Should you cook with olive oil?

Neil Perry's boiled mixed greens with olive oil and lemon.
Neil Perry's boiled mixed greens with olive oil and lemon. Photo: William Meppem

Can I use olive oil for cooking? L. Moncrief

Yes, and apparently, you can also pour it into an inflatable swimming pool and go for a nude romp. But don't use it to fry.

The smoking point, when the oil breaks down and smokes, is low, around 160C for normal EVOO and slightly higher for really high quality EVOO. Peanut oil smokes at 230C. The healthy compounds, or polyphenols are also destroyed.

But you can use good Australian extra virgin olive to drizzle over chicken before you roast it, start a soup or braised dish as you sweat onions. You can taste the difference.

Devonshire Tea Cafe, Surry Hills. Devonshire Tea - A pair of fresh scones, jam and whipped cream.

Devonshire tea: Cream or jam on top? A. Smith

I don't want to get this wrong for the fear of offending the good people of Devon, what with their scrumpy-induced ruddy faces and funny bucolic expressions like "oo-arr my foine lover". Have I gone too far?

Devonians are passionate about their "cream tea", or as we say, "Devonshire tea". They went as far as trying to get a protected designation of origin from the EU a few years back.

To enjoy the proper cream tea, cover a split warm scone with clotted cream and a dollop of strawberry jam. Enjoy with a pot of hot tea. Ignore the cluttered tatt of the tearoom in which you are seated.

In Cornwall, they enjoy the jam first then the cream on top. Hard to find but very delicious is the Cornish Split in which a warm, white bread bap is used instead of a scone.


If you find yourself in a place offering Devonshire teas and you see the proprietors use portion controlled jam in little plastic packages – leave. If they microwave the scone, make a surly comment as you begrudgingly pay the bill. If they choose to use whipped cream from a can, form a mob, rise up and surround the establishment with pitchforks and flailing burning torches of pitch. Cream from a can is an abomination.

I am cooking a Mexican salad and it asks for jicama. What is it and where can I get it? A. Dawe

It's the swollen root of a bean plant, looks like a big shiny potato and is a native to Mexico. Spaniards took the plant to the Philippines and from there it took a holiday across to Vietnam. It avoided detention and landed on our shores. Look for it in Vietnamese grocers where it is called cay cu dau or san nuoc.

When hard boiling an egg to eat cold in a salad, how do I keep the yolk in the centre of the white? W. Musgrave

Bring your eggs to the boil. Reduce heat, simmer for three minutes. Remove from heat. Rest for seven minutes. Drain. Refresh under cold water. Peel. Slice. Enjoy with heaps of tomatoes, bags of lettuce and lashings of ginger beer.

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