“ Manufacturer: Flora / Type: Oil „
I had heard of Flora Cuisine due to the TV advertising campaign featuring Vernon Kaye but I only tried it as a result of a recent Bzz campaign. Being a 'Bzz Agent' means that I regularly get sent free products to try and discuss with other people. (Anybody interested can sign up online at www.bzzagent.co.uk)
Armed with my vouchers, I headed to Tesco to buy some of this new cooking 'oil', under the familiar Flora brand name. I must admit that it isn't the easiest item to spot in store but I did eventually find it in the form of a yellow and green plastic bottle, lurking amongst the butter and spreads in the chilled aisle.
Flora Cuisine is supposed to be a healthier replacement for oils and fats - even having less saturated fat than olive oil which is my usual oil of choice. This new cooking oil, a combination of linseed, rapeseed and sunflower oils, is also a source of omega three.
Despite coming in a chilled liquid format, Flora Cuisine is versatile enough to be used for everyday cooking including baking, roasting and frying. The bottle features simple instructions for the best way to use this stuff and I found it easy to use as a substitute for olive oil when frying my usual foodstuffs or as a replacement for vegetable oil when roasting potatoes or vegetables.
I haven't tried Flora Cuisine for baking purposes, mainly because I don't bake very often. I was also put off by the inconvenience of having to translate the quantities of Cuisine needed for particular recipes. There are, however, a few recipes featured on the Flora Cuisine website but there wasn't really anything that caught my attention.
When used for frying, the dry pan has to be pre-heated initially and a small amount of the runny yellow Flora Cuisine then added to the hot pan. I was a little put off by the appearance initially as it looks like really runny margarine when it first hits the pan! This soon melts away into a clear, bubbly liquid and there is very little aroma, aside from the smell of the food cooking. I found the results to be excellent and comparable to using a good quality olive oil.
I have used it to fry everyday items such as chicken, stir fried vegetables, onions, bacon and sausages and found the Flora Cuisine heat and cooked quickly. I was pleased that there was no noticeable in difference in taste either so I could substitute this without worrying about my kids complaining that their dinners tasted different. I have also used the Flora Cuisine to roast potatoes and, again, found the process and results comparable to using a regular oil. The potatoes were left with an attractive golden brown colouring and were exactly the right consistency.
The only real drawback to this product is the one feature that makes this different from other cooking oils. I find it a bit of a hassle storing it in the fridge and instinctively reached for the bottle of olive oil which always sits on my worktop. My husband also kept forgetting to use this as it was out of sight in the fridge. Being a fresh chilled product also means that this has a much shorter shelf life than most oils.
I thought I had got a bargain initially (especially using my Bzz Agent vouchers) as I purchased this product on a Buy One Get One Free offer. Unfortunately, the use by date was really short - around eight weeks from the date of purchase- and there was no way that I could have used two 500ml bottles during that period so I ended up giving one away. As it was, I struggled to use the entire bottle before the use by date so I'm not convinced that I would get the best value for money at the full price of £1.98 per 500ml.
I can't fault the taste or the ease of use but, for me, the chilled format and comparatively short use by date means that this isn't particularly convenient. It is pretty telling that, despite liking the end results of all the cooking I did using Flora Cuisine, I haven't gone on to re-purchase since the Bzz campaign ended.
I first tried Flora Cuisine a few months ago now when it was on special offer. It was at such a very low price it practically cried out to be bought.
I had seen the adverts with Vernon Kay and his mum, so I had some familiarity with the product. As an older lady, she extols the health benefits of using Flora Cuisine with the focus being quite clearly on heart health. I wasn't sure from these adverts that this product held quite as much relevance for me and my much younger family. The product seemed a bit gimmicky and I expected it wouldn't really catch on. After all, I cook with olive oil - what's wrong with that? Isn't the cooking oil market already saturated? (Excuse the pun, there.) I expected my first bottle was probably going to be my last.
So what is Flora Cuisine and how is it any different from what's already on the market?
It is advertised as a versatile and healthy alternative to other oils. One of its main selling points is that it has 45% less saturates than olive oil.
The product is described as a blend of linseed, rapeseed and sunflower oils. The actual ingredients are: Vegetable Oils (Sunflower Seed Oil, Rapeseed Oil, Linseed Oil), Water, Salt (0.9%), Emulsifiers (Soy Bean Lecithin, Polysorbate 60), Preservative (Potassium Sorbate), Soy Protein, Citric Acid, Stabilisers (Guar Gum, Xanthan Gum), Flavourings, Colour (Beta-Carotene), Vitamins A and D.
It can be used for frying, sautéing, making sauces, roasting potatoes, vegetables, meat & fish, baking cakes and muffins and greasing cake tins.
Each 15 ml serving contains Calories 95 5%, Sugar <0.5g <1%, Fat 10.5g 15%, Saturates 1.1g 6%, Salt 0.12g 2% of an adult's guideline daily amount (GDA)
The product is suitable for vegetarians. And please note - Flora Cuisine needs to be kept in the fridge.
Since that first bottle found its way into my home, however, several other bottles have followed. Why?
Well, it's not for the way it looks. When you see the liquid hit the pan for the first time it doesn't inspire confidence. You are presented with a rather dubious-looking beige coloured splat. Heated up, however, the liquid clarifies and you are ready to cook with it. I have used this product mainly for frying and stir frying.
