Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A Little Bit of Food Luxury

Some people get excited about buying a new outfit or a killer pair of 4 inch high heels, I sadly get excited about buying food. Yep that's me....the sad food geek that can't resist buying fancy food items. Take last week for example – I was over the moon to track down some beautifully elegant and exotic Hibiscus Flowers in Syrup! Perfect, a total delight and just in time for Valentines Day! I also particularly love gourmet items like flavoured oils, salts and spices. You can imagine my delight therefore at some of the beautiful Christmas presents I got from my brother and sister-in-law. As mentioned in my 'Cute As A Button' post, the beautiful, sparkly, pastel sugar buttons were from them. But they didn't stop there! Add to the buttons 12 pastel silicon cupcake cases and I was all set for making my pretty little cupcakes. Next (and like the buttons, also from Paris) was a delicate jar of dried purple flower petals, ideal for scattering over cakes and desserts for a beautiful finishing touch.

Merging into the savoury side was a jar of vanilla salt (courtesy of Heston & Waitrose). I don't think I've mentioned it yet but I have a slight thing for different types of salt and can't resist buying anything I see that is a little bit different. Up until Christmas I certainly didn't have any vanilla salt but I couldn't be happier to add it to my collection (which I will tell you about later). Also added to my collection (yes there was more!) was a bag of gleaming pink “Diamond Crystals of Rose Salt” - the name says it all! From Terre Exotique ( these rose hued Himalayan rock salt crystals came complete with a fine grater ready to be put on a dish and on the table for everyone to help themselves to – what a conversation starter and another salt ticked off my list that I didn't have!
And last, although I have purposely saved the best for last, was the most amazing and magical box I have ever seen for the kitchen - Laura Santtini's Alchemical Larder. Entitled '16 magical ingredients & some notions for potions' just looking in this box makes me schoolgirl giggly and gives me a ridiculous sense of being somewhat closer to being a student at Hogwart's and concocting delicious, but magical meals! Within the box are 16 little glass pots ranging in colour from yellow, orange and fuchsia to lavender, jade and turquoise, all sealed with a gleaming gold lid. Each beautiful pot contains its own special ingredient. Some are filled with spices that you will have heard of and possibly have such as Sumac, Saffron, Nutmeg and Smoked Paprika, but then there are the real 'magical' ingredients like White Mischief; Persian Rose; Grains of Paradise and Carnal Sin to name a few. I could tell you what they all actually are but for the time being I'll leave you guessing what wonders are contained within those beautifully named jars. Honestly just peering into this box at the gleaming jars makes me feel like an alchemist! To go with the box was a little cylinder of 'Inca Stardust Savoury Sprinkles', an alchemy of bitter chocolate, chilli, burnt orange, edible silver & gold dust! It is without doubt the most amazing food-related present I've ever had, so thank you Scott and Susan!

Unfortunately however since I'm not an alchemist my culinary skills related to food luxuries only goes as far as some flavoured oils, salt and syrups. That being said the whole point of the Alchemical larder is to add flavours that enhance your meal and really it is just a blend of spices and salts that enhance certain flavours so I get pretty excited by my own flavour enhancers!

In the UK you can very easily get flavoured oils that aren't overly expensive,however I've noticed that here in Canada it's not only quite difficult to get such items but if you do track them down they are generally pretty expensive, which is why I decided to make some of my own and share them with you.

I don't expect you to get as excited as I do, but for me knowing that I have some homemade oils and salts in my cupboard ready and waiting to enhance something with makes me happy, so let the magic begin!

Wickedly Hot Chilli Oil

I use this intensely hot oil to drizzle over things just before serving. Since I don't generally cook with it I like to add a little Extra Virgin Olive oil once it has cooled – if you prefer though you can miss this out. Delicious drizzled over pizza, pasta, mozzarella and other salads that you want to add a little heat to!

250ml olive oil
4-5 dried red chillies, cut lengthwise in half (stopped just before the green stem)
100ml extra virgin olive oil (optional)

Put the oil and chillies into a small pan and heat over a low heat for about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool completely before transferring to a bottle or jar.

Garlic Oil
Since I use this oil to cook with I use a mild olive oil. Use it whenever you would normally use ordinary olive oil and would like an extra flavour of garlic.

5-6 cloves of garlic
300ml olive oil

Using the flat side of a knife (or can can just use your hands) crush the garlic cloves. Peel the crushed cloves then add them to a small pan. Add the olive then gently heat until the edges of the garlic are just beginning to bubble and sizzle ever so slightly. Remove from the heat and allow to cool completely before transferring into a bottle or a jar. (You can add the garlic cloves to the decanted oil if you want - I normally do but only leave them in for a couple of days before removing them.)


