Drizzle atop your brick-oven baked thin-crust pizza, splash it over summery crab linguine, spoon it over baked red snapper or simply dunk your crispy yet soft sourdough bread before letting it enter your palette; the many joys of chilli oil. The flavors of spicy red chillies infused with a full bodied olive oil can ignite many sparks, one being your sense of taste. The jolt provided by this sensuous, yet strong additive is not for the faint-hearted, but a meal without chilli oil, in my books, is incomprehensible. Tears may stain your cheeks or a smile may appear on your face; it is all part of a culinary journey that has been made even more adventurous with the addition of chilli oil.
Widely available in all supermarkets, delis and even restaurants, chilli oil has become an essential part of any gourmet experience. Every time I visit any restaurant, an side order of chilli oil is a must. What olive oil and balsamic vinegar is to many food connoisseurs, chilli oil is to me. Dipping my hot brown dinner roll into a pot of chilli oil and topping it off with a piece of roasted garlic; an ominous way to start my meal, a novel way to jumpstart my palette. I can always run to the supermarket to buy a bottle of chilli oil for the house, but the joy of making your own refrains me from doing so. The aroma that envelops my kitchen, the sizzling music of the chillis dancing in hot oil and the bright red colors are enough to invigorate my senses and stop me from buying it off a shelf. Try it once and I can assure you it will have the same effect on you.
- 1/2 bottle of olive oil
- 10 red chillies, preferably bird’s eye, chopped
- 3 cloves of garlic, optional
- Heat the olive oil in a deep pan till smoking (Note: Using a deep pan prevents the hot oil from spilling out onto your hands)
- Chop the red chillies finely (Note: Wear kitchen gloves to chop the chillies, as the heat generated by them will sting your fingers and hands. Wash hand immediately after chopping. Any contact with your eyes will lead to burning)
- Add 1/3 of the chillies into the hot oil and move the pan around to prevent them from sticking to the bottom
- Watch the chillies very carefully as they begin to change color. As they turn from a bright red to a deep maroon color, it is time to take them off the burner. (Note: Make sure the chillies do not burn, as they will leave a charred taste in the oil)
- Pour the oil through a sieve into an airtight jar. Discard the chillies
- Let the oil breathe and cool down for about 3 minutes. Do not let the jar stay open for too long as the flavors will escape
- Add the rest of the chillies into the jar and close the lid tightly.
- Let it rest for a few hours before serving
- When serving, chop some extra red chillies and add them to your dipping bowl or cruet before pouring in the oil. Do not use the chillies from the oil jar as they continue to give off flavor
Use transparent or crystal dipping bowls so that the bright red colors swimming in a sea of golden hues is visible to the eye. It is always advisable to make oils in larger quantities so that you can save for future use. Decorate your larder or kitchen shelf with different types of homemade oils, that you can use for cooking, dipping and beautification. You can attempt different variations to this recipe as well. Add 2-3 cloves of garlic to your jar and let them extract their own flavors for a few days. Open the lid, the first whiff with be of strong garlic and the first taste of spicy chillies; your own version of chilli-garlic oil. Excite your sensory palette with these hot and scintillating oils and give you food that extra oomph.