He is rated among the top ten chefs of the world. He is a TV show host, the author of best-selling cookbooks, owner of a chain of restaurants, architect of a unique range of food products and the winner of numerous culinary awards.
Sanjeev Kapoor, the celebrity chef, devotes his time catering to people’s gastronomic needs. In an exclusive chat with Smita Mishra of Spicezee.com, he discusses what made him come up with an exclusive Indian cookbook of olive oil recipes, the benefits of the oil and its various uses.
Do you think olive oil is suitable for Indian foods?
Any oil, unless it has a very strong flavour is suitable for Indian food. Olive oil doesn’t have any distinct flavour of its own, so it serves well as a cooking medium for all kinds of Indian foods. You won’t guess if I made your “samosa” in olive oil!
Isn’t it highly overrated in terms of health benefits?
In terms of composition it is extremely healthy as it is low in saturated fats. As far as calling it overrated is concerned, it depends entirely on the perception of the people. Those who can afford it, find it highly beneficial.
But why not use the traditional mustard oil?
It is not that mustard oil cannot be used. In fact, it is widely used in India. It is produced and consumed extensively. But what people do not realize is that mustard oil in its natural form may really be good but the one that we consume, the filtered one, has hardly any health benefits.
Isn’t it true that olive oil when heated loses its health benefits and Indian foods are cooked at high temperatures?
This is not true of Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Contrary to the popular belief, it remains stable and gives best results with Indian foods.
But it is said that deep frying in olive oil gives an undesirable taste?
I can assure you that there is nothing like that, but it is best if people try it and see whether they like the taste.
Which is better for cooking-Extra Virgin, Virgin or Pure olive oil?
Extra Virgin Olive Oil is considered the best. Acidity level is the prime factor in determining its grade. The best oil has the lowest acidity. Extra virgin olive oil is valued for its perfect balance of flavour, aroma, colour, and acidity level.
One reason extra virgin olive oil is valued so much is its high content of vitamins and nutrients. Also, it is pure and without any additives. The fruitiness of its taste adds to its appeal.
Virgin Olive Oil also comes from the first pressing, and is also produced without refining. Its flavour intensity can vary and its taste is less mild than Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
Pure Olive Oil actually has the same acidity level as Virgin Olive Oil, and for that reason it has good resistance to high temperatures. But it is lower nutrient content than Virgin Olive Oil and as a consequence it is less expensive.
Pomace Oil is the lowest grade of Olive Oil. Pomace is that part of the olive that remains after all the oil and water in it has been removed.
To make Pomace Oil palatable, the producer blends it with virgin olive oil. Like Pure Olive Oil, it is suitable for use only in high-heat cooking.
What is the best way to store olive oil?
Like walnut oil, chances of getting rancid are high with olive oil. It is best to store it in cold places away from sunlight. In fact it is best to buy small 1 or two litre bottles.
How did you come up with the idea of writing a book of olive oil recipes?
All my books are based on the need of the people. When I saw that there was a lot of confusion and misconception about olive oil as a cooking medium for Indian foods, I decided to come up with this book.
Tell us something about your book- Cooking with Olive Oil?
It has Indian recipes made in olive oil. The recipes are an assortment of those types of ‘khana’ that you want to cook at home.
Through the book, what I want to convey to the readers is that food in itself is not unhealthy. It becomes unhealthy when we have it in excess. Olive oil is good for heart and you may not live a deprived life any more. You can cook all your favourite delicacies in this healthy oil.
Do you enjoy cooking more on TV, in a hotel or at home?
Cooking in itself is enjoyable. Location does not really matter. However, at home is more relaxing as you have your family around.
What are your future plans?
I am planning to launch a pan India monthly magazine on food and am also coming up with a 24 hours food channel.