That greeny-gold liquid with its health-giving properties and amazing flavours. Olive oil is a mainstay of Spanish cuisine and, indeed, of Spanish life in general.
Believe it or not, there are actually 260 different types of olive in Spain, but the ones mainly used for oil are arbequina, cornicabra, picual, and hojiblanca. The vast majority of oils are, of course, blended but it is possible to find individual varieties. Each one has its own characteristics.
Ordinary olive oil is fine for most cooking and baking purposes, but it is sometimes worth using an extra virgin when sautéing vegetables or mushrooms, for example. One would not use an expensive extra virgin or a named varietal for frying, but if a little is drizzled over a finished dish, the heat can bring out the flavour and aroma.
A really good oil can make a simple salad sing or is a treat on olives themselves or soaked up with some nice fresh bread.
A word of warning – olive oil doesn’t last forever. You will probably be fine using your ordinary cooking oil in time, but the fine oils are at their best up to a year from pressing, which is probably well before the “Best Before” date. Store your oil in a cool, dark place, but not in the ‘fridge. If your oil does get too cold, it may begin to solidify at the bottom. This is nothing to worry about; it will return to normal when it warms up.