This is the second in a series of blog posts by our Development Chef Robbie Gleave, showcasing our local suppliers.
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Rapeseed Oil. What is it? Who has tried it? Who hasn’t? And if not, why not?!
We are surrounded for months of the year by these bright yellow fields of flowers that stretch for miles, seemingly hundreds and hundreds of acres of these fields. Despite this, there is only one East Lothian rapeseed oil producer: Black & Gold. So on that basis I adopted them as our preferred brand.
There are, I believe 7 other producers across the country. All seem to be doing quite nicely as the interest in home-produced oils increases. Health benefits include being much lower in saturated fats than olive oil and a rich source of vitamin E.
Not only that – the oil tastes great. Oil seed rape is a brassica and so has very definite vegetable tastes and a real nuttiness, with subtle broccoli/cabbage/cauliflower flavours. It’s very good for cooking with and has a high flash point meaning it can get to really high temperatures before it starts to smoke and burn. It’s fantastic for frying meats and fish with fewer health issues, and adding a touch of mustard, fine vinegars, herbs, citrus fruits and garlic – to name a few ingredients – turns the simple taste base into a sensational dressing. Adding this oil to a charred broccoli and cauliflower salad, for example, is a perfect pairing. The family connection makes sense and obviously works.
The process of obtaining the oil is surprisingly simple. When the flowers die off they leave behind a pod which continues to grow.
The pods contain the seeds which when dried, turn from green to black, and are then sent to press. The seeds are squeezed (pressed) through a corkscrew fed sieve to obtain the oil. Nothing is added. The remaining pulp is used for cattle feed. Nothing left. Nothing wasted.
The oil is described as ‘cold pressed’ and is the equivalent of the ‘extra virgin’ state of olive oil (top quality ingredients – cold process – first press). This gives the most satisfying viscosity and mouth-feel. Unlike olives, there are no second or third pressings to squeeze every last drip and drop which would only result in different grades and qualities of oils.
The oil is then passed through a series of filters to produce the familiar golden nectar. The oil is now already finished (how quick was that?) and ready to bottle. Every bottle lovingly hand sealed and labelled is and ready for distribution.
Selling the story
Going forward, the practical side says stick to the cheap, bulk-produced veg oil for our deep fryers, but for general cooking and dressings we should use Black & Gold. It’s twice the price of our current base oil but price per cover increase will be negligible. And surely we could get an extra 2p per cover built into every meal just by selling the story?
Have a taste when you swing by the kitchen and see and feel the difference – you’ll taste the East Coast!
Next stop… where do our carrots really come from? (and more importantly where would we like them to be from)?