Rapeseed oil and grass-fed beef

When cooking Chinese food, I have been in the habit of using groundnut oil, which is neutral in flavour, stable at high temperatures and relatively easily available. I’d rather, however, use the traditional Chinese cooking oils, which vary by region, but tend to be rapeseed oil in Sichuan, and camellia oil in some other southern areas, like Hunan – which is why I have been so excited to discover what seems to be a resurgence in the production of artisanal rapeseed oils at home in England. Yesterday, I spent a day experimenting with a Sichuanese chef friend in London, and we used Cotswold Gold extra virgin cold-pressed rapeseed oil to make some homestyle Sichuanese dishes. My friend, Barshu chef Zhang Xiaozhong, confirmed that it was very like the oils traditionally used in Sichuan, and we were both very satisfied by its performance as a cooking oil. So I’ll be using more and more of it, anyway!

Incidentally, I bought the oil at the Wild Beef stall at Broadway Market run by Richard and Lizzie Vines, producers of fantastic grass-fed beef. I’ve been using their meat for a while in Chinese dishes, and I highly recommend it. Their cattle are grass-fed and traditionally reared, and the meat is delicious. Yesterday Zhang Xiaozhong and I used some of their beef shin in a Sichuanese cold meat dish – magnificent. They do mail order as well as market stalls, in case anyone’s interested…

11 Responses to “Rapeseed oil and grass-fed beef”

  1. jeff

    I’m pretty ignorant when it comes to choosing oils. Aside from flavor, what other impact will oil have on dishes?

  2. Stephanie - Wasabimon

    Rapeseed oil is available on the coasts in the US, though mostly in the organic co-ops and other hippy-esque grocery stores. We’ve got a huge Chinese population here in SF, so we’re blessed with ingredients that are probably quite difficult to find elsewhere.

    I’ve never used the stuff, though. Is it neutral in flavor, like the groundnut (which, incidentally, I’ve never seen here in the states)?

  3. Michelle

    Rapeseed is usually rebranded as canola in the US and possibly other places. Unfortunately, most of this oil that you find in the US is made from GM canola courtesy of Monsanto, so I try not to buy it or any “vegetable oil” which is corn (GM) and/or soybean (gm). Currently I use grapeseed, which has a nice high smoking point and a neutral flavor, but I’d like to get some peanut oil at some point for the nutty flavor, and some rice bran oil to try.

    Re: Jeff, the nutritional impact of the oil can be important–the omega 3 to 6 ratio should be as high as possible. flax and olive oil are two common ones that have a lot of omega 3, but for deep frying you really need a high smoking point so the oil doesn’t burn.


  4. Stuart Fellows

    I tried an organic rapeseed today, and I only got half of my normal portion, so it must have been better than groundnut oil. What I had tasted nice,,,

  5. Clare

    Fuchsia, I’ve really enjoyed reading your memoir and using your cookbook. I was wondering if there is any other upcoming book projects that you are currently working on.

  6. charlie

    For one thank you for trying Cotswold Gold. I have just found this page and have read your comments. Cotswold Gold is 100% GM free unlike canola oil. We cold press it to keep the health benefits and the amazing colour unlike canola that is heat or chemically extracted. Cotswold Gold goes up to 240c so is hard to burn and makes it ideal for shallow frying.
    If any of you are interested in coming and tasting Cotswold Gold we have a stand at the Olympia Spirit of Summer from the 13-26th May 2010. Any feed back would be great always good to hear. You can buy Cotswold Gold at Broadway Market through Wild Beef and also online through the Virtual Farmers Market http://www.vfmuk.com. We both hope you keep enjoying Cotswold Gold

  7. charlie

    May i also add that Organic Rapeseed is not grown in this country and the countries that produce Organic Rapeseed Oil do not have the regulations in place that the UK do. Watch out on the bottle they will be from Denmark or Slovakia not England.

  8. Crunchynut

    Interesting. I have always managed to find rapeseed oil in UK supermarkets. However I personally prefer sunflower oil in UK. Back home in Suzhou, I grew up with the smell of smoking rapeseed oil before meal time, but since the 90s people started buying more “purified” rapeseed oil instead of the traditional Cai You. I never saw any famliy using groundnut oil at home. Maybe it’s a regional thing. Sunflower oil is just as good. High boiling point, relatively colourless and tasteless. Some people get into a big hoo-haa about what oil to use. Camelia oil, for example, because very trendy and hence expensive in China a few years ago, all due to good marketing of course, just like some people prefer to use olive oil in everything, including frying and roasting potatoes because they believe it’s healthy. I prefer to use different oils depending on what I am cooking. Sunflower oil is OK for me. BTW, the traditional less refined rapeseed oil does give food a distinct smoky taste, which always reminds me of childhood. 🙂

  9. Peter

    Dear Fuchsia Dunlop,

    A greeting from Denmark – I just got my copy of “Sichuan cuisine” and guess I won’t be using any other cookbook any time soon.

    Locally produced, virgin rapeseed oil has become quite hip here in Denmark. It is not a traditional product here, so people are trying to develop new ways of using it, mostly inspired by the use of olive oil in south european cusines. So reading that it unrefined rapeseed oil is still in use in Sichuan cooking was intriguing and inspiring.

    If I wish to use it for the recipes in your book, would you suggest simply replacing groundnut oil with canola oil, or would it be advicable to adjust the amounts or the seasoning somehow?

  10. Fuchsia

    Hi Peter
    Just go ahead and use rapeseed oil instead of groundnut oil. No other adjustments are necessary
    Hope you have fun with the book!

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