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Olive oilOlive oil is the key ingredient to give authentic Mediterranean flavour to any dish and the beauty of olive oil is that it can be used in many ways. Such is the aromatic, fruity flavour that it is perfect for drizzling over almost anything, it is delicious in salads, great with pasta and the perfect addition to soups and sauces. It is also the ideal oil for frying and the Spanish use it to cook everything, even sweet dishes.

Olive oil is the only oil that does not require any chemical treating for its extraction and therefore does not need any refining before consuming. Indeed the best extra virgin olive oil is merely cold pressed retaining all the natural goodness and flavours.

Olive oil also has a high level of natural antioxidants and oleic acid which make it the most stable oil for frying. It is light, tasty and even when heated retains its nutritional value.

Food fried in olive oil will have a lower fat content than food fried in other oils as olive oil when heated forms a crust around the food to stop the absorption of oil into the food. The oil must be heated first though as food placed in cold oil for cooking will absorb the oil.

The main advantage of frying with olive oil is that is expands on heating, therefore less is needed and the oil can be reused up to five times, so although slightly more expensive than vegetable oils, a little will go a long way. Make sure though that when deep frying, there is always enough oil to cover the food otherwise the food will be overcooked on the bottom and undercooked on the top.

Olive oil which has been used for frying fish should be kept separately to the olive oil used for other foods as it will take on some of the flavours of the food. Oil which is to be used again should be kept in glass, ceramic or metal containers with a tightly fitting lid and away from sunlight and extremes of heat.

Olive oil should never be combined with other forms of oil as when heated this combination will produce toxins.

Olive oil must be the oil of choice, whether it is drizzled over bread and tomatoes or used to cook chips. Every dish created with the help of Spain's natural beauty will be not only healthier, but will be tastier with lovely hints of the Mediterranean.

Researched and written by Gayle Hartley

Serrano Ham direct from Spain : www.orceserranohams.com

© Copyright 2008 Orce Serrano Hams - www.orceserranohams.com

Published 21 January 2008

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