Sunday, 23 October 2011

Infused oils

They can look so pretty in a kitchen – rows of coloured bottles of oil, artfully shaped, assembled and positioned to make the room seem like the home of a serious cook who knows how to use them. Infused oils are one of those things that always looks great to buy, but then I see the price and think, “really? I’m sure I could do that myself for a lot cheaper…” and of course, I never do.

Perhaps not as aesthetically pleasing as more
expensive versions, but it's the taste that counts..right?
So, during the few manic hours of packing, cleaning and preparing to fly back to the Motherland for a few days, I naturally decided that was the perfect time to reverse that habit and make my own infused oils. To be fair, I’d already been collecting empty salad dressing bottles for a few weeks, and had bought the bits and pieces I needed earlier that week.

Which brings me to the first thing I found out – you can’t just put any old thing in a bottle of olive oil and walk away happy. Fresh herbs, fresh lemon rind, fresh garlic, fresh chilli…seeing the pattern?...are all forbidden unless you’re happy to keep the oil in the fridge and use it within a week or so at most. Anything that hasn’t been dried will have water in it, which is the perfect breeding ground for bacteria. Even though fresh herbs look so much prettier in the bottle than dried, it’s not a good idea unless you have the fridge space (which means no one can see how pretty it is anyway) and the recipes in mind to use it that week.

I read that dried herbs, etc. take a couple of weeks to infuse properly, but that the risk of bacteria isn’t a problem so you don’t have to use it all right away. It’s still a good idea to keep the oil stored in a cool, dry place, and to make sure it’s not hanging around for months.

Using proportions of 1/4-1/3 herbs, and 3/4-2/3 olive oil, I used:
  • Sundried tomatoes
  • Dried, chopped garlic
  • Dried whole red chillis
  • Peppercorns
  • Dried mix of shitake, oyster and porcini mushrooms (mostly shitake, as I’d read that they’re particularly flavourful)

They’ve been infusing for three weeks now, and I used the garlic one in a moussaka last night. Not really the best recipe to test it on, as there are so many other spices as well, but I’m looking forward to trying the others in stir-fries later on.

On another note, I look with shame on the dates between my last post and this one. Life circumstances have altered somewhat (in a good way!) and meant that blogging time is more difficult to find than before, but that just means cooking and baking are even more of a necessity to step back from a hectic daily schedule. T and I have been trying to add some new recipes to our usual repertoire, and I hope to be sharing some of those soon!

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