Forget olive oil, corn oil, vegetable oil and any other old oils because rapeseed oil is the new frying choice and what’s more it’s 100% UK sourced and bottled. Nick Harman goes to see how the seeds become liquid gold..
Rapeseed oil, known as Canola oil in America perhaps for obvious reasons, has had a relatively short history in the UK but has been going from strength to strength with supply sometimes being outstripped by demand. Especially when endorsed on the TV.
‘Well, Greg Wallace mentioned how good it was on Masterchef a few years back and the next day sales went through the roof,’ says Jon Hammond, Executive Director of Hammond Food Oils as we duck through plastic curtains into another section of the rapeseed pressing and bottling plant near Nottingham. ‘It was like the old Delia effect, do you remember when she recommended that saucepan?’ Who could forget?
Rapeseed genuinely is a seed, a tiny black round seed that s identical in look to the mustard seed used in Indian cooking, or the cabbage seed we plant in vegetable plots. This is because it’s a part of the same brassica family and even smells rather the same. Today its unmistakable bright yellow flowers are a familiar part of the UK’s colour palette all summer long.
It’s harvest time comes in August and the seeds are arriving at the factory in their millions where they are quickly sieved and sorted to remove unwanted flower and stalk debris before heading to the cold presser. The woody debris goes to be used as biofuel for heating, nothing is wasted not even it seems the waste
‘Chicken feed!’ says Jon showing me a sample of squidgy green material left after the pressing, it’s perfect for chickens, full of nutrients and gooey with the last traces of the oil that couldn’t be extracted by the relatively (compared to hot pressing) less efficient cold press method. ‘Cold pressing though preserves more of the goodness,’ explains Jon ‘and we press and filter the seed five times, that’s more than any other brand on the market, for the purest product
The oil pours sinuously down pipes to be refined ready for bottling, gradually going from green to gold in the process.
This is a small factory with a small workforce where the bottling machine chugs away cheerfully, occasionally stopping and being tended by its minders, before lurching back into clinking life again. The bottles are wrapped with their date marked labels and pass out through a catflap affair to be hustled into boxes by hand ready for dispatch.
Not just plain rapeseed oil either, much of the produce is flavoured with things such as lemon, basil, chili and garlic to meet increasing demand.
The natural oil is relatively neutral in flavour, it has a slight nuttiness that’s warm and embracing and not the assertive pepperiness of so much olive oil as well as half the saturated fat and and a near perfect blend of omegas 3, 6 and 9.
The neutral flavour makes it ideal for frying, as does its high smoke point that means that unlike olive oil it can be made to go very hot indeed without choking you out of the kitchen.
A big fan is Michelin starred chef, Kenny Atkinson who first won a Michelin star at St Martin’s on the Isle Hotel and then at his own restaurant, House of Tides in Newcastle. He’s been a big fan he says since he was obliged to find a substitute for olive oil when cooking for the Great British Menu. ‘Everything had to be sourced from the UK obviously, so that meant no olive oil. But I fell in love with rapeseed oil and now that’s all I use in my restaurant kitchen.’
To prove how good it is he gets busy and cooks Grilled Mackerel with salad of fennel and an orange, brown shrimp and ginger vinaigrette, whips up a vibrant Watercress Pesto Sauce and then Lemon and Thyme Cake Bars. Follow the links for the recipes.
All delicious I find, as I eat the dishes under a clear blue sky out in the Nottinghamshire countryside just a mile or two away from where the oil was produced.
Rapeseed oil is one of our island’s most perfect products it seems and is slipping ever deeper into the clued-up chef’s toolbox.Try some yourself and get the golden touch.
The full Borderfields range includes:
Borderfields British Cold Pressed Rapeseed Oil (500ml and 250ml)
Borderfields Scottish Cold Pressed Rapeseed Oil (500ml and 250ml)
Borderfields Chilli Infused Rapeseed Oil (250ml)
Borderfields Basil Infused Rapeseed Oil (250ml)
Borderfields Garlic Infused Rapeseed Oil (250ml)
Borderfields Lemon Infused Rapeseed Oil (250ml)
Borderfields Garlic & Ginger Stir Fry Oil (250ml)
Available at Sainsbury’s, Morrisons and Asda stores nationwide, as well as selected Tesco stores and www.amazon.co.uk – with RRPs ranging from £1.99 – £4.50.