Sunday, 4 March 2012

Making your own flavoured oils

Flavoured oils are a great way delicatessens have of parting you from your money.

They look marvellous. I have a friend who has seven or eight bottles on her kitchen shelf; with chili, garlic, different herbs, they are all slightly different colours, reflecting the light like little jewels. And of course they look so much nicer than that yellow or clear plastic bottle with sunflower oil in it.

Oh yes, sunflower oil. Look, you're about to make a really strong chili oil. Why bother with having a decent extra virgin olive oil as the base? That's a waste of money.

Get some fresh red chilis. Chop them up good and small and throw them into a saucepan with sunflower oil (or whatever other oil you choose). Include the seeds if you want it really hot. Let them infuse.

Now the important part. If you just want to use the oil this week, you can cold-infuse. If you want to keep it, though, you need to bring the mixture up to just below the boil (up to 180c) - otherwise you run the risk of botulism. So hubble bubble boil and bubble, and then when it's ready, bottle the oil.

Don't despair if the oil doesn't look particularly red. The proof is in the taste, which should be satisfyingly warm.

Garlic oil can be made in the same way, and again, needs to be heated before pouring into the bottle or jar.

I've heard storage lives ranging from two weeks to two months. Certainly, shop bought oils have an advantage here.

But with the money I save on making my own garlic and chili oil, I can buy some specialised oils - walnut oil, pumpkin seed oil, and sesame oil, all of which have their particular uses and which I can't make at home.

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