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Frying fish with Extra Virgin Olive Oil is healthier
18 October 2016

Frying is a simple cooking method used for food preparation worldwide and has been around for thousands of years going back as far as the Egyptians.

There are two types of frying, shallow frying and deep frying. Deep frying results in complete food immersion in fat. While shallow frying is a partial immersion of foods in a selected fat. Shallow frying is generally seen as the healthier option. 


Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) has once again been proven to be a healthier choice of cooking oil for use in either of these frying methods. [Read my other article on Frying with Olive Oil]

As tudy has found that the healthiest way to fry fish is to use extra virgin olive oil, especially if this is done in the microwave.

The frying techniques, the nature of the oil used and the fish species have been shown to exert a great influence on the changes that take place during the process.

Researchers from University of the Basque Country in Spain have shown that the choice of cooking oil is hugely important owing to its impact on the lipid profile in the fish and on the possible generation of toxic compounds in the oil during frying, which can influence food safety and human health.

To conduct this research, fillets of European seabass (Dicentrarchus labrax) and gilthead seabream (Sparus aurata) were shallow-fried in a frying plan and in a microwave oven using extra virgin olive oil and refined sunflower oil.

The changes that took place in the lipid composition of the fish and of the frying oil were studied by means of Proton Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Imaging (H-1 NMR).

During the shallow-frying of the fish under domestic conditions, not only do the fish lipids migrate to the frying oil, the components of the oil are also transferred to the fillet of fish.

As a result, the composition of the oil used for frying is modified. It is enriched by the acyl groups (fatty acids) that are present in a higher concentration in the fish fat than in the original oil, and simultaneously it is depleted in the acyl groups present in a higher concentration in the original oil than in the fish fat.

So after having been used for frying, the extra virgin olive oil was richer in omega-3, omega-1 acyl groups, linoleic and saturated fats (from the fish) and poorer in oleic, which is the main acyl group in olive oil.

Likewise, after having been used for frying, the sunflower oil was richer in all the acyl group types (coming from the fish) except linoleic, which is the majority acyl group in sunflower oil.

Both types of oil were enriched by small amounts of cholesterol from the fish. Besides the migration of lipids during frying, because these oils are subjected to high temperatures (170 degrees Celsius) in the presence of oxygen, certain small-scale thermal oxidation may take place in them.

In the extra virgin olive oil used for frying fish, this thermal oxidation reaction did not occur as it is more degradation-resistant than sunflower oil.

Yet in the sunflower oil used for frying fish in the frying pan, secondary oxidation compounds (aldehydes) were formed; some of them are regarded as potentially toxic depending on the concentration in which they are found.

Therefore, in view of the results obtained and bearing in mind the generation of these compounds that are potentially harmful for health, the healthiest option for frying is to use extra virgin olive and fry in the microwave, researchers said.

[The study was published in the journal Food Research International.]

Like 0        Published at 11:53   Comments (5)

Arroz al Horno from Valencia
10 October 2016

Rice dishes are one of my favourites, but Valencian oven-baked rice or “Arroz al Horno” when I first came to Spain wasn’t exactly one them until I tasted the real deal. I took a disliking to it mainly because it was often too dry for my liking. However, when I learnt the tricks to get it right, everything changed. It was just a process of practice makes perfect to be honest. There is a fine line between an 'ok' rice and a great rice and I must admit it has taken me several attempts to even get close to a great “Arroz al Horno”, I wouldn’t say I have mastered it by any means but I am on the way. My last attempt went down very well with my Spanish family members. As with all traditional dishes they tend to be a lot of work but fortunately this dish isn’t that time consuming and the result is just fantastic. Valencian cuisine is normally eclipsed by the Paella but this dish is very much part of the Valencian’s staple diet. Traditionally it was prepared with the left overs from the “cocido”, a meat and vegetable stew/broth but nowadays everyone makes it with fresh ingredients. Another of it’s advantages is that it doesn’t make as much mess as a paella when you are cooking indoors!


This dish is cooked in a large flat earthenware dish. If you don’t have one you can also cook it in a non-stick baking pan. However the result is better in an earthenware dish. The ingredients you will need for this recipe are the following:






Ingredients for 4 people :


400g  Round Valencian Rice – the same you use for a paella

300g Pork Ribs chopped up into small pieces

300g “Panceta” (thick cut bacon) chopped up into small pieces.

200g Grated tomato

4 Onion Morcillas ( Spanish black pudding)

1 large tomato cut into thick slices

1 large potato cut into thick slices

300g   Cooked Chickpeas (garbanzos)

1 Whole head of garlic



1 litre approx. Chicken and vegetable stock

Extra Virgin Olive Oil (preferably Picual for frying)



(In Valencia you can buy "Arroz al horno meat packs" already made up in some supermarkets so if you find one you only need to pull together the rest. I like to add an little extra panceta if I buy a pack as they don't normally put much in them)


It looks like a lot of ingredients but it is fairly straight forward so I really encourage you to give it a go. 


The first step is to get the oven on full heat so it starts heating up while you are preparing the rest and start heating the stock. It needs to be almost boiling when you add it to the pan. Add a little saffron to the stock to give it a bit of colour and when the stock is hot add the chickpeas to it to heat them up, keep the stock hot. If you have homemade stock fantastic but the chances are you won't and I didn't, so I used as most people do, a ready made stock from the supermarket.


Grab a frying pan, put in some extra virgin olive oil and start to fry the potatoes slices. They don’t need to be cooked just half cooked and slightly browned. Remove them and place to one side.






Now you need to fry the pork ribs. They need to be really well cooked so they go brown and crispy around the edges. Once the ribs are turning slightly brown pop in the whole garlic with the panceta  until it goes crispy too. You need to put the pancetta in slightly later as it cooks faster than the ribs. Once ready remove it all from the pan and place the meat and the garlic in the earthenware dish.






Take the morcillas and quickly fry them, without cutting them up, in the fat that has been left in the pan, just for a couple of minutes and take them out. You are not cooking them now just sealing them and giving the fat a bit more flavour. The next step is to add the grated tomato to the oil with a teaspoon of paprika and fry it gently in the remaining oil for a minute or two. At this point you need to add the rice to the frying pan to seal it for a minute or so before putting it in the earthenware recipient. This will soak up all the fat and flavour from the pan and is essential for the final result. At this point you need to add the hot stock and the chickpeas to the earthenware dish as quickly as possible, move the ingredients around so they are all evenly in place and put the potato and tomato slices on top. Now place it immediately in the oven on full heat for 20 min (250ºC). During the last five minutes of the cooking time turn on the grill so it browns the top. When it is ready all the stock should have evaporated. Remove it from the oven and let it sit for a five minutes before serving.


As with all rice dishes the amount of stock or water is the key to success. The easiest way to measure the correct amount of rice and the correct amount of stock is to find a coffee cup or a small glass. I have one that holds approximately 100g of rice so I use one cup per person. The rule of thumb is for every cup/glass of rice you will need two cups of stock minus one from the total number. So if you are using 4 cups of rice you would need 7 cups of stock (using the same cup measurement). 


The secret to this recipe is time management and really cooking the meat well. The objective is to get all the ingredients into the oven while they are still hot so the oven doesn’t have to heat them up but starts cooking straight away from the minute it goes in. 

















Now just serve up and enjoy. I accompanied this meal with a fantastic red wine that I bought from Carrefour, ILDVM - Tempranillo Colección Bolumar (€4). I highly recommend it. It is a spectacular red wine for the price. You will be really surprised. Hope you enjoy it!









Like 1        Published at 14:03   Comments (2)

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