Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Herb oils: two ways to infuse

I seem to be all about 'doing the double' this week, unlike our amazing athletes it's all about the food, no medals here. Sad times. Although I am entering this as part of Karen at Lavender and Loveage's Herbs on Saturday linkup

Now I have to confess (despite using the word twice in my last post) I don't really 'do' drizzle. To me it makes me feel like I'm trying too hard, like I'm pretending to be a restaurant chef when we all know I'm a home cook in slippers and a Cath Kidston pinny. Not just that obviously, I'm not some kind of slipper & pinny wearing pervert!

However, flavoured oils to me come under the heading of preserves. And we all know how excited the Pantry gets about the prospect of preserving. Too excited.

The first flavoured oils I made were chilli oils as a Christmas present for my dad. Simply add dried chillies to an unflavoured oil (groundnut works well) Decant into a sterilised bottle, seal and keep in a dark cupboard. The flavour will get stronger and stronger the longer it's kept as the chillies continue to infuse, so that's best kept for lovers of that chilli kick.

However today is all about the herbs. In my bundle of goodies from Asda was a bag of watercress. And as luck would have it I had some parsley and basil in a jug on my worktop.

Pantry tip: store cut herbs as you would cut flowers (but maybe in a jug not your best crystal vase) topping up the water regularly and they'll stay fresh far longer.

I should just note that salad leaves like rocket grow like weeds in the tiniest window box or pot, and even when carelessly neglected will grow beautifully. You can reseed your pot intermittently so that over the course of the summer you have a cheap, quick and instant source of salad.

Pantry tip 2: yesterday I mentioned when to spend your money on mozzarella and when to save it. Olive oil is similar, to cook with use a plain and simple olive oil (or even an unflavoured oil like groundnut) but if you're using it raw as it were go all out with the extra virgin. Don't go mad but you want one that tastes fresh and vibrant as it is. Although you're infusing herbs into it, the flavour of the oil will continue to shine through.

Watercress & herb oil - the quick and easy one

Fill a 1 pint jug with your herbs. I used watercress, parsley and basil. Blitz these in a food processor, until really finely chopped.

Measure half a pint of good quality olive oil and pour that into your food processor with the motor running slowly.

Taste, season if necessary and use over salads, grilled meats or you could add toasted pine nuts and finely grated Parmesan for a quick and easy take on pesto. You probably won't want salt if you're taking this on to pesto as the salt from the cheese will be enough.

If you decant this into a sterilised jar and ensure that you cover it with a layer of extra olive oil it will keep in the fridge for a week or so.

What's nice about this is how the really peppery kick of the watercress comes through, contrasting with the softer flavours of the basil and parsley.

Watercress and herb oil: take two - cold infusion

Now for the preserving. This means that the oil will keep for much longer, and the flavour is intensified. It is strained through muslin as you would for a jelly so the pieces of herbs are discarded.

You start the same way with a pint of herbs, which you bring to yhe boil in a pan of water, straining almost immediately it comes to the boil and refresing under cold water.

Then blitz this, adding half a pint of good olive oil.

Strain this mixture through a seive letting the oil drip through slowly into a bowl. Resist the urge to push the oils through as that will make your end result cloudy.

You can bottle at this stage, using sterilised bottles, or you can strain again, lining your seive with muslin (or a clean, old pillowcase) and then bottle.

This will keep in the fridge a little longer than the easier option and is a wonderful addition to salads (especially yesterday's mozzarella and tomato salad) It also makes a lovely present as the verdant green oil is so beautiful and a fantastic alternative home-made gift for someone who perhaps doesn't like marmalade, jam, sloe gin, or elderberry cordial.


Karen S Booth said...

What a GREAT way to infuse herbs in oil! I LOVE it! And the colour is so pretty too Penny.....thanks so much for entering this into Herbs on Saturday! Karen

the hungry manc said...

I tried flavouring oils to give as gifts for family last year but ended up cloudy rubbish. Will ne giving these a go. THANKS

the hungry manc


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