A Note on Olive Oil

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A unifying theme of any food at La Cacciata is the excellent oil produced on the estate. However, we do not use this olive oil all the time. It is far too good to fry with or to use where strong flavours – garlic, chilli, anchovy etc – are present. Here are my three grades of olive oils as used throughout this book. (The quantities given in the recipes are not absolutely precise – you can generally vary them according to taste.)

Good Regular supermarket own brands or generic Italian brands of extra virgin olive oil are what I mean by good oil. They shouldn’t be too expensive. These oils often come in large tins, which can be dramatically cheaper. So, if you intend to plough through this book, I advise you to buy a 4 litre tin!

Very good This category is a little vague, but covers oils that come from a single origin, are of course extra virgin, but do not belong to the top flight. Probably the best guide for this is price. I notice that several of the supermarkets stock quite a few oils in this range. Experiment until you find one you like. It does not come in tins, but is usually bottled at source.

Top-quality Here we are talking of single producer Tuscan and Umbrian oils, some of them offered in fancy packaging or bottles worthy of a perfumier and often not much cheaper. I sometimes wonder whether these oils are meant to be put on food or behind your ears. I only ever use these oils as a flavouring or enhancement on a suitable finished dish. Their effects can be miraculous on, for example, a dish of plainly boiled spinach or French beans. Perhaps, to show your guests how munificent you are, you should put the bottle on the table to let them add their own oil to the food.

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