Oiling the kitchen wheels with Borderfields rapeseed oils

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..

Bottled with love

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, no waste

Chicken feed, no 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

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Gold standard

The oil pours sinuously down pipes to be refined ready for bottling, gradually going from green to gold in the process.

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The machine marches on

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.

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Cooks’ choice

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.’

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Grate for any dish

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.

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Mayonnaise made easy

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.

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Ready to fry

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.

Queen of the crop

Nick heads down to Kent to fill his punnet with some of the tastiest strawberries in the country

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My hand snakes out again almost against my will, grabs a traffic-light red strawberry from its stem and I pop it into my mouth. I’m actually supposed to be putting it in the plastic punnet I’m carrying but it’s impossible to resist the sun-warmed fruit.

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Worth its salt

Nick goes to Anglesey to earn his salary (sic) by seeing Halon Môn salt created and how Green & Black’s chocolate is making new use of it.

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David Lea-Wilson, co-founder

‘Every day whatever the weather I come down to the water’s edge and use this device,’ says David Lea-Wilson co-founder of the Anglesey Salt Company waving a curious kind of measuring instrument that looks rather like the thing doctors poke in people’s ears.

It is in fact a  refractometer and accurately measures how much light bends, or refracts, when it enters water. The more salt dissolved in the water, the more resistance the light will meet and the more it will bend.

This device is crucially important because the seawater here is what goes to make Halen Môn salt, widely regarded as one of the best sea salts in the UK if not the world. And it’s the salt Green & Black’s have chosen to go into their new Dark Sea Salt THIN bar.

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Go Dutch for great food at sea.

Today’s cruisers attach massive importance to the quality and variety of food on board. Nick Harman sees what Holland America’s newest ship has on the menu.

home-bgHolland America is one of the most venerable of cruise lines, but perhaps not the best known in the UK. Founded in 1873 for many years it ran regular passenger sailings from Holland to New York.

In fact when Rotterdam was the gateway to a new and better life for European emigrants in the early part of the last century, it was mostly on Holland America ships that they sailed.

I was invited to Rotterdam to sail and eat on the ms Koningsdam, the newest addition to the Holland America Pinnacle-class cruising fleet, and the largest as well. It was about to be dedicated by Queen Maxima of the Netherlands before we sailed to Amsterdam overnight.

All aboard for ‘free’ food Continue reading

La Cova Fumada, Barcelona

Carrer del Baluart, 56, 08003 Barcelona, Spain

‘There’s no sign outside,’ my informant told me over a beer in the Ramblas, ‘and you’ll think that there simply can’t be anywhere good to eat in that tourist area, but honestly, it’s the bomb.’

bomba6-1Which is a bit of an in joke because the restaurant is known, by those in the know, as ‘La Bomba’ because of one particular tapas it serves that is loved by all who go to this tiny place hidden in the backstreets of Barcoloneta, the port part of Barcelona. Continue reading

Loving Luxembourg

It’s one of the world’s richest countries; it’s also one of the smallest. Nick Harman legs it over to Luxembourg to see what’s cooking.

IMG_4839It’s kind of appropriate when flying off to a country that’s barely 84 km long that I get on board an airplane equally as tiny. Just as France could swallow the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg many times over, you could fit quite a few Dash-8 airplanes into a modern jetliner.

The Luxair turboprop Dash -8 is the plane that makes the daily short hops from London City Airport to Luxembourg, it buzzes down the runway like an angry wasp and then climbs steeply out to minimise noise nuisance over Docklands.

Just over an hour later and we are over the heavily forested countryside of Luxembourg, the country is essentially a rural one and in its south eastern area is a large chunk of the Mosel valley, from where Luxembourg gets its Crémant de Luxembourg sparkling wine, a special type of wine within the Moselle Luxembourgeoise appellation. It’s drunk as an aperitif just about everywhere in the Duchy, as I will find out.

IMG_4849Luxembourg is a country yes, but it is also a city, which can get confusing. The city is a short ride from the airport, regular buses run back and forth and a tramway is being built, although most residents pull a face when you ask about it, suggesting that no one expects it to be ready anytime soon.

Within minutes of landing I am taking my weekend bag into the 4 star Hotel Simoncini, a bright smart and modern place bang in the centre with clean, sharp lined rooms and works of art in every corner.

Out to investigate

IMG_4929The general impression people have of Luxembourg, if they’ve never been that is, is one of lawyers, politicians and bankers all living well off the fat of the European Union, and it’s certainly true that the place has the scent of money. Fancy cars are everywhere and the men and women wear the sort of clothes that don’t scream wealth, but subtly demonstrate through cut, colour and fabric that they are not cheap either.

IMG_4984The city is divided by the deep Alzette valley. On one side is the beautiful old town perched on its cliff top, and once the most impregnable place in Europe thanks to its fortifications. Today it’s protected by Unesco from any attacks by modern day marauders trying to make money in property.

IMG_4956Across the gorge is the Kirchberg district where shiny office towers dominate, but not so long ago this was, as the cliché goes, all fields. And somewhat oddly, fields do still exist just behind some of the more massive shrines to capitalism thrown up by the big banks.

IMG_4966All is not empty hearted money though because here too is the Grand Duke Jean Museum of Modern Art, or Mudam for short, where I wandered happily. The museum is literally built on the old stone fortifications, and it has been done brilliantly so that old and new are equally visible at the same time.

Luxembourg has also realised that an area of town made up of nothing but office buildings is a soulless empty place at nights and weekends, so all new buildings have to dedicate their ground floors to shops and restaurants.

