It has been around 25 years since Chef Federico Michieletto left the classrooms of the Italian Culinary Arts Institute in Castel Franco Veneto, Italy. However, there is one lesson he remembers clearly from his days as a culinary arts student and that which the Marini’s on 57 chef practises until today.
“Use palm oil to deep fry,” says the chef, as a matter of fact. “That’s what they taught me in school and I still do what my teachers told me.”
You know what? Michieletto’s teachers were on to something even back then.
Palm oil is indeed the best oil for frying as it is stable and has a high smoke point. A smoke point refers to the stage when heated oil begins to breakdown, oxidise and produce toxic materials.
“If the oil gets burnt, it will give the fried food a weird taste. So I use palm oil because it is more stable and can take high heat,” says Michieletto.
To be precise, palm oil is able to withstand heat up until 235°C, and that’s being able to take a lot of heat.
But for Michieletto, palm oil is just not all about deep frying. He uses it in his desserts and loves to experiment with the different outcome the oil brings.
Michieletto gives a yummy twist to his chocolate praline creation by filling it with a palm oil-based centre, and is surprised by the delicious outcome himself.
“Usually, I use olive oil to make the filling but this time, I use palm oil instead. I just tried it for fun and it turns out really nice,” he says with a huge grin.
The chef is also a fan of red palm oil, which is the actual colour of palm oil in its unprocessed natural state.
This dark red-hued oil is suitable for low temperature cooking and as salad dressings, but Michieletto sometimes uses it to deep-fry food.
Although it is unusual to use the red palm oil for this purpose, Michieletto has tried, tested and is impressed with the result.
“I use red palm oil to deep-fry the breaded tomato and buffalo mozzarella dish, which gives it a Middle Eastern flavour. It gives the dish a nice, golden colour and a slightly different taste than would the golden palm oil,” he adds.
According to an article written by alternative health expert Bryce Wylde and published on www.doctoroz.com, red palm oil conveys more health benefits due to its high content of carotenes, which include beta-carotene and lycopene. Red palm oil is also densely packed with numerous tocotrienols – a powerful form of vitamin E. The carotenoids and vitamin E strengthen the body’s immune system and reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease as well as protect us from chronic diseases, while delaying the body’s ageing process.
The American Palm Oil Council website (www.americanpalmoil.com), states that besides containing natural chemical compounds important for health and nutrition, food manufacturers often choose palm oil because it requires little or no hydrogenation, and prolongs the shelf life of products.
“There are many studies which show that palm oil is not unhealthy,” says Michieletto. “It is widely used and many people don’t know that they eat healthy products made from palm oil.”
He adds that palm oil shouldn’t be vilified, as it contains about as much saturated fat as butter, and both these fats are found in calorie-dense foods, which we should eat sparingly anyway.
But of course, the chef from Venice is quick to add that nothing beats the all-round Italian pride extra-virgin olive oil when it comes to his favourite oil.
“My mother would kill me if I say otherwise,” jokes Michieletto. “But for deep frying, I listen to my teachers ... palm oil is definitely the best.”
FRIED ZUCCHINI FLOWER WITH RICOTTA ALMOND AND FRESH TOMATO SAUCE
4 zucchini flowers
water and ice
1 litre palm cooking oil for deep-frying
50ml fresh tomato sauce
100g ricotta cheese
30g spinach, blanched in salted water and chopped
20g parmesan cheese, grated
1 tbsp almond flakes or crushed almond
1 tbsp amaretto di saronno (almond liqueur)
sea salt to taste
Fresh tomato sauce
1 small onion, chopped
2 tbsp palm cooking oil
330g peeled tomatoes (canned)
sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
For the stuffed zucchini flowers
In a mixing bowl, combine the ricotta, bottarga, spinach, parmesan and almond. Whisk to mix well and add in the amaretto liqueur. Season if necessary. Place mixture in a piping bag and fill each zucchini flower with it.
In a separate bowl, prepare the tempura batter according to the packet instruction with ice and water.
Heat up the oil for deep frying. Place some tempura flour in a deep dish. First coat the zucchini flower in the tempura flour, then the batter.
Deep fry until batter is crisp and just starting to colour. Remove and drain on paper napkins.
For the fresh tomato sauce
Heat the oil in a saucepan and cook the onion until soft.
Add the peeled tomato and season to taste. Cook over low heat for 10 minutes. Blend sauce into a smooth paste.
On a plate, place the deepfried flower, sprinkled with a little sea salt. Serve with warm fresh tomato sauce.
BREADED CHANTARELLE AND BLUE FOOT MUSHROOMS
150g fresh chanterelle and blue foot – or other – mushrooms
2 eggs, whipped
palm cooking oil for deep-frying
20g sweet basil leaves
salt and pepper to taste
15ml truffle oil
6g fresh black truffle, chopped
sea salt to taste
To make mushroom fritters
Halve the mushrooms if too big. Place the flour in a deep dish and the breadcrumbs in another dish. Dip the mushroom first in the flour, then the egg, and breadcrumbs. Repeat the operation a few times to make it crustier.
Heat up the oil in a heavy-bottom pan and deep-fry the breaded mushrooms until golden brown. Remove and drain on paper napkins. Then deep-fry the basil leaves until crisp.
For truffled mayonnaise
Combine all in a bowl and mix well – you can add chopped parsley if you like.
Serve the breaded mushrooms and basil leaves sprinkled with sea salt and pepper, and a dollop of truffled mayonnaise.
BREADED GREEN TOMATO WITH BUFFALO MOZZARELLA
3 green tomatoes
2 buffalo mozzarella (bufala), drained
sweet basil leaves
2 eggs, whipped
red palm cooking oil (Carotino) for deep frying
salt and freshly-ground pepper to taste
Slice tomatoes and buffalo mozzarella into rounds. Season the tomato slices with salt and pepper. Sandwich a round of mozzarella with two tomato slices and basil.
Place the flour in a deep dish and the breadcrumbs in another dish. Dip the tomato sandwich first in the flour, then the egg, and breadcrumbs. Repeat the operation a few times to make it crustier.
Heat up the red palm oil in a heavy-bottom pan and deep-fry the breaded tomato sandwiches until browned on both sides. Remove and drain on paper napkins. Serve garnished with fresh basil leaves and sea salt.
DARK CHOCOLATE PRALINE WITH WHITE CHOCOLATE-PALM OIL FILLING AND CAVIAR
150g white chocolate
65g UHT whipping cream
18g invert sugar
100ml palm cooking oil
600g dark chocolate (70%)
cocoa butter spray, in gold
white chocolate-palm oil filling
For the filling
Place chocolate in a heatproof mixing bowl. Sit it over a pan of barely simmering water (a bain marie). Stir until melted.
Boil cream with invert sugar, and slowly add in oil, whisking until smooth. Then add the melted white chocolate slowly into the mixture, whisking until smooth. Set aside.
For the praline
Melt the dark chocolate using the bain marie. Coat a silicone praline mould with the golden spray. Then double coat the mould with dark chocolate to make chocolate shells.
Chill in the fridge for five minutes. Fill the mould with filling, but not to the brim. Place it in the fridge until set. Cover with the remaining dark chocolate. Chill in the fridge until set.
black caviar pearls
sea salt (fleur de sel)
Unmould the pralines and serve each topped with caviar and additional sea salt if you like.