I find it has certain benefits. The oil itself is fairly tasteless and allows the natural flavour of the food to be enjoyed. When I started using olive oil as a healthier alternative to traditional cooking oils, it did take a while to get used to the slight flavour that olive oil brought with it. Personally, I can't taste the oil at all when using Flora cuisine.
The food crisps and browns very well in Flora Cuisine. I wouldn't say it comes out better than in olive oil but it seems to be as good. The food doesn't appear or taste greasy in any way. The oil gives a light covering and the food looks crisp and appetising.
Flora Cuisine claims to cook without spitting - but I haven't found that the case. There is certainly less spitting than with some oils - but my fried eggs are still able to plot the occasional attack.
Although I'm happy to use it in a frying pan, I haven't used Flora Cuisine when making cakes. I can't seem to bring myself to do that. Call it a psychological block - but it just doesn't feel right. I like to cook cakes as I have always done - and even prefer butter over margarine when baking. There are too many additives in this product for me to 100% happy about using it en masse in cakes. Call me old fashioned - but I still like the fact that when you cook with butter and olive oil you feel you are cooking with largely unadulterated, wholesome products.
Should you want to try baking with it, the bottle shows a chart which indicates how much Flora Cuisine to use. To convert from margarine or oil use as follows: For 100g of margarine -use 110ml of Flora Cuisine, 100g butter use 110ml and for 100ml oil use 100ml of Flora Cuisine. The bottle has a gauge on the side with 50ml markers to help you measure out the product.
I buy Flora Cuisine as an addition rather than a replacement for other oils. My (probably irrational) thoughts about it are that its heart health benefits when I fry, help to balance out the 'naughty' butter I use in baking. Furthermore, I tend to use this product when I only need a small amount of oil to cook with. If something needs to be fried in a larger amount of fat/oil I still reach for vegetable oil or olive oil. In part this decision is based on the expense of this product. The normal price for a 500ml bottle of Flora Cuisine is £2. Sainsburys Sunflower oil is £1.50 for a litre. It would make cooking my poppadum's rather expensive if I used Flora Cuisine. As it is, I normally buy the product when it is on offer and use it sparingly. I get good value for money from it as it lasts me for weeks and I produce tasty fried foods with less saturates. On the whole - would recommend.
Flora Cuisine is the latest product that I have been sent to try out by Bzz Agent. It is marketed as "a healthy cooking liquid made from a blend of linseed, rapeseed and sunflower oils'. Unusually for an cooking oil product, it needs to be kept refrigerated. I had a voucher to try out this product for free and it took me a while to track it down in my local Tesco - if you're thinking of trying it, I recommend starting your search in the general vicinity of the butter.
* How It Works *
I have been using Flora Cuisine as a substitute for my usual olive oil in my day to day cooking. Using the product is very simple. First you pre-heat your pan. Then, once it has reached the desired temperature, you simply squirt the required amount into the pan and wait for it to heat up. On squirting, the product is yellow in colour and resembles melted butter. As it heats, the creamy texture dissipates and the liquid becomes much clearer in colour and consistency as it bubbles away. Once the bubbling has reduced, the pan is ready for cooking. Because of the colour / texture change, it is simple to see when the pan is hot enough to cook with, which is a feature of the product that I like. The smell of the product is also similar to margarine - it is not a particularly strong smell, which is good as it does not detract from the smell of the main ingredients in a dish. The flavour is also subtle - whereas a good olive oil will add a bit of flavour to a meal, this product just allows you to get on with the cooking while letting the major flavours of your meal come through.
* Health Benefits? *
According to the information on the bottle, Flora Cusine has 45% less saturated fat than olive oil. It is not particularly low in calories as 15ml of this (approximately one tablespoon) has 95 calories, compared to 123 calories for the same amount of olive oil. In terms of saturated fat, there is 1.1g of saturated fat per 15ml of Flora Cuisine and 2g in the same amount of olive oil. Therefore, the Flora Cuisine is technically 'healthier' if you base your calculations purely on calories / saturated fat content, although you do need to consider the additional health benefits of olive oil as well as it has been proven to have a positive effect on many conditions. On the plus side, Flora Cuisine has a high concentration of Omega 6 and Omega 3 essential fatty acids.
* Price and Purchasing *
A 500ml bottle of Flora Cusine costs just under £2 and is available in Tesco, Sainsburys and other major supermarkets. It is usually located with the margarines and butters.
* My Thoughts *
Overall, I have been impressed by the performance of Flora Cuisine. In my opinion, most cooking oils are much of a muchness - I wouldn't usually spend a huge amount of money on cooking oils unless it was something like an extra virgin olive oil to be used for salad dressings / dipping bread where the flavour was important, because all I really want them to do it give me a base to cook my meals. I have used the Flora Cuisine for several different meals now and it has done a good job every time. It has been used in stir-fries, to cook chicken (both in the saute pan and the griddle pan) and to saute onions for a base for various meals such as curries and risottos. I have also used it to roast potatoes and parsnips for a Sunday roast which worked really well - I sometimes find that when I use olive oil for roasting I end up throwing some butter into the roasting tray for added crunch, but the potatoes were crispy and delicious when using this. According to the Flora website, you can also use it for baking as a substitute for butter - this may be useful if you are trying to be healthy as it is considerably lower in saturated fat, but isn't something that I have felt the desire to try. I think it is a product which I would definitely buy again - the relatively short shelf life and the necessity to keep it in the fridge might put me off a bit