I’ve been having some interesting discussions via Twitter about the merits of rapeseed oil versus olive oil to dress the asparagus I am planning to serve on the 26th May; and as every good chef knows it’s all about tasting so I spent this evening with three oils and load of lovely asparagus from Owen’s Court. Whilst I love the ‘jumbo’ stems occasionally, with a soft-boiled duck egg maybe, my favourite grade is the fine or “sprue” which cooks in no time. I used to buy and sometimes pick asparagus at Blackbird Cottage not far from Faversham and would eat the superfine stalks raw as I picked, they almost have the flavour of a pea-pod straight from the plant.
Before tasting it with the asparagus which I was blanching briefly, I tried the oil neat. The first was a gift from a friend who produces her own oil in Andalucia and which tastes powerfully of olives and finishes with pepper. It seems rather daft to say that an olive oil tastes of olives, but often it is grassy or peppery; this one tastes like you’ve just bitten into a wonderful rich black olive. It’s an oil which I save for tomato salads when it brings even a sad glasshouse tomato to life and makes me think of sunny days – vital with this endless grey.
The second a traditional french extra virgin olive oil, nothing too fancy, the kind you might pick up on a day trip and use every day for everything – as I do. It was smooth and unremarkable, a hint of pepper but not much more.
The final oil is sunshine in a bottle, Quex Foods cold pressed rapeseed oil, beautifully nutty and fresh tasting and a wonderful colour. Next to try them with the ‘gras…