This wonderful dipping or cooking oil is incredibly easy to make and the perfect accompaniment to al fresco dining. Smoking the chillies is also much simpler than you might imagine. The only equipment you need is a ‘kettle’ barbeque (ie one with a lid). . . .
2 Bulbs garlic (whole)
30 Green peppercorns
5 Bay leaves
2 Litres sunflower oil
The important thing is to keep the temperature down – you want to infuse the chillies with smoke rather than cook them to a soggy pulp. One way of doing this is to have a normal barbeque with friends and then, as the last coals glow gently among the ash, put on handfuls of wood shavings. You can buy these loose or as pellets from the internet , better still, ask a local joiner for his waste – the only important thing is that these must be a hardwood: oak, ash, apple and plum are some of the best.
Put the chillies and garlic as high above the heat as possible (ideally on a rack over a heat-proof bowl of boiling water) and cover. Check regularly to ensure the fire is still producing smoke and that the heat hasn’t crept up too high. Cooking times vary on the intensity and temperature of the smoke – and even climatic conditions, so it is impossible to give precise times. The longer you smoke, however, the more powerful the flavour: two to three hours is probably about right.
Put the smoked chillies, whole garlic and bay leaves into the food processor. Pour in a little oil and grind to a rough paste. Tip into the biggest jar you can find. The simplest is often to decant half a litre of oil from the two-litre (one gallon) oil bottle and add the mixture, but cookery shops and most big supermarkets sell more attractive glass containers. Add the peppercorns and then wash out the processor bowl with a couple of cups of oil to make sure you don’t waste any of the chilli and garlic paste. Top up with the rest of the oil, tightly cap the jar and put in a dark cupboard for a couple of months (although you can have a tentative test for strength and outline flavour after a day or so).
Then pour into smaller bottles or jars. You can strain or even filter it, but it will probably be cloudy and I think it looks better with a multi-coloured sediment layer at the bottom. If you are giving it as a present or selling it, you can dress it up by using attractive bottles and even waxing the corks closed, but even when opened it will keep for several months – although it is so delicious it rarely lasts that long.