We haven’t got past Hallowe’en yet but organised types are already planning for Christmas. If you want to give creative, home made gifts then now is the time to start with chutneys and jams, cosmetic lotions and potions or liqueurs and cordials, for example. You can also think about how to make flavoured oils, sugars and salts.
What are flavoured oils
Quite simply these are ordinary cooking oils given an extra depth of aroma and flavour with herbs and spices, nuts and fruits. Flavoured oils make a thoughtful, attractive and inexpensive gift for any special occasion and can easily be made with ingredients you will find in your kitchen cupboards or even in your garden. You should however look for some pretty bottles to present the oils and decorate them to make them personal to the recipient.
Flavoured oil can be used for zingy salad dressing, to jazz up seafood and pasta, as a dip and in general cooking.
How to make flavoured oils
As you will be adding your own flavours, you don’t need to spend a fortune on posh oils but it makes sense to start with good quality basic ingredients. Olive oil is the most popular choice for adding flavour as it is versatile and complements other ingredients well, but you can also use grapeseed, avocado and nut oils.
You can use ground spices to impart flavour but always use fresh herbs.
To make 450ml chilli oil:
- 450ml olive oil
- 3 dried red chillies
- 20g dried red chilli flakes
Add all the ingredients to a saucepan and heat very gently for about 10 minutes. Set aside and allow to cool a little.
Use a funnel to pour the oil into clean, sterilised bottles, adding the chillies and chilli flakes from the pan afterwards. Seal the bottle and store in a cool, dark place until you need it. Shake the bottle occasionally. The longer you keep the oil, the hotter and redder it will become.
- 300ml extra virgin olive oil
- 6 fresh basil leaves
- 2 fresh sprigs each of thyme, rosemary and oregano
Wash and dry your herbs very carefully before use, then bruise them slightly and place in your bottle. Use a funnel to fill the bottle with oil, then seal and store in the refrigerator. The oil will be ready after two or three days of infusing and will keep for up to a month.