How to Cook with Essential Oils – an Introduction

You may not be aware of it but you’re likely to be cooking with essential oils in some way on a daily basis.

Essential oils are made from an array of plant material that contain highly scented volatile parts. This could be eucalyptus leaves, cardamom pods, lavender flowers or rose petals. To make them into an essential oil the plant material goes through a process called distillation. This involves steam passing through and releasing those molecules then capturing the oil as the steam turns back into water.

There are many plant materials containing essential oils that are commonly used during cooking and when you apply heat to them this releases those oils that make for delicious smells in your kitchen:

Spices: When you heat up seeds like coriander, cumin and fennel,  in preparation for something like a curry or a tagine, it makes for a mouth-watering atmosphere. The essential oils also have an effect on your digestive system by stimulating digestive juices, (hence the ‘mouth-watering’).  Try this Garam Masala Recipe to experience the affect of releasing essential oils when preparing a spice mix.

Herbs:  With some herbs, such as basil, rosemary and thyme, the heat on a sunny day will be enough to initiate a waft of essential oil as you pass by, and on cooler days you may need to rub the leaves with warm fingers to release the scent.

Flowers: You can use many flowers in food for their perfume and delicate taste such as roses, orange blossom, geraniums and of course lavender.

I have been experimenting with cooking with essential oils and scented plant materials recently and it can be as simple as sprinkling some rose petals on your meal or adding a drop of lemon essential oil to your bottle of olive oil for dressing salads. I  sometimes sprinkle fresh or dried lavender flowers on meat or fish when baking them in the over, and it smells amazing! It doesn’t take much for a magic touch*.

CAUTION: When using essential oils in cooking you need to be very sure that you are buying from a trust worthy source, where the oil is not diluted, adulterated or synthetic. Essential Oils by Laura Hoy are suitable for flavouring foods.

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