Gourmet Food Source
A flavoured oil or vinegar added at the beginning or the end of cooking can give a meal a subtle nuance of heightened flavour and interest. They can lend spice or heat when marinating or frying or bring out flavours with citrus or herb oils. A drizzle of flavoured olive oil is perfect over some grilled fish, roasted vegetables or barbequed meat.
They can also act as a means of preserving spices such as chilli, lemongrass, ginger, fresh bay and other herbs. When making a spice oil or vinegar always use a neutral type, do not be tempted to flavour a good extra virgin olive oil, it doesn’t need it, a good one will have a wonderful peppery flavour all of its own. Likewise an expensive aged vinegar will have developed deep and complex flavours as it has matured so use a standard white or malt vinegar for your chilli and garlic blends.
Our own pickled chillies
Certain oils suit certain cookery styles, for example a groundnut oil would be ideal for flavouring with Asian herbs and spices as it is commonly used throughout Asia. For something more Mediterranean try an olive or walnut oil blended with basil, rosemary or sage. Spiced oils and vinegars are a great way of experimenting with flavours and there are no limits to the combinations you can use but there are a couple of rules that should be adhered to; always use very clean jars or bottles including the tops and remember that the spices used will continue to flavour the longer they are left so beware when making chilli oil! Spiced vinegars are best known for their role in pickling and preserving. The English are well known for preserving vegetables in a vinegar solution flavoured with a muslin bag of allspice, chilli, coriander and mustard. It is not just oil and vinegar that benefit from spice blends, alcohol is perfect for blending with other flavours and used for preserving a glut of summer fruits.
see also Spice Notes