The Perfect Ingredient: Wharfe Valley Rapeseed Oil
Tucked away in the Wharfe Valley in Yorkshire is the pretty village of Collingham, home of the Kilburn Family who have been farming in the area since the 1960s. In 1980, the family added oilseed rape to the traditional practice of crop rotation and so began the story of Wharfe Valley Rapeseed Oil.
Between the months of May and June, the Kilburn’s rape fields become a sea of yellow, creating a beautiful sunny landscape that continues to glow until harvesting begins in July. We visited Wharfe Valley in time for the final swathing in late July. The harvest, which is conducted using traditional swathing methods, yields tiny, black seeds which are then stored behind the press house before being fed straight into hoppers and very slowly cold pressed to produce rapeseed oil. The oil is then filtered and bottled on site.
The precise and traditional harvesting is what makes the product completely chemical free, and the oil is Extra Virgin as it is only pressed once without heat or chemicals being used in the extraction process. What fascinated us was the fact that the process hasn’t changed over the decades because it preserves all the natural nutritional values and delivers an incredible flavour.
Pure and free of all chemicals, the oil contains high concentrations of Omega 5 and Vitamin E – great for maintaining good health.
Third generation farmers, father Geoff and son Stephen are passionate about producing rapeseed oil in the Wharfe Valley and delivering an amazing flavour. As we chatted with them it soon became clear that they are involved in every step of the process. From harvesting to final bottling – nothing goes out without Geoff’s seal of approval.
Geoff explained that what makes the oil so special is partly down to the local free draining fertile limestone soil of the farm which produces a prolific rape crop. Wharfe Valley contains oil from this area only and has a subtle, nutty flavour. As a cooking oil, it can withstand high temperatures and is completely versatile for salad dressings, roasting, stir frying and marinating.
Wharfe Valley Rapeseed Oil is a favourite with Michael Carr at Restaurant 92 in Harrogate, and it stars in his rapeseed partridge dish. Michael roasts a crown of Yorkshire partridge in a smoked variation of the Wharfe Valley Rapeseed Oil, which he makes at the restaurant.
Once roasted, he removes the breasts and place them in a spiced rapeseed oil to marinate the meat, giving it lovely deep flavour from both the rapeseed oil, and the spices infused into it. Michael spices his oil with star anise, coriander seeds, white peppercorns and fennel seeds. To make the spiced oil, he gently toasts his spices in a dry pan before blitzing them through the Wharfe Valley rapeseed oil. He heats the mixture to 65 degrees before using as a marinade for the partridge breasts to let them absorb the lovely flavours. He serves the dish with a deep rich red cabbage and a velvety smoked potato mousse.
“I personally use the Wharfe Valley rapeseed a lot in my cooking as I think its flavour and colour has no match, and with the partridge dish I currently have on my menu here at Restaurant 92, it really carries its flavour right through into the dish, which for me completes it,” says Michael. “I also braise the legs and pick them down and mix through some of the spiced oil to serve.”
This is a true Yorkshire oil, and we are delighted to add this to our Special Branch collection.
You can order Special Branch Wharfe Valley Rapeseed Oil