Rapeseed oil comes from oilseed rape, a root vegetable and cousin of mustard cabbage. The name is derived from the Old English term for turnip –‘rapum’. It comes, as you’d imagine, from those bilious yellow fields that, to my mind at least, disfigure so much of the countryside in Britain and Ireland.
However, aesthetics aren’t everything. Rapeseed oil is a product we can make here that will compete on culinary terms with the likes of sunflower, corn and even olive oil. Or so ‘tis claimed. The protagonists for rapeseed oil claim a health benefit too. Compared to olive oil it has half of the saturated fat and a much higher (up to 10x) natural Omega 3 content, the one item in the Irish diet so often lacking.
To extract the natural oil from the seed, it is squeezed in a mechanical press without the addition of any chemicals or heat. Cold pressed means that the composition of the oil isn’t altered by heating. It’s essentially the same process they use to make extra virgin olive oil.
There’s a further ecological bonus in that the seed husk that is left over (called ‘cake’ can be mixed with other cereals into a safe and nutritious animal feed. Alternatively it can be used as a low carbon, renewable fuel in solid fuel burners.
Okay, that’s the economic and ecological pitch, what does rapeseed oil taste like. The makers of this particular one – Derrycamma Farm near Castlebellingham in Co. Louth claim a “delicious earthy, nutty taste”, and say it’s suitable for dressings, stir frying, roasting and dunking. Indeed Derrycamma Fram Rapeseed Oil took a Gold at the 2010 Great Taste Awards.
Having lived with the product for a couple of weeks I have to say that, as far as a salad dressing goes, rapeseed oil, tastewise is not at the races. Far from being “nutty” I found it mucky, cloying and the earthiness the makers claim as a plus point was offensive in the extreme. What’s more, one of the things I most love about olive oil is, you can ring the changes. Switching from a light French one to, say, a Portuguese with its weighty mouthfeel, or a Greek oil exuding fruit and spice allows you to vary your dressing to choice. I haven’t tasted too many rapeseed oils for this purpose, maybe only 3 or 4 but the similarities seem more marked than the differences. Taste, though, is a subjective thing. You might actually like the flavour of rapeseed oil or, at least, be able to put up with it in return for the claimed health benefits, plus the feelgood factor that comes from using an Irish product.
Where this oil really comes into its own is for frying. I’m not sure what the smoke point is, but it’s decently high, so nice for stir fries. Used for frying, the oil comes over as pretty neutral. Corn oil is excellent for frying but some of the brands impart offensive flavours, infusing the ingredients with same. It makes excellent sauté potatoes too and crisp roasties – with the caveat that for both these purposes when it comes to flavour there’s really nothing so good as goose or duck fat and yes, I’m sure there’s an army of dieticians out there prepared to have me burned as a heretic.
So, a qualified ‘thumbs up’ for Derrycamma Farm rapeseed oil. But it will never replace olive oil in my salads.
Co Cork: Drinagh Superstore, Skibereen; Lynch’s Centra, Crosshaven; Scally’s Supervalu, Clonakilty; Stuffed Olive, Bantry; Centra, Kanturk; Urru Culinary Store, Bandon.
Co. Donegal: Simple Simons Natural Food, Donegal.
Co Down: John Magee Butchers, Warrenpoint; Quails Fine Foods, Banbridge
Co Dublin: SuperValu, The Rise; JC Savage Supermarket, Swords; Select Stores, Dalkey; Treat, Imaal Rd, Cabra; Honest2Goodness, Glasnevin; Sheridans Cheesemongers, Dublin 2; Food Game, South Lotts Road, Dublin 4; Michael’s Food and Wine, Mount Merrion; Mortons at Park Place, Dublin 2; Mortons, Beechwood Avenue, Ranelagh; Listons Food Store, Camden St; O’Tooles Master Butchers, Sandycove; Fleming Fine Foods, Dundrum Village; Centre; Woodstock Café, Dublin 7.
Co Galway: Sheridans Cheesemongers, Galway; Connemara Fine Foods, Oughterard.
Co Kildare: Nick’s Fish, Newbridge; The Good Food Gallery, Kilcullen.
Co Kilkenny: Knockdrinna Farm House Cheese, Stoneyford.
Co Louth: Hickey’s Farm Shop, Bohermomor, Ardee; Country Fresh, Dundalk; McAteer’s Food House, Dundalk; Stockwell Artisan Food, Drogheda; The Country Store, Richardstown, Dunleer; Food For Thought, Carlingford; Forge Valley Farm Shop, Termonfeckin.
Co Meath: Sheridan Cheesemongers, Carnaross; Hugh Maguire Family Butcher, Ashbourne; SuperValu, Navan; Callaghan Butchers, Bettystown; Nick’s Fish, Ashbourne; An Troman, Trim.
Co. Monaghan: Kirks Seafood, Castleblaney.
Co Waterford: Ardkeen Food Store, Waterford.
Co. Westmeath: CR Tormeys, Athlone.
Co. Wexford: Fresh Fields, Gorey.