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My changing oil habits

April 19, 2010

No, I am not referring to changing oil in my car….in fact I can’t remember the last time I did that. Oil and water, (not just petrol), and air in the tyres…must remember…! Those of you who know me are sure to add “register car” to that list.

A post on Jugalbandi, a blog I follow, prompted me to reflect on how much change I have made to the types of oils and fats I use in my cooking over the last year or so. My standard was extra virgin olive oil (bought more for the idea that it is less refined, has less additives, than necessarily for taste) which I used for just about everything except for baking and deep frying. I knew olive oil did not fare well at high temperatures (when it turns into something rather toxic) so I used either Peanut oil or Sunflower oil for deep frying. I don’t like the idea of genetically modified Canola or what they do to the rape seed oil to make it into the odourles and colourless canola oil, so I never use it. And ofcourse baking always involved butter. Tons of it.

Then I read an article on the health benefits of extra virgin coconut oil. Yes, contrary to popular wisdom, it is actually quite a healthy choice. Your body does not store it as fat and something about lauric acid. And apparent health benefits in relation to the thyroid function and diabetes. Google it if you want to know more. You will be surprised. The key is that it needs to be virgin coconut oil – not the super processed stuff that is either totally odourless and colourless or smells and tastes terribly rancid. Virgin coconut oil is supposed to be pressed soon after picking, in a place close to where it is picked, using manual (and not chemical) extraction. So now I try and use the coconut oil instead of olive oil or butter. It has a lovely gentle coconut flavour and aroma and is quite nice in sweet baked things as well as cooking. A nice way to add a coconut flavour without coconut cream.

After reading the Jugalbandi post I decided to try and use ghee (clarified butter) more often. Given a choice between the coconut oil and ghee, I prefer coconut oil, for the taste, the health benefits of coconut oil and because I am dairy intolerant. I intend to try and use more mustard oil as well….just keep forgetting to use it other than when I am making this very unusual and delicious lamb curry that needs the mustard oil. We used to be able to buy lovely Australian cold pressed mustard oil – Yandilla – but I have not seen it in the shops for a very long time. I loved frying fish in that oil. Mustard oil also has a high smoke point and is great for cooking at high temperatures.

My current stash of oils from left to right: mustard oil (for some curries), sunflower oil (for deep frying, I sometimes use rice bran oil or peanut oil for this as well), spray olive oil (for ‘greasing’ baking or other dishes), extra virgin olive oil (for cooking, salad dressing and everything else), ghee (clarified butter – trying to get myself to use more of this in Indian cooking), extra virgin coconut oil (for cooking – a bit of a replacement for some of the olive oil) and hazelnut oil (for a lovely nutty taste in my salad dressings). What is missing from the photo is butter – I still use tons of it for baking.

How about you – what oils do you use for cooking?

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12 Comments leave one →
  1. April 20, 2010 8:19 AM

    I’m a big fan of organic virgin coconut oil. A naturopath put me on to it last year, and it has been a happy ingredient to add to my shopping list. I usually add it to a smoothie- very subtle coconutty flavour, added with a banana, milk, some natural yoghurt and linseed meal. Really tasty, and a good energy boost. However, if you are dairy intolerant some of those other ingredients aren’t going to work at all. I have used it for curries and banana cakes as well.
    I haven’t used mustard oil before, but will look out for it.

    • spiceandmore permalink*
      April 21, 2010 4:48 PM

      Hey a smoothie with the oil sounds interesting. I will have to give that a try. I have used it in baking as well – some biscuits (a nice lower fat way to get a subtle coconut flavour without the actual coconut being in there – since it would be replacing both the butter and the coconut…at least that is how I justify it anyway! :))and muffins. If I eat an egg in the morning I fry it in the coconut oil – rather strange I know but I like the flavour.

  2. April 20, 2010 5:22 PM

    Interesting! My MIL loves coconut oil too (she is a bit obsessed with her weight and the point about it not being stored was a big plus). I didn’t realise that it had to be the virgin coconut oil though which is rather crucial as I thought she meant the other kind! 😛 I use rice bran oil and grapeseed oil 🙂

    • spiceandmore permalink*
      April 21, 2010 4:46 PM

      Hi Lorraine, yes, it does need to be the virgin coconut oil to have all the health benefits – some would be stripped out from the super processed versions. Also, I think the fact that the coconut is dried (and then allowed to go mouldy and stored for so long before it is transported to different countries for processing) in itself might be counter productive health wise (?)

