If you love flavourful food this is a great option for most Italian and Asian dishes and some curries too.
Preparation Time: 10 minutes (2 days to stand)
Cooking Time: No cooking required
Makes: 1 bottle
Ingredients 1 oil bottle- make sure you get one with a good pouring nozzle, not one that will drip everywhere. I prefer clear bottles because then you can see the chillies inside.
4-8 mild red chillies (depending on the size of your bottle- for the bottle in the picture I used 5 average-sized chillies)
Good quality olive oil- I buy 4litre tins of oil so I can top up when I need to without a clash of tastes.
Chop the chillies into irregularly sized small chunks, removing as many of the seeds as you can. Leaving the seeds in tends to clog up the nozzle of the oil bottle, so although the seeds do add flavour they tend to become more of a hindrance than a help. I have seen people who leave one chilli whole in the bottle for decoration, but I find this also tends to be a problem because once the oil level is down, the chillies go mouldy- the oil is a great preservative but only if it's covering the things it should be preserving.
Put the chilli chunks into your bottle, grab a funnel and fill up the bottle with the olive oil! Give the oil a little time (usually I leave it two days) to absorb the flavour of the chillies before you use it in cooking.
Some helpful pointers:
1) The smaller your chilli chunks are, the larger amount of surface area is exposed to the oil, and the more concentrated the flavour will be.
2) The oil will get stronger over time- I top it up when it gets to about halfway empty (or halfway full if you're an optimist!) so the flavour is more or less consistent.
3) Try not to let the oil get so low that the chillies are exposed to air. They will get mouldy really quickly and trying to clean the inside of an oily bottle is a task best left to the imagination.
4) Make sure the bottle is clean before you put any ingredients into it! I usually run hot water into it a few times and through the nozzle also to make sure that any dust gets moved along.
5) You don't have to change the chillies every time you change the oil, but I do it periodically. It's a great job for rainy weather.
6) Don't worry if the oil gets a little cloudy- that's totally normal and it doesn't mean that the chillies are going bad.