Get well oiled
Casting a critical eye over the varieties of oils on deli and supermarket shelves has made me wonder if we have too much of a good thing. However, no single oil will meet every gastronomic need. Oils from olives, nuts, seeds, fruits and truffles provide different culinary benefits.
Canola oil, which is extracted from rape seeds, is a great all-rounder. It’s relatively inexpensive, has a high smoke point and a mild flavour. However, because of this latter trait, the oil does not add much interest to dishes such as pasta and seafood where a stronger flavoured olive oil would be the right choice.
Avocado oil has become a favourite with many cooks, not only for its pleasant mild flavour which marries well with most foods, but because it is very heat stable. I enjoy using the new avocado oil infused with lime that is excellent for dressings for Mediterranean and Vietnamese dishes and also for the gentle frying of seafood. It’s also perfect drizzled over boiled potatoes.
Truffle oil has made it (hopefully) to your local deli and a little goes a long way flavour-wise. It is not made from truffles but, as with the avocado and lime oil above, the flavour of truffle is infused into olive oil. It’s excellent added to pastas, sauces or omelettes.
Oils from nuts such as hazelnuts and walnuts are best used in cold dishes as when heated they tend to become bitter. However, peanut oil is suitable for stir-fries.
There are several types of sesame seed oil on the shelves— the Asian version is darker and has immense flavour. Use for shallow-frying but if you want to take advantage of its true character, add a little more at the end of cooking.
An excellent starter. Natural avocado & lime oil (I used Olivado) is great for dressings and drizzling over pasta and cooked vegetables. It can also be used for shallow frying. Get the recipe
Based on a recipe — courtesy of Jeannine LaBossiere — I enjoyed at the Cranberry Bog Festival in Massachusetts a few years back. Get the recipe
Sticky sesame chicken
6-8 chicken drums, skinned
2 tablespoons each: oyster sauce, Asian sesame oil
2 teaspoons canola oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 red capsicum, thinly sliced
100g snow peas
4-5 tablespoons sweet chilli sauce
- Marinate the chicken in the combined oyster sauce and sesame oil for at least 30 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 180C.
- Place the chicken in an oven pan and bake for about 35 minutes.
- Meanwhile, heat the canola oil in a wok and stir-fry the vegetables, until crisp tender. Add the chilli sauce and stir well. Serve over the chicken drums.
- Sprinkle with a little extra sesame oil and some sesame seeds, if preferred.