Food glossary



Oils are edible fatty substances in liquid form. They can be derived from a number of plants, seeds, cereals, fruit and nuts. All oils are an extremely concentrated form of energy (kilocalories) and they contain different degrees of saturated, mono-unsaturated and poly-unsaturated fatty acids. A wide variety of oils are available, including:

Corn oil

Also known as maize oil, this oil has a rather bland taste but is high in polyunsaturates and so is one of the healthier oils. Groundnut oil can be used in place of corn oil.

Uses: Due to its high heating point it is suitable for deep frying.

To store: Store in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight.

French walnut oil

This has a distinctive nutty flavour and is often used an alternative to olive oil.

Uses: Walnut oil is best used in salads and dressings rather than in cooking.

To store: Store in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight.

Grapeseed oil

A very light oil which is best used in cooking.

Uses: It can be heated to high temperatures without the subtle flavour spoiling so is suitable for deep or shallow frying. It has very little flavour and so is ideal for cooking subtly flavoured foods such as fish.

To store: Store in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight.

Olive oil

This oil has been used for thousands of years. As early as 2,500 BC in Crete, forests were felled to make room for olive groves. Trade in 'liquid gold' as they called it, formed the basis for much of Greece's maritime and imperial expansion. The Romans grew even richer by planting huge orchards throughout their empire. In the ancient world, the olive was the richest source of their necessary oil. It flavoured and cooked food, lit lamps, formed the base of medicines, and was the ritual liquid used for anointing priests and kings.

The best olive oils are always expensive because they are costly to produce. Like wines, they vary with climate, country, area of origin and from year to year. Many different varieties of olive are grown for oil, so the range of oils is wide. They vary in colour, flavour, aroma, consistency and character and come mainly from France, Italy, Spain, and Greece.

To store: Store in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight.

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The different types:

Virgin olive oil

This is the oil which results from the first cold pressing of the olives. It is natural and pure and has no other oils added to it.

The different varieties:

Basil olive oil

Extra virgin olive oil infused with basil. Stir this delicious herb-flavoured oil into pasta dishes, marinades or dressings.

Chilli olive oil

Extra virgin olive oil infused with chillies. Add this spicy oil to pasta or salad dressings for a hot flavour or use to shallow fry bacon or chicken to give a subtle hint of chilli.

Extra virgin olive oil

A high quality oil for salads, marinades and pastas.

Garlic olive oil

Extra virgin olive oil infused with garlic. This delicious flavoured oil can be added to a variety of recipes. Use it in marinades and stir-fries or drizzle over cooked pasta.

Greek extra virgin olive oil

Greek olive oil is light green in colour and has a mild flavour. It has a peppery taste and comes from olives grown in the Kalamata region of Greece. Use for drizzling over traditional Greek salad with feta cheese, or toss through freshly cooked pasta and serve with fresh basil leaves, grated Parmesan cheese and plenty of freshly ground black pepper.

Light olive oil

This is a delicate and mild olive oil which has a very light, fresh and subtle flavour.

Light olive oil is especially suitable for cooking - from baking to frying but can also be used for salad dressings and marinades.

Spanish extra virgin olive oil

Spanish olive oil tends to be light and fragrant - ideal for salad dressings or serve as an alternative to butter with bread - simply dip the bread into the oil.

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Sunflower oil

Extracted from sunflower seeds, it is high in polyunsaturated fat and low in saturated fat.

Uses: A good all-round oil for shallow frying. It is not suitable for deep frying because it smokes and burns at very high temperatures.

To store: Store in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight.

Truffle oil

This combination of olive oil and truffle extract has a wonderful nutty black truffle flavour. It can be used as a substitute for truffles or in conjunction with them to enhance their flavour.

Uses: It is used as a flavouring, and not for cooking. Add to risottos, pasta dishes, salads and salad dressings. To make truffle flavoured butter, melt 75g of butter and stir in 1-2 tsp of oil, stir well and allow cool, before storing in the fridge.

To store: Truffle oil is very delicate and should be stored away from sunlight in a cool place.

Toasted sesame oil

Also referred to as roasted sesame oil. As the name suggests, is extracted from toasted sesame seeds. It has a very strong flavour, a dark colour and is often used in Oriental cookery as a flavouring but it not suitable for cooking.

Uses: Sprinkle a little sesame oil over salads, stir fries and any Oriental-style dishes for a deliciously nutty flavour.

To store: Store in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight.

Vegetable oil

A blended oil that can be a combination of sunflower, safflower, groundnut or any other bland vegetable oil. Blended vegetable oil is less expensive than pure oil.

Uses: Blended oil is most often used for shallow or deep frying.

To store: Store in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight.

Olive oil based spread

Made from around 20% olive oil these vegetarian spreads are a type of margarine. They are high in monounsaturated fats and low in saturated fats making them a healthier option than butter.

Uses: Olive oil spreads can be used for spreading on toast or bread to make sandwiches. They can also be used in baking, for making sauces and for shallow frying.

To store: Keep in the fridge and consume by the use by date.

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