I am sure that the woman at the airline check-in desk at Porto thought my suitcase was weighed down with wine. It was, in fact, several bottles of extra-virgin olive oil that were carefully wedged between the layers of clothes and books.
I pretty much live off olive oil – drizzled over the insanely tasty tomatoes we get out here in Portugal, with a leaf or two of fresh basil – and Quinta de Vargellas (€11.50/£9.99, from Saxtys, first picture) is one of my favourites. It is difficult to find in the south of the country, where I live, so every time I head up north to Porto and the wonderful Yeatman Hotel, which sells it in its shop, I stock up.
The famous riverside estate of Quinta de Vargellas (second picture) has belonged to port house Taylor’s for more than a century and has been making port wines since the 1820s, but amid the wild and hilly terrain there are also almost 3,000 olive trees – the Madural, Cordovil and Verdeal varieties. The oil they yield packs a relatively powerful, fruity punch, yet it enhances rather than dominates good ingredients. It is particularly low in acidity, which is why I like it on tomatoes, but I also find it excellent with warm roasted vegetables and tortillas. It shouldn’t be heated or used to cook with, however, as it will lose its fresh, slightly spicy flavour.