Infusing olive oil with different herbs and spices is an easy but effective way to add a dash of extra flavour to your meals. Pretty bottles filled with flavoured oil also make a great DIY present for foodie friends – don’t forget to add a label with the ingredients and the date, so they can enjoy it at its best.
Be adventurous and experiment with your own favourite flavours or use whatever herbs you have growing in the garden – rosemary works well, as does lemon thyme and sage. Basil infused olive oil is delicious drizzled over pasta, while garlic oil adds extra depth of flavour to any salad dressing. Chilli or lemon oil is fabulous on fish and barbecued meats. Or keep it simple and just dip hunks of home-made bread into your flavoured olive oil. There’s just a few simple rules to follow.
Rules to Follow
1) Always sterilise the bottle you’re going to use first. To do this, you’ll need to clean it (ideally on a high temperature in a dishwasher), then fill with freshly boiled water. Empty and leave to air dry completely before using. If there is any water left in the container, your herbs or spices could become mouldy, even when preserved in the oil.
2) Wash your chosen herbs and leave them to dry, preferably overnight. Again, any water left on ingredients could introduce bacteria to your home-made oil, which is the one thing you need to be rigorous about.
3) You can gently bruise any herbs with a pestle and mortar. This helps to break up the capillaries and start releasing the wonderful herby flavours. Spices can be lightly toasted in a small frying pan, over a low heat and chilli peppers or lemons can be sliced as thinly as possible. Then place your chosen ingredients into your oil bottle.
4) Cover the ingredients completely with olive oil, seal the bottle tightly and leave for a couple of weeks for the flavours to develop. If you want to speed up the flavouring process, you can gently heat the oil with your chosen ingredients. Once cool, strain off the ingredients before bottling.
5) Infused olive oil will generally keep for up to a month but if you notice any spoilage, discard immediately.
Infused Olive Oil Recipes
Now that’s all clear, why not try some of our favourite recipes:
Basil Olive Oil
– use 4 cups of basil leaves with 2 cups of olive oil. Some cooks advise pureeing the basil and oil together, then heating for 45 seconds and straining the basil leaves off.
– 1/2 cup olive oil with 2 fresh sprigs of rosemary. Again, you can heat the oil with the rosemary for a quicker infusion (just for about 5 minutes), then transfer both the oil and the sprigs to a bottle, seal and refrigerate.
– 2 cups olive oil with 4 teaspoons dried, crushed red pepper or red chilli flakes. Method as above.