Infused cooking oils, which can add great flavour to food, are becoming more and more popular. In fact, oils are a superb way of capturing the flavour and aroma of a great deal of condiments, including herbs, spices and fruit. With a little imagination, spices, mushrooms or even an aubergine or a tomato can make a good extra virgin olive oil unique. At the same time, they can transform the most simple meal into a small gastronomic event.
Extra virgin olive oils infused with garlic, basil or marjoram are perfect for making vegetables taste delicious. Those infused with bay leaves, rosemary, sage or thyme are more appropriate for meats. For fish, shellfish and salads, lemon-infused oil is ideal, while oils with chilli are fabulous for roasted meats, pastries and legumes.
Preparing infused oil is very easy if you follow these simple guidelines:
- It is advisable to chop herbs while fresh and dry, and never when wet.
- If fresh leafy herbs are being used, such as basil, it is best to scald them in boiling water for a second to set the chlorophyll. The leaves should then immediately be placed in cold water to stop them from cooking. Once cold, they can be dried and the chopped. When the chlorophyll has been set, they will give off a rich aroma and their intense green colour will be enhanced.
- Between 2 and 3 tablespoonfuls of chopped herbs or spices should be added (depending on the desired intensity of the infusion) per ¼ litre of oil.
- A glass container should be used and it is recommended not to fill it completely.
- A teaspoonful of vinegar may be added to the oil and condiments before the container is sealed hermetically to further enhance the flavour and aroma of the infused oil.
- The container and its contents must be left to infuse in a cool, dry and dark place for at least 3 weeks (never in the fridge). When this time has elapsed, filter the liquid and pour it into its container. You can decorate the oil by leaving a bunch of herbs inside the bottle.
- Another method of infusing the oil is to heat it for around 10 minutes with the chosen herbs or spices. It should not, however, reach a temperature of more than 50 or 60 degrees centigrade. Once the oil has cooled, remove the ingredients and bottle the oil for use.
One or two other ideas for making your own infused oils are as follows:
Lemon-infused oil: To prepare this, wash two lemons thoroughly and remove the peel with a sharp knife, taking care only to remove the yellow part. Place the peel in a bottle with 1 litre of Betis extra virgin olive oil. In order to obtain an intense flavour, leave it to infuse for a month. It is not necessary to filter the oil.
Chilli-infused oil: We need one litre of Betis extra virgin olive oil, 60g of fresh chilli or 30g of dried chilli and 1 bay leaf. Chop the chilli and place it in a bottle with a bay leaf and the oil. Leave the oil to infuse for 3 weeks and when it has the desired degree of spiciness, filter it and it will now be ready to use.