THE task I set myself this week was to find the best value in olive oils at the lower end of the market.
I avoided plastic bottles as I don’t like the idea of the acids in the oil causing the possible leaching of chemicals from the plastic, so it’s the cheapest of the glass bottles or cans we have here.
Most plastic ones were only marginally cheaper anyway.
Most of what is available is extra virgin oil which is not good for cooking with at high temperatures, though is fine for slow, low cooking.
Very high heat affects the natural chemicals in the oils, so look for ordinary, fattier olive oil for cooking with.
I have recently succeeded in cooking at high heat with rapeseed oil flavoured with a little chilli oil to get rid of the heavy taste of the rapeseed.
Use the olive oils here to add at the last minute to soups and stews, in salads and hummuses and in low, slow cooking of onions and garlic.
I looked for the cheapest in glass from each supermarket, ideally dark glass, which is best to avoid deterioration.
Use opened oils within four months for best flavour.
Clear glass bottles should be kept in a dark place. If you find that your olive oil has become solid or cloudy, fear not, it will clear once gently heated. Colour is no indication of quality.
Dunnes Stores Family Favourites extra virgin 750ml €3.29 (€4.38/litre)
This wins the prize for the cheapest oil. Made from Spanish olives, it is in a clear glass bottle which is not ideal for storing, so must be kept in a cupboard. A beautifully balanced oil with just the right amount of green kickback in the throat.
San Leandro 500ml €4.49 (€8.98/litre)
In a white frosted bottle, this is a smooth oil with just a little kick at the back of the throat. A second offering from SuperValu, it surpassed a few other brands more widely available in supermarkets. Delicious for both cold salads and hot vegetables and soups.
Marks & Spencer Italian extra virgin 500ml €5.99 (€11.98/litre)
From a large range, some in plastic, some in interesting rectangular bottles, this was the cheapest. A dark bottle was a plus. The oil is medium weight and has a fruity, very peppery finish.
Delitaly extra virgin 1 litre €6.99
This canned oil has a medium weight and light colour and taste which does not overpower other food flavours. A good all-rounder for those who like it mild. I use it for mayonnaise and Hollandaise. Perhaps not fruity enough for those who want a strong taste of olives.
Tesco Greek extra virgin 300ml €3.59 (€7.18/litre)
In a dark green bottle, it has a strong flavour and a peppery kick. A medium weight, with a lovely, silky texture. Good for bland vegetables and salads.
Aldi Specially Selected Puglian extra virgin 500ml €3.69 (€7.38/litre)
In a dark bottle and made in the heel of Italy, the oil, typical of the region, has quite an aggressive kick at the back of the throat. Medium weight, it’s delicious on a chickpea salad and in soups.
Supervalu Kalliston 1 litre €8.79
In a can from Greece, this was the cheapest of the SuperValu offerings. A nice, smooth finish will not overpower other flavours. There is a gentle kick at the back of the throat as we expect.
Lidl Italiamo extra virgin 500ml €3.69 (€7.38/litre)
In a clear bottle, this oil is quite light and has a definite peppery kick which is a little harsh. Good on hot vegetables.
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