  1. OMG I want those little pots of glittering, jewel coloured grains of paradise!! What are they? I love my Himalayan salt & chilli oil but this goes a huge step forward into mysterious souk inspired magic powders! I'm sooo jealous!

  2. Hello Lynds,
    Loving the alchemy love the ideas .. especially to create on own at home. I have some sloes ready to be removed from the gin, maybe . . . I'm thinking almond flavours, berries just might infuse well into oil :) Thank you for sharing.

  3. Awesome bounty lynds, we really did get great big brothers didnt we?! Those little pots are beautiful just to look at nevermind how fantastic they'll be to use :-)

  4. Sweet Lynz!
    I'm going to try to make some oil it looks SO good!!

  5. Thanks everyone!

    Natalie - I know! Even as the very proud owner of these beautiful little pots, im still amazed at how fantastic they are! The description of the 'Grains of Paradise' is just as beautiful and says "Legend has it that this heavenly spice grew only in Eden and was gathered as it floated down the rivers of paradise"! It's a type of peppercorn, but very small buds and really delicate to smell - almost with a hint of citrus. Wonderful! (Sorry not trying to make you any more jealous!)

    Spinneys Cauldron - sounds fantastic!! Let me know how it turns out.

    Sarah - certainly did although my sis-in-law is also really into food so I have to credit her just as much!! (Although Scott has always been good at picking out presents)

    Ta - let me know how they turn out. You should try some of the salts as well.

    Both the oils and salts make lovely little foodie gifts. Perhaps not quite as special as my Alchemy box of delights but still special! ;)

  6. I can use those oils in so many of my recips. They would definitely add an extra "oomph"...heheh. Do these oils go bad? I mean, can i keep them in my cabinet for a month and use it when needed?

  7. Hello again, You've got me thinking, Many many moons ago, there was a fabulous Italian Restaurant in town . . every time we were in town regardless of the time .. 1pm or 1am we would pop into this restaurant for my fav pizza (the only pizza I've liked ) My friend would try many different things from the menu whereas I would only order the same pizza . . so much so they ended up creating the pizza & naming the pizza after me :) as all I ever wanted on it was Cheese, Prawns & GARLIC OIL . . now this garlic oil was the most exquisite flavour ever tasted & brought the whole combination (basic as it was) alive . . then they would drizzle it with CHIILI OIL . ..ooh Italian Heaven!!! These were all hand made oils, magnificent flavours & simply used like salt & pepper

  8. I'm glad you like them Abeer....As long as you take the fresh garlic out of the oil after a few days (max) then the oil will keep for as long as you need it. As for the chilli oil - if using dried, it should be fine for a long time (I normally use mine up before I've had any problems!!). If you'd rather use fresh chillies then just do the same as the garlic - remove them after a couple of days of infusing and you're good to go! Hope you enjoy!

    S.C. - I'm delighted to have brought back such lovely memories! The pizza sounds delicious! I hope these oils are as good as the ones they made at the Italian Restaurant. It's amazing how something so simple can transform and finish a dish perfectly! : )

  9. There is certainly NOTHING sad about getting excited about all these special extra decorative tasty goodies, Lyndsey! Just goes to show how thoughtful you are that you want to share you pleasures with others! It's funny, before if I got them as presents they would gather dust since I would think they were too pretty to use. Now it's great to sprinkle things on and add that "je ne sais quoi". Real talking point, too, eh?

  10. I get more excited about buying food and/or new kitchen gadgets. :)
    I must try the garlic oil...that would be a huge hit in this house. :)

  11. Have you had a chance to use many of the special blends from the 'Laura Santtini's Alchemical Larder' kit yet? They are so so beautiful but I couldn't help wondering if the contents could live up to the promise?

  12. Hi Lynds
    Just wondering if you've ever done the same with Vinegar, you can make some fabulous flavours doing the same methods & intention but with vinegar, even adding fruit :)
    Great for the Summer Salad dressings :)

  13. Emma - Im embarrassed to say it but no not yet...! Terrible of me but they are just so pretty and perfect that I only want to use them for 'special' meals! That being said the fact that you asked me that and I had to admit I haven't yet used them has made me realise that I am going to start - otherwise it's just a waste! Besides Im sure I'll find ways to refill them once Im done! I'll let you know how they are!

    As for the vinegars - not yet but I definitely plan to! I have been thinking for a while about a raspberry & a strawberry vinegar and definitely tarragon since I love that for bernaise you have any other suggestions or make any that you would share?

    Thanks for all of the comments! I love getting them : )

  14. I'm a terrible one for 'hording' special ingredients for 'special' meals too, have to keep reminding myself about things like shelf-lives and the problems with them losing flavour over time!


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