IMG_4908I ate lunch in the Aqua (Hotel Melia) close by to Mudam and it was very good; fine cooking in a stylish, modern glass environment with views out to the city.

IMG_4911Afterwards I went around the corner to see inside the Philharmonie concert hall, designed by the architect Christian de Portzamparc, a place of absolutely stunning design and, I was told, perhaps the finest acoustics in any hall anywhere in the world.

The old town and some stiff walking

Back in the old town there’s plenty to see. Obviously there is serious shopping to be had here but it’s not all Bond Street, even though one place I peered into sold nothing but classic watches and 4500 Euros seemed to be the cheapest one on offer.

IMG_5009If you’re not into clothes and watches there is food in plenty here, from the very finest restaurants serving classic French cuisine to modern fusion places such as Go Ten where platters of easy-eating and stylish Japanese style food are available all day. In the evening it becomes central to the whole busy bar and eating scene for the young Luxembourgers who gather in this charming part of town.

The morning food market the next day, Saturday, in the historic Place Guillaume was packed with good things to lust over and afterward there was a wide choice of coffee and pastry shops to try.

IMG_4897 The locals endlessly debate the merits of the very old and established Patisserie Namur against the very modern Patisserie Oberweis, but both have the capacity to bring you to your knees at the sight of incredible pastries and cakes as art form.

Just as well then that there are great walks to burn some of those calories off. For the less active the Chemin de la Corniche is a pedestrian promenade that runs along the line of the 17th-century city ramparts with fabulous views across the river valley. Or you can descend, fighting the pull of gravity, to the valley floor itself where the small winding streets come alive at night, especially in the old brewery area, the Grund quarter, now home to lots and lots of lively bars and restaurants.

IMG_5018Here too is the massive Neumünster Abbey, a cultural centre where there is always something going on, especially jazz concerts on a Sunday often to be enjoyed for free with a coffee, and if you’re hungry upstairs is Brasserie Neumünster’ where easy eating buffets are served and are good value too I found.

Chocolate and cheeses

IMG_4862Good news is that there is no need to clamber back up the steep winding roads afterwards, an elevator hewn into the rock lifts you back to the old town in seconds. And moments later I’m having a hot chocolate in front of the Luxembourg Grand Ducal Palace, watching other tourists pose with the stony-faced palace guard. The Luxembourg Royal Family, happily retained after a nationwide referendum in 1919, live here much of the time close by their subjects who by all accounts love them dearly.

And I love the chocolate shop dearly. The Chocolate House has more than 60 hot chocolates on IMG_5026offer, with a large choice of pralines, pies and homemade cakes too. Slimming it isn’t. All I can do after is to walk the streets very slowly, poking my nose into the incredible cheese shop at Kaempff Kohler where you can select some cheeses and sit down with a glass of wine from the wine shop and have a taste trip like no other.

Dinner is served

And later, hungry once more I descend to eat at UmPlateau, a charming place in an old house. Upstairs is cosy, the rooms feeling like someone’s sitting room. Downstairs is a bar built out back, a place that seems popular with the more jetsetty style of local and which has over 25 wines by the glass, as well as a whisky menu.

IMG_4971The food is modern European all over, well done without being adventurous and well priced too. Sharing platters of jamon, croquettes, grilled artichokes, stuffed bell peppers vie with a simple but fine steak and chips for attention. It fuels me for the walk back up to the old town very nicely.

After another pleasant night’s sleep, it’s a very quiet city away from the bar areas, it’s off the airport for another ride in the Dash8 and an exciting night-time low descent over St Paul’s before we land. Luxembourg City was a pleasant surprise, a great place for a weekend break and not at all what I imagined I would find.

Thanks to 

Office National du Tourisme de Luxembourg

Les bonnes addresses.

www.visitluxembourg.com  

Léa Linster Delicatessen

Gourmet shop of Luxembourg’s famous female Chef

4 rue de l’Eau, L-1449 Luxembourg www.lealinster.lu

Patisserie Namur

Family company in the 6th generation

27 rue des Capucins, L-1313 Luxembourg www.namur.lu

Patisserie Oberweis,Purveyor to the court

16 Grand’rue, L-1660 Luxembourg www.oberweis.lu

Maison Kaempff-Kohler

Founded in 1922

18 Place Guillaume, L-1648 Luxembourg www.kaempff-kohler.lu

Pâtisserie Cathy Goedert

8 rue Chimay, L-1333 Luxembourg www.cathygoedert.lu

Golden Bean Coffe Experience

23, rue Chimay, L-1333 Luxembourg www.goldenbean.lu

Kaale Kaffi coffee & vintage shop

9, rue de la Boucherie, L-1247 Luxembourg.

Dipso – the Wine Republic (wine bar)

4 rue de la Loge, L-1945  Luxembourg www.dipso.lu

The Wilderness Festival is my kind of festival

blanc2The love the mob feels for Raymond Blanc is remarkable. He emerges from the back of the Banqueting Tent at the Wilderness Festival looking, as usual, eerily like Dudley Moore but in chef whites and the crowd immediately goes bananas.

He becomes the epicentre of a horde, dare we say a swarm, of phone-toting fans keen to get selfies with the grinning Raymond. As many of horde are young girls and women scantily dressed to allow for the day’s heat, his grin becomes even wider. My wife grabs her phone and disappears into the crush as fast as anyone else and eventually emerges triumphant with her own personal memento of what has been a very memorable occasion. Continue reading