Monday, December 15, 2008

Basil Oil

What with it being almost Christmas and the credit crunch doing it's thing I thought I'd add a couple of seasonal treats to the blog. I have previously made some basil oil for myself because I really love the stuff. It is such a superbly flavoured herb but sadly doesn't last long once picked, so preserving it this way is fabulous. And frugal.

I was talking to a few others recently, amongst them Lizzie from Hollowlegs, about this thing about xmas - the endless pressure to be giving gifts to all and sundry feels unceasing from about September but the reality is it's unlikely most adults need or even want anything that they haven't already bought or planned to buy for themselves. It's why most people go out to earn a wage. So you are most likely to both give and receive something for the sake of it. But if you give consumables all that will be left is the bottle and the pleasant sensation of being replete.

A few weeks ago I had a big bunch of basil left from another dish, so decided I'd make some oil with it rather than have it go to waste. I put the picked leaves into my pan, added two 500ml bottles of olive oil, infused it gently then let it cool. I stuffed the leaves through the skinny neck of each bottle then filled them with oil and sealed the tops. Obviously the outside of the bottles were still a little oily. Picked one up to clean it, had it slip then in what seemed like slow motion I watched it fall to the floor and smash. Oil, leaves, glass for miles - all over the floor, up the walls, down the cupboards, everywhere. If you've never had to clean up that much olive oil you are very lucky. It's a nightmare, it seems to multiply every time you peep out from behind your hands. Took me an hour or more. The only good thing was still having one bottle left. Which I cleaned very very carefully before I put it away.

Basil Oil

2 x 500ml olive oil in glass bottles
1 large bunch basil, leaves picked from the stems
2 dried red chillies
Put the leaves and chillies into a large pan and add the olive oil. Very very gently bring it to a point where there are just bubbles forming. Keep it at that temperature for about ten minutes to infuse. Turn off the heat, cover and allow the oil to return to room temperature.

If you're feeling brave gently push the leaves into the empty bottles after discarding the chillies. There will be oil that runs down the outside of the bottle making them slick. Then with a funnel pour the infused oil into the bottles and seal.

Make a label and decorate with a little festive ribbon.

And that's it - a lovely present that is a joy to receive as well as to give. It is great on hot pasta with nothing more than a sprinkle of Parmesan, it makes a fabuolous salad dressing, particularly for peppers and you can roast tomatoes and garlic in it to make a wonderful dish eaten hot or cold. Or indeed to put into sterilised jars and given as presents.

If you're lucky enough to have a basil plant in the summer you can make more of this lovely oil before the plant dies off in the autumn.

No comments: