Rapeseed Oil, a good alternative?

Rapeseed Oil, a good alternative?

About a year ago – just before Mia was born – I managed to blag some free Cold Pressed Exta Virgin Rapeseed Oil (from George Munns, Rapeseed Oil producer), with the idea of writing an article investigating whether it really can live up to the hype. Typically for me, I forgot all about it until recently when the fields near my house suddenly burst into life with this unmistakable yellow.

Rapeseed, a close-up

Recent articles cite rapeseed oil as being good for reducing cholesterol, while being low in saturated fat (compared to olive oil), and high in unsaturated fats.

What is “Cold Pressed”?

Cold pressing is the simplest way of extracting oil, and simply involves squeezing the nut, seed or olive in a press until oil is released; this is in contrast to the cheaper cooking oils whereby the oil is extracted under heat or by using chemicals. In fact, most rapeseed oil was extracted in this latter manner until recently and simply labelled as “vegetable oil”, whereby it has lower health benefits and a blander taste. Basically, the use of cold pressing gives a better product which has only come onto the market in recent years.

Fields of Oilseed Rape

In the Kitchen

I’ve been using this oil for around a year now, not as a replacement to olive oil, but as additional oil available to me. Extra Virgin Rapeseed Oil is great drizzled over salads, where it has a nutty taste unlike the pepperyness of olive oil (great for a rather more “English” style salad). It is also my new oil of choice for homemade mayonnaise (using this method), where the oil doesn’t turn bitter – unlike extra virgin olive oil does when processed, something apparently due to “bitter tasting polyphenols“.

The real benefit to this oil though it its versatility; it has a smoke point of around 230 degrees (see here) compared with just 190 degrees c (375f) for extra virgin olive oil (210c / 410f for the refined), which means it can be used for shallow and deep fat frying, roasting, you name it.

In addition to this is the little know fact that the leaves themselves are edible and are sometimes called yau choy – similar in name and use to the popular bok choy.

So why isn’t it more popular?

Despite the yellow fields of oilseed rape being a common sight in Britain during May, the fact is that many people just don’t associate it with a high quality food product. Until 30 years ago, the plants were not even edible (this has since been rectified though selective breeding techniques), and any oil produced was put to industrial use. Even since then, the majority of rapeseed oil is used in other rather bland foodstuffs, such asmargarine (yuk).

Many of today’s familiar cooking names are starting to spread the word, such as Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall and James Martin (source here), so it seems as if the professional world is now convinced, and the domestic world (that’s us!) is sure to follow.

Why not give it a try and let me know your opinions, or tell me about any Rapeseed Oil uses you might have?