  3. April 20, 2010 6:49 PM

    Oils are such subjects of bad press.

    Coconut oil, ghee and mustard oil are core to various Indian communities. All of them have been blackballed. Though there is a move trying to give ghee some respectability.

    We use a lot of mustard oil in the East. I never took to it as it was not used in our house. And therefore don’t like coconut oil either. In the East we use it for our hair. I don’t have much of that 😦

    We used refined oil which is sold as being good for the oil. Olive oil fro Western dishes or mild stir fries. And a bit of ghee for such as the mutton dish that we made when you guys had come.

    I guess one has to be as active and outdoorsy as folks like you to be ghee or coconut oil friendly 🙂

    • spiceandmore permalink*
      April 21, 2010 4:44 PM

      Hey Kalyan, I think the current thinking is that in fact coconut oil is good for you. It apparently behaves more like a carbohydrate in the body than like a fat – in that it is converted to energy in the liver rather than circulating around the blood. So no, you don’t need to be as “active and outdoorsy” as me (wow, someone thinks I am active/outdoorsy – that makes me happy…if only it were true! :))
      Interesting point about “refined” oil being sold as though it was a good thing, a “better quality/improved” oil, when in fact the opposite is true. I remember from our days in India that refined was seen as the better option. I now understand that refined just means that it is the oil that is most messed around with – when they can’t extract any more oil from the olive or whatever through mechanical and other means, they use chemicals to get that last little bit out; or it is because they have to bleach and deodourise it (like Canola = rape seed = seriously stinky; or non virgin coconut oil which is usually rancid and smells/tastes disgusting). It is worth doing a bit more research on it…if nothing else it will make you feel less guilty about consuming the nicer tasting options! Getting off my soap box now…. 🙂

      • April 22, 2010 8:17 PM

        Hey Spice Lady 🙂

        Outdoorsy? Compared to me anyone would be Jesse Owens.

        Refined oils have been sold here at a premium here under the guise of omega, no trans fat, cholesterol friendly and what not. Olive Oil’s also taken the health route as it’s very expensive.

        Off late its become fashionable to extoll the virtues of ghee from the but Indian point of view. No such luck yet for coconut or mustard. Both have very distinct tastes and do not cut across regions. Not chased by marketing folks I guess.

  4. April 20, 2010 7:00 PM

    I’m a fan of extra virgin olive oil, grapeseed oil and butter. There’s a delicious bottle of hazelnut oil in the fridge that I’ve yet to get to. That’s pretty much it, though…

    • spiceandmore permalink*
      April 21, 2010 4:49 PM

      I have never really used grapeseed oil…must give it a try…

  5. April 23, 2010 11:53 PM

    Hello there! Friend of Celia’s here popping in to say hi. 🙂 Interested in what you say about coconut oil and mustard seed oil, I think the latter has health warnings against it here? So much conflicting information around isn’t there?

    Hemp oil is marketed here as ‘the good oil’. It’s an amazing dark green colour, but the one bottle of it I tried, it wouldn’t mix with anything else, and I couldn’t get it to amalgamate in a dressing. So I think I’ll pass on that one.

    I use ev oil, unpressed and cloudy and a slightly more processed version as well, sunflower oil, grapeseed, nut oils occasionally but they go off quickly. And butter! I’m a big butter fan, we get so many sorts, english, danish, french, irish, alpine, all different.

    In the freezer there is a tub of goose fat which gets used for roast potatoes until it is all gone. That’s a pretty sinful fat but tastes really good! I’ve had a lovely time reading your posts, all the best, Joanna

    • May 16, 2010 4:12 AM

      Goose fat’s healthy. Actually, all the animal fats are healthy. I was shocked to learn that lard, of all things, is mostly mono-unsaturated fat. That would be why it is still spreadable even when it has been in the refrigerator.

      As long as you avoid stuff that’s way overprocessed, hydrogenated, etc., it’s fine. The only trans fat that’s good for you is conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which is made “trans” by nature, not by machine–and it’s an animal fat as well. And don’t go overboard on polyunsaturates, you might as well be eating plastic. Aiming for a 1:1 omega 6/omega 3 ratio is a good idea.

  6. April 27, 2010 6:51 AM

    Great post. I would like to try the coconut oil/butter. Currently, my kitchen has olive oil, peanut oil, and sesame oil. I was looking into buying a nut oil for salads, too. It was either going to be walnut or almond. Perhaps, hazelnut will be another option. This is the second post to mention mustard seed oil. Looking forward to learning about that oil, too.

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