The Mediterranean diet originated approximately 5,000 years ago and has been a bench mark for eating in a healthy and balanced way ever since.
To help understand what the Mediterranean diet actually is, we invited a select group of the Guild of Food Writers, alongwith Dr. Simon Poole and Judy Ridgway – the UK’s leading oil experts and authors of The Olive Oil Diet – to Belazu HQ to break down the barriers, myths and ol’ wives’ tales and raise awareness of the age-old recipe for wellness.
After a brief overview of Belazu from George and an enthusiastic tour by our operation’s manager Derek Wiles (image of the brand new nut facility), Simon detailed the components of the Mediterranean diet before Judy delved in to the how, what and why of Extra Virgin Olive Oil … the foundation of the diet.
Our resident innovation chef, Henry Russell cooked a kitchen table-style four course lunch to showcase how our ingredients can boost the flavours and make the dishes come to life.
The Mediterranean diet is primarily a plant based diet with seven pillars (vegetables; wholegrains and beans; fish and poultry; cheese and sheep/goats yogurt; water and wine, herbs and spices and; fruits, honey, nuts and seeds) all stemming from a foundation of extra virgin olive oil.
Extra virgin olive oil is simply the natural juice of the olive with the water removed. It’s a staple in the recipe for wellness and a hero at increasing and protecting the properties of the other ingredients it’s paired with such as heat sensitive omega 3s in fish. It is full of unique antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties similar to that found in ibuprofen. It’s a mono-unsaturated fat that helps to improve cholesterol profiles and the oil itself helps to absorb fat soluble vitamins.
The Mediterranean diet rises above and beyond the macro nutrient food fight such as low-fat/low carb etc. and places emphasis on quality. The quality of an ingredient is directly linked to its provenance and this in turn relates to the health-giving properties.
Simon mentions that: “We not only eat food but, we eat meals and the combination of ingredients within meals interact with each other and can positively change the properties of the dish.”
Just like a fine wine, you can taste and smell the quality of extra virgin olive oil (EVOO). There are three different flavour profiles, (namely: fruity, bitterness and pepper) that are used and which are then assessed by their complexity and harmony. Personal preference then plays a big part as strength in one component doesn’t necessarily mean the quality is better. There is a big difference in aroma, taste and flavour depending on where the oils are produced.
“First pressed” means the oil produced on the first run met the required standards and no further pressing was required. The phrase “cold pressed” is only allowed to be used with extra virgin olive oils that have been pressed in a traditional manner at temperatures of 27C or less. This traditional process helps to maintain the quality of the oil without degradation during production. However, 95% of commercial oils are now extracted using centrifuges including our very own Verdemanda.
Our Verdemanda Extra Virgin Olive Oil is very unusual because it is frozen at the point of crushing. Verdemanda translates as “green on demand” a claim that is supported by the freezing process which suspends the normal deterioration process that takes place between harvests and enables the delivery of a really fresh and consistent product throughout the year.