I recently made a bottle of chilli oil, with some extra virgin olive oil and a mix of mild (for flavour), and hot dried chillies. Then I wondered what the hell I was going to do with it.
Fortuitously I had a flash of inspiration, reasoning that, as you can have curry pastes in many flavours, there’s no reason why I can’t have a paste featuring the flavours I prefer and, currently, I have a fondness for paprika.
So to about 300ml of the chilli oil I added:-
2 tablespoons tomato powder
2 tablespoons onion powder
3 tablespoons sweet paprika (unsmoked!)
A splash of sherry vinegar, maybe a tablespoon
I first made the mix without the sherry vinegar, only to find that the powders settled out in a very dense layer that was hard to remix with the oil. So I added the sherry vinegar thinking that it would settle at the bottom of the jar and stop the paste sticking to it. Didn’t happen.
What did happen, by some mechanism I don’t claim to understand, is that the effect of the sherry vinegar was to encourage the powders to absorb nearly all the oil. Which, as a bonus, made it easier to stir, to mix in the oil that was left. It still settled out, but left only a little oil to be mixed back in.
And it smelled amazing (tip – mix it with a table knife, it’s a bit dense for a spoon).
I tipped some into a smaller jar (be aware that it stains anything it touches that is remotely absorbent, so if you’re naturally messy you might want to make this in the nude, possibly while standing in the sink! 😉 ), and gave it to a vegetarian friend, with instructions that it could be used as is, much as you’d use curry paste, or thinned out with oil and used as a sauce for, for example, roasted vegetables. I await feedback.
Last night, though, I used it to perk up some baked fish.
I smeared it over a couple of pieces of cod, topped it with halved cherry tomatoes, grated Cheddar and a little butter and whacked in the oven for half an hour.
The result was amazingly tasty, the melted butter, melted cheese, and the liquid given off by the fish made a spicy sauce, and the fish had also absorbed the flavours. With hindsight, it might have been better coating the fish and letting it marinate overnight – I’m not sure. As it was, the top of the fish was spicy, the rest not, unless it was dipped in the sauce. And I think that was OK, as it gave a range of tastes, from deeply flavoured to “just fish” and anywhere in between.
Oh, and it went very well with the cheese, too, so at some point, cheese on toast will be getting some of it.
So that’s pretty much it – a simple idea but with loads of potential.
Next time I make this – and it really is worth doing again – I’ll forego the chilli oil and blitz the chillies to a powder in the spice mill first – more controllable that way, and I don’t have to wait weeks for the oil to infuse.
Incidentally, I blitzed some dehydrated veggies to a flour-fine powder, first in the blender then finished off in the spice mill, added some onion and tomato powders, and mixed the result 50-50 with fine sea salt, the idea being to reduce my salt intake, and it works really well on foods that need seasoning on the plate.