Let’s have a quick look at the stats - Aussies consume a lot of EVOO:
- According to the Australian Olive Industry Network 2019-20 figures, approximately 65% of households cook with olive oil, and our total annual consumption is estimated at approximately 2L per person, each year.
- The Australian Olive Oil Association reports that in 2020, nearly 50% of Australian consumers’ cooking oil purchases were classified as Extra Virgin Olive oil sales. Move over cheap, generic ‘blended vegetable oils’, Australians are embracing the Mediterranean way, and have an appetite for the best quality olive oils.
Australians love Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO), but do we know what to do with it?
As a dietitian and oil enthusiast, I’ve lost count of the conversations I’ve had with my clients about cooking with EVOO. There’s the usual misconceptions and hesitations - by far the most common being that olive oil can’t be used at high cooking temperatures, and is only for ‘drizzling’ (this old chestnut has been well and truly debunked when it comes to Extra Virgin Olive Oil). Another classic furphy is that the best EVOOs are imported from Italy, Spain and Greece. What sacrilege! When it comes to nutrition, flavour and freshness, locally produced Australian EVOOs like Cockatoo Grove blow the competition out of the water and score top marks in the EVOO category.
So you’ve got your bottle of liquid gold, but need some inspiration? If you’re not used to using olive oil liberally, here are some mouth-watering suggestions to. Let’s get down to it:
1. Drizzle, splash, slosh on vegetables before roasting or grilling.
Don’t be shy - slosh it on! Add fresh or dried herbs and spices for extra flavour and antioxidants. Not only does it boost the texture and flavour, adding EVOO in this way can increase the bioavailability of some nutrients – particularly antioxidants like lycopene in tomatoes.
2. Dressed for success.
This is where a more intense flavoured EVOO will really shine. Low fat, packaged dressings with preservatives, flavours and sugar aren’t your friend in the gut health (or flavour) stakes. Here’s a simple vinaigrette to add to your repertoire, and PLEASE do yourself a favour and give this salad a whirl.
3. You can and should use it in a hot pan.
Yes it does stand up to the heat! Get enthused about your veggies with zucchini fritters, or make fish cakes, schnitzels or old school fish and chips.
4. Veggies, but not as you know them.
Steam or microwave but don’t over-do it – leave some crunch! Then dress vegetables with a good drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, a squeeze of lemon juice and season with salt and pepper. Vegetables like broccoli and brussels sprouts can taste quite bitter to younger, less experienced taste buds. So adding flavour and texture with EVOO is a great tactic to employ when you’re trying to broaden children’s palates. More flavour, less nagging, and more good things in bellies.
5. Salsa verde - the sauce, not the dance.
Try this recipe from the loveable Jamie Oliver. Salsa verde literally means ‘green sauce’ and is garlicky, herbaceous, zesty and rich all at the same time. It will elevate any barbecued or seared meat, fish or chicken to a whole new level.
6. While we’re on green things, let's talk about pesto.
Quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil is the backbone of this simple but show-stopping condiment made traditionally with fresh summer basil, pine nuts, parmesan cheese and garlic. Slap it on toast, melt it through steaming hot pasta or dollop pesto on top of minestrone soup.
7. All kale - the king of chips!
But rather than buying the ridiculously priced packet version, make your own. Just wash, dry and trim kale leaves, get your hands into it and massage a generous amount of Extra Virgin Olive oil into them for a few minutes until supple, then season (nutritional yeast provides a great vegan ‘cheesey’ flavour), and bake for 15 minutes until crispy. Still not sure? Google it!
8. Bake the world a better place.
Did you know you can use Extra Virgin Olive oil in baking to replace butter or other oils vegetable oils? It’s true! Take this Cockatoo Grove Olive Oil Cake with Lemon and this Olive Oil Coconut Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting as two mouth-watering examples.
9. Dip it good.
Make a really simple dip using chickpeas, cannellini beans or broad beans, blended with lashings of extra virgin olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper and lemon juice for the quickest, tastiest dip - so much better than prepackaged. Here’s a recipe for a very moorish White Bean, Feta and Herb Dip you can whip up in a few minutes.
10. Happily ever after - dessert!
To finish off, you’re thinking something sweet, right? How about a decadent olive oil chocolate mousse from the queen of the kitchen, Nigella Lawson. Choose a mellow / mild flavoured Extra Virgin Olive Oil for this purpose.