I’ve been thinking hard about what to talk about this week for Friday Feast. Is it too early to break out the Christmas recipes? Definitely. I’m far from feeling any Christmas cheer no matter how much the shops try to ram trees and tinsel down my throat. Maybe in December, when I can’t pretend any longer that it’s not coming and realise I’ve left everything to the last minute. Again. Sigh. There used to be a time when I was organised…

Anyway, given how hot, muggy and stormy it’s been this week, recipes for fruitcakes and puddings seem inappropriate. The sort of food that weather says to me is spice, and the spicier the better. Mostly.

The first time I used chilli oil, way back in the…er…distant, naive past, I didn’t realise it was meant to be used sparingly. I just glugged it into the wok, chillies and all, the same way I did peanut oil and started to stir-fry, an activity that lasted less than thirty seconds. The high heat set something off in the oil and the wok started wafting fumes of eye-watering, asphyxiating noxiousness. Next minute, dinner’s been abandoned and we’ve had to escape outside until the danger passed. And the rotten stuff took an age to clear, which gave the man of the house plenty of opportunity to harangue me with another of his ‘never again’ lectures.

So now I’m a bit more circumspect. Chilli oil gets added to stir fries with the same care as sesame oil, used in salad dressings in judicious amounts, or drizzled respectfully over homemade pizza to liven it up. Experience has taught me that a little bit is wonderful, but a lot can be a bad, bad thing.

That first experimental bottle I bought, but I’ve since discovered that it’s dead easy to make, which means you can formulate it to whatever strength you prefer. This recipe is for oil designed to be dribbled over pizza etc. It’s hot but not blisteringly so, but as always when dealing with chillies, the result will depend on the type and how many you use.


Place 6 dried chillies and 1 teaspoon chilli powder in a heavy based pan. Add 750ml olive oil, bring to the boil, then lower heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Do not allow oil to get too hot and burn.

Cool to room temperature, cover with plastic wrap and leave in a cool, dark place for 3 days. Strain the oil into a 750ml sterilised bottle.

Discard the used chillies, and add extra dried chillies to the bottle for decoration.


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