Oils ain’t oils, so the old saying goes. It means that you should watch the quality of the oils that you buy. That saying was once often applied to oils for automobiles, but the same applys in the kitchen, right?
On the kitchen bench there are so many oils — ghee of course, and some organic virgin cold pressed coconut oil. Then there is Indian mustard oil, that tangy oil so good for cooking and drizzling when you want that “heat up your nose” mustardy flavour. And Indian sesame oil, a very light sesame oil that does not have the intense flavours of Chinese Sesame oils. We have Chinese Sesame Oil as well, for the few drops that make a difference to a dish. Then there is peanut oil and vegetable oil.
And then of course, olive oil, both high quality extra virgin and one for cooking. Essential.
In summer, for salads, perhaps some hazelnut oil, some grapeseed oil, hazelnut oil and walnut oil, and maybe one or two others for variety.
It is fun to make your own flavoured oils and they add variety to salad dressings, cooking mediums and oiled drizzled over soups and other dishes. Try some yourself at home.
While I make a lot of flavoured oils, I take a lot of care. There is a potential issue with home made flavoured oils that are made from fresh ingredients. It is caused by the water that they contain which is then placed in an oxygen-free environment (oil), allowing bacteria to grow. Please do your own research on this before making oils. Italians, of course, have been making oil based products for centuries without any problem, but it is worth being aware of potential problems if you are not carerful.
They say that using dried ingredients to make flavoured oils can help. When using fresh ingredients, keep the oil refrigerated and use within a few of days.
In addition, it appears that soaking your fresh herbs, chillies etc in vinegar prior to adding to the oil to reduce any risk. You may want to also do your own research on this. Another method is to simmer the ingredients in the oil over very low heat for 30 mins to not only extract flavours but to drive out much of the moisture.
If you intend making oils regularly, buy a couple of litres of a good olive oil in bulk at the beginning of Summer, and keep several dark glass bottles on hand – ones with good corks or caps – to store the flavoured oil in.
For strong flavoured oils use up to 1 cup of fresh herbs or ingredients, or about 1/3 cup dried herbs, to 2 or 3 cups of good olive oil. Slightly warm the oil if the herbs or spices are not too delicate, and then allow the oil and herbs to soak so that the oil is infused with the flavours. Alternatively, keep the oil and herbs over a low heat so that it is just simmering, for 30 mins. Strain into a bottle and top with the infused oil. Use within a week or two.
My Standby Chilli Oil
Use 6 dried red chillies, or more, and 2 cups olive oil.
My Kitchen Bench Olive Oil
I love to make a little oil while I am pottering around the Kitchen, using what ever is on the bench. Dried limes, dried chillies, odd bits of herbs or spices, mandarin peel that I have dried. I make small amounts, generally under a cup and use it within a couple of days. It gets drizzled onto and into everything.
Who doesn’t love a good garlic oil. But keep refrigerated and use quickly, for example at a Sunday afternoon BBQ or to drizzle on some hot soup for a wintery Sunday Lunch. Garlic oil is particularly prone to the problems mentioned above, so please do your own research before making this.
Use 15g peeled garlic cloves per 1 cup olive oil.
A Great Pasta Oil
Use 15g peeled garlic cloves, 15g roughly chopped basil leaves, 15g oregano and 2 cups olive oil. If you are using dried herbs, use about 1/4 of these quantities.
As this oil contains fresh garlic, only make enough to be consumed quickly. You can use the vinegar treatment method mentioned above.
250 ml vegetable oil
fresh turmeric or 1 tspn turmeric powder
1 Tblspn chopped shallot or white onion
1 tspn finely chopped ginger
0.25 – 0.5 fresh red chilli (or to taste), finely chopped
zest 0.25 lemon
Heat a splash of the oil in a small pan and add the turmeric, shallot, ginger and chilli and fry gently for 5 mins. Add the lemon zest and rest of the vegetable oil and simmer very gently over the lowest heat for 20 – 30 mins. DO NOT LEAVE ALONE while simmering.
Leave to cool and strain through a fine sieve. This will keep for a few weeks in the fridge.
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