seasoning or as a finishing touch on dhals as a ‘tadka’.

In the kitchen: Mustard oil is commonly used to make Indian pickles, chutneys and relishes, especially mango pickles prepared during the short but celebrated mango season. Mustard oil has a hot and pungent flavor and is a natural anti-bacterial which means that the pickles will last for up to a year.

Health: Mustard oil is a plant based source of Omega-3 which protects the heart. It contains a high proportion of mono-unsaturated fatty acids and is also a rich source of poly-unsaturated fatty acids, reducing LDL (bad cholesterol) and increasing HDL (good cholesterol).

Argan oil

Description: The argan tree is mostly found in the Argan forests of south-west Morocco and is a favourite of the local goats who clamber amongst its branches and delect on its fruit.  the argan fruit looks a bit like a large green olive and contains a tough shelled nut. The flesh of the fruit is easily digested by the goats, however the nut isn’t. After nature takes its course, the berber collect the nuts off the ground in order to extract a slightly redish and nutty oil which makes it so distinctive.

In the kitchen: In the berber tradition, it is often used plain and pure on bread or as a seasoning. It’s strong taste works wonders in couscous and tajines, to marinate roasted peppers and tomatoes or enhance semolina. As a sweet touch, Amlou is a rich paste of argan oil crushed almonds and honey traditionally served to guests and which is reputed to have aphrodisiac qualities.

Health: Argan oil is a good source of unsaturated fatty acids and the essential linoleic acid of the Omega-6 family. Only provided through diet, omega-6 acids are essential to good health, skin elasticity, wound healing and in maintaining proper renal function.

Apricot oil

Description: Apricot oil is pressed from the kernels which contain 40-50% oil. The extracted oil is similar to almond or peach oil.

In the kitchen: Cold-pressed, apricot oil, which tastes very similar to almond oil, is best used as a salad oil or drizzled as a finishing touch. When refined, apricot kernel oil is best used in high heat applications like sauteing, frying and all-purpose cooking.

Health: Apricot kernels are the richest known source of B-17, an anti-tumor agent vitamin. Many cancer patient use a pharmaceutical grade form of B-17 or pure apricot seed oil. Apricot seed oil is being recognized by the medical world as an effective form of treatment against cancer. The oil, which tastes similar to almond oil, contains polyunsaturated fatty acids and has long been used in skin-care, as a gentle and easily absorbed oil carrier.

Avocado oil

Description: Rather than being extracted from the seed, avocado oil is extracted from the ripened flesh of the fruit. It is then filtered and bottled. The oil is buttery and has the rich distinctive flavor of the fruit.

In the kitchen: Delicious on a salad, avocado oil makes a great substitute for butter in cakes.

Health: Avocado has so many great health properties and therefore, the oil does too: it is cholesterol free, rich in monounsaturated fats and antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and folate (good to know in pregnancy).

Coconut oil

Description: Coconut oil is extracted from the flesh of the fruit and has been used in South Asian cuisine for thousands of years. It has a subtle and sweet aroma, which makes it ideal for baking and is fast being adopted by vegans as a substitute for butter and cream. Because of its high content in saturated fat, it presents itself as a solid and is melted at fairly high temperatures, remaining very stable.

In the kitchen: Because of its delicate sweet flavor, it is perfect for baking, giving a light flaky quality to pastry and a fine crumb to cakes. It works well for sauteing, softening the bitterness of greens and highlighting the natural sweetness of onions or sweet potatoes. It works well with seafood, softening rather than overpowering the flavors and is delicious to make popcorn with.

Health: Many people swear by it and credit it for good skin, good hair, weight loss, fighting cancer and even HIV, however the facts on the health benefits of virgin coconut oil are a bit muddled. Because it contains high levels of saturated fats, it was largely dismissed as a bad fat, however, science seems to be changing its mind. The particular type of fat it contains is lauric acid which raises levels of both good and bad cholesterol, at a ratio which remains healthy. While it might not be as good as olive oil when it comes to its health credentials, coconut oil is fine in moderation.

The Essential Ingredient Newcastle stocks a wide range of oils. Come in and ask one of our staff to help you choose the right one for the occasion.