* Prices may differ from that shown
Olive oil is one of life's necessities and I've been dripping it on my salad dishes and pasta twirls ever since I met that dark haired signorina in the Tuscan hills whose Extra Virgin was simply irresistible.
Olive oil is in essence the juice of the olive fruit (minus the water) that comes from an olive tree. Olive oil sold in British stores is mostly extracted from olives grown in the Mediterranean member states of the European Union: France, Spain, Italy and Greece. Some say there are subtle differences in taste and texture between olive oil depending on how freshly it is. The Olive oil we generally buy in the supermarkets is never truly fresh so I wouldn't know the difference. There is a subtle difference however in the different types of olive oil that you can buy. Extra Virgin oil is the very best you can buy and is taken from the first cold-pressing of the olives. It has a darker colour and a richer taste and is generally more expensive. Virgin olive oil is lighter in colour and comes from the subsequent pressing whilst ordinary 'olive oil' comes from whatever remnants can be squeezed out last.
I have purchased Napolina Special Selection Extra Virgin Olive Oil on the one occasion - it doesn't come cheap at £3.98 for a 500ml bottle in Tesco. My regular buy is from Aldi who sell Solesta Extra Virgin Olive Oil for less than £2.50 a 750ml bottle which is a bargain buy when compared the Napolina brand. Nevertheless Napolina are certainly a quality brand and their specially selected Extra Virgin is quite delicious. The oil is thick but not too heavy and it possesses a dark fruity flavour with just a hint of lingering spiciness. It is the ideal oil to add to a crispy salad.
It looks good too - the chunky bottle is nice to hold and gives the impression that this oil is a quality brand. It does however come in a light coloured glass bottle - it is generally considered more preferable to store olive oil in dark coloured glass bottles as this preserves the oil longer.
Olive oil has many health benefits and there are plenty of scientific studies to support this. Olive oil is made up mainly of mono-unsaturated fatty acids with a small amount of polyunsaturated fat, but more specifically, it only contains low quantities of saturates. Another advantageous health benefit comes from the antioxidants and vitamins - principally vitamin E. This is particularly true of the extra virgin varieties that don't lose their vitamin content through the processes of over-refining.
It is common to find bottles of olive oil being sold with a sell buy date of twelve months in advance, but I would always recommend that you use it up well before that date or while it is still fresh. Once opened you should use it sooner rather than later. The quality of olive oil will deteriorate if it is exposed to too much heat, light or air so it is important to store it in a cool, dark place.
Using this type of oil for high cooking temperatures is generally not recommended as the flavour tends to deteriorate. It is best recommended for as a basis for sauces, dips and dressings for vegetables, meat, salads and fish. I personally use Extra Virgin Olive Oil mostly with Italian food. It is an essential addition to all pasta dishes, but it is also nice for creating your own salad dressings.
I love olive oil.
I use it frequently in meat, fish and pasta dishes. I dress salads with it and add it soups and soak my bread in it.
My favourite olive oil is Iberian, in particular from the Galega cultivar.
It has a distinctive, much stronger taste (and deeper colour) than most.
This is however, extremely difficult to find in England, and very expensive. I therefore make do with the variety of olive oils that are widely available in the supermarkets.
One of the olive oils I most frequently buy is the Napolina Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Extra Virgin olive oil is the name given by the International Olive Oil Council (yes, there is one) to the highest grade of olive oil, with a maximum of 0.8% acidity (oleic acid).
Extra virgin olive oil is extracted solely by mechanical means (as opposed to chemical ones) and is associated to a superior flavour..
The Napolina Extra Virgin Olive Oil [NEVOO from now on] comes in a thick glass bottle. The lable is black with golden writing, and features the image of a single green olive.
At the bottom of the label, there is a symbol with the colours of the Italian flag, symbolising the Italian origin of the brand.
The NEVOO is roughly on middle part of the olive oil colour spectrum.
It is not the lightest of olive oils, but is far from being the darkest.
For the purpose of this review I tasted the olive oil pure (like a sommelier) and I find it has a light but definitely fruity flavour, with a zesty "bite" at the end.
The Napolina official website recommends its use "as a base for sauces, dips and dressings and for adding flavour to salads, pasta and cooked meat and vegetables".
Indeed, it can be used for all of these things.
Personally, I find its light, delicate flavour best suited to salads, as it does not overpower the taste of the vegetables.
I also use it in sauces, meat dishes and pasta, but in these instances because of its own delicate flavour, it has a lesser impact on the flavour of the dish (and it does not compare to my beloved galega oil).
100 grams of olive oil contain 885 kcal.
Olive oil is rich in monounsaturated fats, which have been linked to a lower risk of cardio heart disease. For this reason, a diet rich in olive oil is thought to be me healthier than a diet which comprises other oils.
Olive oil also tends to decrease the cholesterol levels in the blood.
These are the current Sainsbury's prices:
* 500 ml bottle - £3.78
* 1 Litre bottle - £6.49