Is rapeseed oil the latest MasterChef must-have?
Celebrity chefs seem indecently excited by the stuff. “We should embrace it as enthusiastically as olive oil,” coos foodie heart-throb, Ollie Dabbous. British rapeseed oil is liberally used in Dabbous’ Michelin-starred restaurant. Jamie Oliver serves a bottle of artisanal rapeseed oil on every table in his new restaurant. Clearly, there’s an appetite for this queer-sounding oil.
What’s so special about rapeseed?
Firstly, it’s local. Ireland has thousands of acres of fluorescent canola fields to turn into very profitable rapeseed oil. Many are cold-pressed, extra virgin and bottled on small-scale farms.
Secondly, rapeseed oil has a high smoke-point, meaning it does not chemically disfigure as quickly as other unstable oils like sunflower when used to fry foods. Oils can quickly turn rancid and lose their nutritional plaudits as soon as they reach their smoke-point.
Thirdly, rapeseed has a little bit of that coveted fat, omega-3.
However, I’m not convinced rapeseed oil is healthier than olive oil so it hasn’t won a place in my larder. Rapeseed oil is high in omega-6 fatty acids, which, if consumed in large amounts may result in the creation of menacing inflammatory markers. Not sure if I like the sound of that. Given my diet is super rich in omega-6 (I neck industrial quantities of nuts and seeds), I’m sticking to extra virgin olive oil for now.
Looking at rapeseed’s popularity on the TV and supermarket shelves, I might be alone on that front.
Ballyfin’s Signature Granola:
Keeping two toddlers alive, full-time, means we have replaced 6-week backpacking adventures with quiet one-night holidays down the road. The prospect was hardly riveting, so I boycotted booking somewhere this year in deference to my sulk.
My husband chose Laois for our annual one-nighter. The words ‘Laois’ hit my serotonin with a ferocity more suited to a bowling alley. I got immediate jaw-lock.
After a little diva-driven sleuthing, I found that Laois is affectionately referred to as LA 015, having acquired Ireland’s most glamorous property. My eyebrows levitated.
And sure enough, Ballyfin Demesne was an experience that made Brideshead Revisited look shabby. Sorry Thailand, you have nothing on LA 015.
250g mixed nuts (hazelnuts, cashews, almonds, walnuts, pecans, Brazils)
50g sunflower seed
50g pumpkin seed
300g jumbo gluten-free oats and quinoa flakes combo
75g wheat germ (I used ground almonds or ground flax for a gluten/wheat free option)
75g rapeseed oil
150g honey (maple syrup for vegan option)
150g chopped dried fruit (figs, sultanas, cranberries, dates)
2 teaspoons sea salt flakes (optional)
Makes enough for a large family, to last all week. Pre-heat your oven to 170 Celsius, 350 Fahrenheit or 150 for fan-assisted ovens. To prepare the granola, roughly chop the nuts any old way. Chuck in a large bowl with the seeds, oats and wheat germ or almonds. You can toast the seeds first on a dry, hot pan for 2 minutes if you fancy but I skipped this step.
Gently warm the honey and oil together. Pour over the bowl of oats and coat well. You won’t be adding the dried fruit until after baking.
Spread thinly on 2 baking trays lined with parchment and transfer to your pre-heated oven. Bake for 15-18 minutes. (If you think it needs longer, whack up the temperature another 5 degrees for the final few minutes). Chef advises to shake the trays after 8 minutes, to prevent burning. You want them all golden, not dark brown. Easy peasy.
Allow the trays of granola to cool before tossing through dried fruit. Store in an airtight container – it will keep for 2-3 weeks. Great with natural yoghurt and fresh winter berries. Ballyfin served mine with spiced poached pears, the memory of which makes me hiccup with excitement.