The yellow blots on the landscape have a good side, Rapeseed oil, and it doesn’t come much better in a bottle than Borderfields
When rapeseed first started appearing in quantity in the countryside, many people complained of its virulent yellow colour and its effect on hay fever sufferers. It was seen as a bit of a foreign invader.
In fact rapeseed has been grown in Europe since around the thirteenth Century, but it was only in the 1980s that its genetically engineered cousin, oilseed rape, became massive. This was due to generous subsidies for cultivating from the EEC, where a guaranteed minimum price support doubled seed value and oilseed rape became a valuable cash-crop. In Canada and North America it’s known as Canola (Canadian Oil, Low Acid) and was originally grown to be a machine lubricant and not a food at all.
It’s actually one of the Brassica family, which explains a slightly cabbagey flavour some people detect, and it has now become something of an artisan product as well as a cash cow. Many a farmer’s market will have a small wobbly trestle stall selling the stuff at olive oil prices to wide -eyed townies.
It has some claim to healthiness too – 7% saturated fat compared to 14% in olive oil and it’s high in omega-3 and omega-6. Plus when you buy it you can usually be sure it’s 100% British, so that’s a good feeling.
Borderfields are major league producers of rapeseed oil, grown and cold-pressed in the UK. They say their basic oil has a nutty flavour, not a cabbagey one and our tasting bore that out.
But in case you aren’t convinced they do a range of flavours and sent us the gift pack selection: plain, lemon, garlic and chili.
The chili has had the rapeseed’s normal golden colour replaced with red and it is indeed a little fiery. We used it to stir fry, where its high smoke point meant everything sizzled well and the chili meant we didn’t need to add any extra heat. We could see this also being useful in pasta dishes, just that diavolo hint of spice.
The lemon variant we liked a lot, excellent in salad dressings, drizzled over feta and mozzarella and good for frying chicken and pork in where the citrus made real sense. And the garlic one? Well a shoe in for dressings and we liked the golden puddles it formed too. The garlic was a breath and not a monster overload.
All of the oils made rather good roasties, the plain variant being the ideal choice for the job and it also worked well replacing butter in baking. It produces a different taste and we thought texture too, but perfectly okay.
Priced at around £3.49 a bottle, each of these oils seem good value and very useful. And if you’re not a fan of British, they do a version made from Scottish grown rapeseed too. So don’t worry about devolution.