When we go to our favourite Chinese restaurant the first (of many) things we over eat on is vegetarian crackers with loads of chilli oil. Our tummies flare away after a few mouthfuls as do our tongues, but we keep going. We always joke that our Indian heritage is revealing itself here; not everyone hoovers up chilli in this way, surely?
My love for chilies isn’t just based on the heat. The flavour of chilies is something else. Sometimes sweet, sometimes smokey, sometimes tangy. I love the way they get into the nose and cheeks as soon as a they’re bitten.
I’m sure every Asian person has an aunt that carries chilli sauce in their handbag, I know I have a couple at least! In my last corporate role the IT department was filled with people from Calcutta and Bangalore. They and I would queue for the microwaves in the canteen and they would heat up their stacks of Chappati, curry and rice separately whilst I would be tapping my single tub of daal and rice with forced patience and a smile masking my hunger and nervousness about making that meeting.
Anyway, those of the IT people that didn’t bring a packed lunch feast would buy something like chips and guess what they would pull out?
It’s engrained. On pizza, on cheese on toast, on chips, on jacket potatoes…chilli. So I thought, why not? Why don’t I make a chilli oil with an Indian accent, like my ex colleagues from Bangalore and my auntie and my mummy.
Do you know how easy it is to make chilli oil? I wasn’t even sure it warranted a recipe or a post on my site until I spoke to a few of my friends and they said they loved the stuff and asked me about the best place to buy it. So here we are.
These pretty little jars make excellent Christmas gifts that are handmade and special. My husband is away this week on business and I’ve been handing these little jars out to my friends and family who have come to keep me company and they’ve gone down beautifully.
I have used sesame oil and olive oil in my recipe because sesame oil makes the whole mix gorgeously nutty. I’ve used lots of whole spices that are used in garam masala and they all add aroma and gentle heat with some sweetness. Cinnamon and star anise smell sweet and floral respectively. All you need to do is heat it up to aid the infusion, but don’t burn the chilies by boiling the oil. Just be gentle. Remember that the infusion gets stronger over weeks. I would shake the oil once a week and keep it in a cool and dry place. Let me know what you think of this one!
225ml sesame oil
225ml olive oil
20g dried flaked chilies
5-7 whole dried chilies
3 medium sized sticks of cinnamon
1 tsp cumin seeds
3 star anise
1. Sterilise the jars and dry them thoroughly.
2. Pour the oil into a deep bottomed non-stick pan and add the chilies and whole spices.
3. Heat the oil until you see gentle bubbles and turn down the heat. Don’t boil the oil or burn the chilies.
4. Keep the oil on the flame for 4-5 minutes to add the infusion, but on a low flame.
5. Let the chili oil cool and then pour the oil into the jars, try to distribute the while spices evenly.
Store the jars in a cook dry place and shake them once a week.