The intense gold of cold-pressed rapeseed oil (otherwise known as canola oil) reflects the still (in late April) yellowing spring fields of oilseed rape.
My earlier post described how some farmers are now producing distinctive cold-pressed rapeseed oil, with clear provenance, from their oilseed crops, but the oil itself deserves more attention.
Like extra virgin olive oil, cold pressed rapeseed / canola oil is extracted from the oilseed by a mechanical process (there may be some warming, but not above 40°C) which doesn’t alter the oil in any way. Nor does the oil require further refining, allowing the flavour of the rapeseed to survive.
Oil of distinction
The flavour is truly distinctive, a far cry from bland highly refined vegetable oil (much of it also from rapeseed). Rapeseed oil doesn’t have the peppery fruitiness of olive oil, but instead a more subtle nutty flavour. And rapeseed oil is more versatile in the kitchen, with a high smoke point of around 230°C.
All this has won the oil a loyal following, including chefs such as Mark Hix, chef-director of the Caprice restaurant group and author of British Regional Food
I often use rapeseed for roasting, where olive oil might burn and become acrid. It’s also good for frying, even at very high temperatures. Some say it’s good for mayonnaise, but I like some olive fruitiness in my mayonnaise and salad dressings.
The healthy option?
Olive oil has a reputation as the healthy option, but cold pressed rapeseed oil may be even better. It’s lower in saturated fat (6% against olive oil’s 14% and sunflower oil’s 11%) and has high levels of omega 3 and 6 polyunsaturate and omega 9 monounsaturate fatty acids. Impressive health claims are made for these, but the Food Standards Agency urges some caution, suggesting that fatty acids from vegetable sources may not have the same health benefits as those from oily fish.