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The olive tree and its oil has been celebrated and referenced in the culture of every society and every period.

Thomas Jefferson wrote: “The olive tree is surely the richest gift of Heaven.” Homer called it ‘liquid gold’.

In Rome, drops of the oil seeped into the bones of dead saints and martyrs through holes in their tombs, while athletes rubbed it over their bodies for extra strength. Olympic winners were given olive-wreaths as trophies, while olive branches were ritually offered to deities and powerful figures: some were even found in Tutankhamen’s tomb.

In Genesis, an olive branch was returned to Noah on the ark by a dove, signaling the end of the great flood.

Ancient Greek Gods were said to be born under the branches of the olive tree. Even today, the Greek say, “We ate bread and olives together” to denote friendship.

The best olive oil is ‘cold-pressed’, a chemical-free process that involves only pressure, which produces a natural level of low acidity. Extra virgin olive oil contains only one percent acid and is considered the finest and fruitiest of the olive oils – and the most expensive. Extra virgin olive oil can range from champagne to greenish-golden to bright green. In general, the deeper the colour, the more intense the olive flavour. Virgin olive oil is also a top-grade oil, with a slightly higher level of acidity (between one and three percent). However, if you need oil for frying, go for pure olive oil, because the flavour of extra virgin oil tends to break down at frying temperature, making the added expense a waste.

As for storage, store the oil in a cool, dark place for up to six months. Olive oil can also be refrigerated, in which case it can last for a year. Do remember that chilled olive oil can also be refrigerated, in which case it can last for a year. Do remember that chilled olive oil becomes cloudy and thick, but will clear when brought to room temperature.

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