I love chili oil. It is such an easy way to add flavour and heat to a dish. My cupboard above the stove is full of different flavoured oils: white truffle oil, lemon oil, basil oil, garlic oil, rosemary oil and my favourite chili oil. I love to drizzle it over meaty portobello mushrooms and cherry tomatoes just before they go under the grill. Fabulous breakfast topped with a poached egg. A few weeks ago I ran out of my shop bought chili oil and it occurred to me that, while that oil was nice, it was very one dimensional. It used small bird's eye chilies, which are packed with heat, but no other flavour to them. It also occurred to me that I have ten different varieties of dried chilies at my disposal in the shop, so I started experimenting with a homemade version using a more flavoursome dried chili: guajillo chilies.
Guajillo chilies start life as Mirasol chili peppers; they are long, orangy-red peppers that grow in bushes in packed little bunches, a bit like a flower bouquet, that stand facing the sun. 'Mirasol', which means 'looking or facing the sun', is a mild chili variety with a wonderful fruity flavour that is widely used in Mexican cuisine. When ripe, the mirasols are dried and they become Guajillo chilies, with a darkish-red, almost velvety colour and smooth texture. Their fruity flavours are accentuated during the drying process and you can positively distinguish a sweet berry taste in them; they are wonderful to cook with and super tasty. They are used in Tamales, enchiladas, marinades and pastes and to add flavour and colour to soups and stews. They go particularly well with pork and I adore them with potatoes!
So I headed down to the kitchen dresser where I keep all my jars of dried chilies and got a few Guajillo chilies to make this chili oil. I envisioned it drizzled over roasted potatoes as soon as it's matured enough. I used a very simple method, but there is a bit of waiting involved in the ageing process so this recipe, although simple and quick to make, will require patience afterwards. The results are beautiful, so well worth the wait. Hope you like it!
Start by sterilising your glass bottle. This is simple: wash the bottle thoroghly with warm soapy water and rinse it well. Dry any excess water and put it upside down in an oven tray. Put tray and bottle in the oven and turn the oven on at 160° Celsious. When the oven riches that temperature, switch it off and leave the bottle there until you need to use it. The whole heating process took about 6 minutes in my oven, but this is enough to sterilise your bottle and give the oil a longer shelf life.
While the bottle sterilises, prep the flavouring ingredients. First slice the garlic clove as thinly as possible and set aside. Follow by cleaning the guajillo chili; pull the stem out and discard it. Cut the chili vertically with a sharp knife and take all the seeds out. Don't wash it, keep it dried. If you want to, you can dust the outside with a kitchen towel, but avoid water at all costs. When the chili is clean, fold it and cut it horizontally in thin strips. Set them aside. Make sure to wash your hands well after handling the chili to be on the safe side!
In a heavy bottom pot, pour the olive oil and turn the heat on to low. Heat it for one minute and then add the garlic and guajillo chili strips. Cook the mixture at low temperature for about 5 minutes. This will gently release the flavours of the garlic and guajillo into the oil without overheating the it and damaging its structure or goodness. Remove the pan from the heat and let it cool down for 2 minutes.
Remove the now sterilised but hot jar from the oven. Make sure to use gloves as the bottle gets pretty hot in there. Take the warm/hot oil and pour it into the bottle. You can use a funnel if this makes you nervous or if your pulse isn't firm! Add the chili strips and garlic bits to the bottle too. Finally seal the bottle well and let it cool down. My glass bottle came with a cork stopper, so I used a bit of greaseproof paper to protect the cork. Leave the sealed bottle and its contents to cool down for a few hours.
The oil must now be left to age. Keep it in a cupboard for two weeks, making sure to shake the bottle every day to help the flavouring process. You should see a slightly darker, redder colour oiled in a few days.
Enjoy your guajillo chili and garlic oil after the two weeks. I am using to cook vegetables, it is specially good to roast potatoes with, also for scrambling eggs, to cook chicken and to flavour salads!