Thursday 1 April 2010

Délice & Sens - Culinary Essential Oils

If you hear the words "essential oils", you immediately think of beauty products, aromatherapy massage oils and air fresheners -but did you know that they can also be used in cooking as an alternative to herbs and spices ? I love cooking but I had never heard of any recipes using essential oils ... but I promise it's not an April Fool's Day joke ! There are a whole range of little bottles of culinary essential oils, both sweet and savoury, even the names of which get your tastebuds popping with anticipation ! : Shéhérazade, Bombay, Tea-Time, Fresh, Délice, Aniseed, Passion, Zest, Garrigue.

So, what's it all about? Well, to quote the Délice & Sens facebook page, they offer "9 compositions of culinary essential oils, created by a renowned chef to add flavour to your day-to-day cooking". Ah, who's this renowned chef then ? He's French, he's called Aymeric Pataud, and, according to the Delice & Sens website, he is "the first chef in the world to write a whole book on using essential oils in cookery" ("La cuisine aux huiles essentielles", éditions Ambre, 2004). "With his little bottles at hand, this atypical chef seems to travel to the world of the senses, with an audacious and creative attitude that is reflected in his dishes."

But you certainly don't need to be a renowned chef to use them ! It's extremely easy and great fun. You choose the bottle you want to use, you count out a few drops per person (dead easy to measure out with the little dropper) and you squirt them into whatever you're cooking. As Aymeric says on his blog, "Cooking is said to be an expression of the chef's sensitivity. In the blends of essential oils that you will be using in your recipes, you will discover mine. I hope that they will help you to express yours. The writer Colette said : "If you're not capable of a bit of sorcery, it's pointless trying to cook". I therefore hope to wake up the "Harry Potter of the kitchen" who is hidden in each one of you" !

I tested Zest (recipe here !) in a recipe competition on Aymeric's blog. It's unfortunately the blend that inspired me the least in the range, because the flavour is quite easy to replicate with citrus fruits that you'd find in any kitchen. As they are less exotic and less surprising than some of the other flavours, I found my culinary creation to be a bit ordinary and it didn't offer me the voyage of culinary discovery that I was hoping for.

I am however now convinced that cooking with essential oils is a fantastic and very simple way of varying flavours and introducing surprising innovative tastes to your cooking. I love the practicality of the dropper and the fact that, unlike powdered herbs and spices that lose their freshness and their taste if they sit around in the back of your kitchen cupboards for too long, the little bottle will keep the flavours in perfect condition.

All of the ingredients are organic and each little bottle contains nothing but pure, natural ingredients. In Zest, you'll find sunflower oil and a mix of the following essential oils : Lemon / Mandarine / Grapefruit / Bitter Orange. That's it ! Not a single artificial additive in sight ! The essential oils are diluted so they are ready to use. I really want to replace some of the spices that I don't often use by the whole range of these culinary essential oils so that I can have fun playing around with different flavours and create some really exotic new dishes !

star rating : 3/5 for Zest but 5/5 for the range of Délice & Sens oils

price : €12

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