Olive It Uphttps://indianexpress.com/article/cities/delhi/olive-it-up/

Olive It Up

The once ‘exotic’ oil,reserved only for salads or continental fare,is slowly becoming a standard in homemade Indian cuisines

She knows her dosas taste like heaven when she uses ghee. But since she’s trying to watch levels of her family’s cholesterol,Geetanjali Deshpande has reserved a permanent spot for extra virgin olive oil in her kitchen,right next to the masalas and curry leaves. “At first,I was afraid that my husband and children wouldn’t accept it. But they didn’t even notice the change in their dosas,”

says this housewife from Mumbai’s Prabhadevi.

Deshpande’s introduction to olive oil came a few years ago,when she started experimenting with Continental,Chinese and Mexican dishes. But today,be it aloo gobi,chana masala,chicken curry and even the tadka for daals,olive oil has replaced the likes of butter,ghee and refined oil in her household. “Olive oil is very unobtrusive in smell and flavour. It goes very well with my food that’s

got so many masalas competing for attention,” claims Deshpande.

Olive oil came to India more than a decade ago and has since been considered an exotic and costly ingredient that was to be savoured with European mains and salads. Not anymore. “There is increasing awareness of the nutritional properties of olive oil,” says nutritionist Naini Setalvad,who recommends it to a lot of her clients. “It is far superior to any other oil available in the market.”

Swapping refined oil for olive oil is not an entirely new phenomenon in Indian kitchens,but the number of people who have started stocking up on it regularly has gone up in the last few years. Walk down Mumbai’s Crawford Market and you will find large cans of olive oil — containing up to five litres on display. “These days,I get just as many orders for olive as I do for the refined oils,” says Gautam Sharma who runs Metro Stores,a provisions store in Khar.

The swanky and spacious kitchen of entrepreneur Geetika Sood in Chandigarh is often filled with a melange of aromas. Barbeque masala fish,risotto,creamy chicken soup,baked bananas and Punjabi fare — the

27-year-old mostly has her hands full hosting special meals for close friends. With a diploma in French cuisine from the Le Cordon Bleu,Sood loves to give basic recipes a new twist,be it the ingredients,presentation,method or garnish. “While the flavours in French and Continental cooking are enhanced when prepared in extra virgin olive oil,for most traditional Indian food,and even everyday cooking,I use olive oil nine times out of 10 because the absorption of the oil is better,” she adds,mentioning how the dal-khichdi tempering with whole red chillies and asafoetida in olive oil is always a hit with her guests.

Though costlier,compared to refined oil — a litre of olive oil is priced between Rs 300-500,while refined oil costs up to Rs 120 a litre — the price doesn’t work as a deterrent. If anything,people are using it as a reason to cut down on the amount of oil they use in their food. “My husband,a diabetologist,says that we only need three teaspoons of oil per person per day. I follow this strictly and that’s how I ensure that one litre of oil lasts us for the whole month,” says NGO worker Bina Boraskar,who has been using olive oil in her food for two years.

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While more Indian households are warming up to the idea of making a complete switch to this premium item,Chef Rajdeep Kapoor,executive chef at ITC Maratha,believes that one can use any oil in moderation with the same results. “The concept of healthy food is very ambiguous,” he opines. “What may be healthy for a 10-year-old boy and a 40-year-old man may vary. Even desi ghee can be healthy if used in moderation.”

(With inputs from Jagmeeta Thind Joy and Parul)