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In praise of: 18C organic extra virgin olive oil

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An extra special cold extracted olive oil from Oliveology

I once worked with a girl who had read that drinking olive oil could prompt miraculous weight loss, while also protecting from disease. That, she insisted, is why Cretan fishermen and Italian farmers are slender and chiselled and live to be 110. Something to do with squalene or antioxidants or some such guff. She also believed that drinking cider vinegar would have similar results, although why she insisted on downing them individually, rather than mixing them together to make a nice vinaigrette, escapes me. Maybe that would have messed with the squalene.

While it’s easy to sneer at stupid diets, the health benefits of really good olive oil should not be completely dismissed. For me, though, its powers have nothing to do with miracle molecules and everything to do with its ability to make whatever it touches taste of holidays.

With a tin of cold-pressed Greek olive oil in my cupboard, I can happily live on the kind of food that I know I should eat, but might otherwise struggle to be excited by. Pour this elixir over a big pile of vegetables, and suddenly even the worthiest of meals tastes like a week by the Aegean.

Wild-eyed abandon
Made early in the season from small, immature, intense little olives on a Spartan estate (meaning ‘in Sparta’, not ‘stern and austere’), it explodes with flavour. I use it on roots and brassicas in the same way that as a child I used granulated sugar on my Weetabix, poured on with wild-eyed abandon to bring beauty to the mundane.

Just out of nostalgia for my old colleague’s funny ways, I did try drinking a little shot. It made me cough and my eyes water. Even with oil as divine as this, it seems, you can have too much of a good thing.