The Midnight Oil

Yes the midnight oil. Have been burning a bit too much of it lately so I’ll be brief this week. But please don’t take that to mean that I’ve skimped on this weeks recipe. No my friends, I have a real winner for you, something that’s recently become a firm favourite in our house. A quick, simple pasta based on a secret ingredient, chilli oil.

Now I used to think that I wasn’t a fan of flavoured oils. And if you’re a little hesitant, I know where you’re coming from. But this has been the oil that has overcome my prejudice and if you’re a fan of chilli in any way at all, I urge you to make a small batch and give it a go. Who knows? You may become addicted as well.

The best thing about this chilli oil is that you have all the lovely chunky, sweet, garlicy chilli bits at the bottom of the jar. This lets you customize your chilli experience and add more or less of it depending on how hot you’re feeling.

Chilli Oil

makes approx 1L

I’m surprised just how frequently I’ve been using this oil. It adds a lovely subtle warmth to many dishes. I recently used it as a drizzle over some BBQ lamb kofta and have let it add some kick to a chickpea and tabouli salad.

400g (14 oz) long red chillies
6 large cloves garlic
800mL (3 1/3 C) extra virgin olive oil

Halve chillies lengthwise and deseed, using gloves if you’re worried about burn. Peel and smash garlic to open up a little. Place chilli, garlic and oil in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer over a medium heat.

Allow to simmer until garlic is golden brown. Remove from the heat and allow to cool a little. Transfer chilli and garlic to a food processor and puree with a little of the oil. Return solids to the oil and store in an airtight container.

Will keep in the fridge for a couple of months.

Spaghetti with Basil and Chilli Oil

serves 4
Inspired by Sean Moran from his lovely book Let It Simmer.

One of the signature dishes at Sean’s Panaroma is his linguine with rocket and chilli oil. While I haven’t yet tried it at the restaurant, it’s been a favourite at home for a while. I’ve mixed it up a little by using basil in place of the rocket but pretty much any fresh green herb would work. Of course if you don’t happen to have any greenery at hand you could get by with just chilli oil, some lemon juice and the parmesan.

This is the perfect mid week meal. All it takes is boiling the water for the pasta, grating some parmesan, shredding some basil and you’re done. If you hadn’t been organized enough to make the delicious chilli oil above you could substitute in some commercial chilli oil or even go for a mild version with some good quality extra virgin olive oil.

400g spaghetti
200mL chilli oil, recipe above
2 cloves garlic, peeled and very finely chopped
juice 1 lemon
200g parmesan cheese (grana padano)
½ bunch basil , leaves picked
extra parmesan, to serve

Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil.

Meanwhile combine chilli oil, garlic and lemon juice in a bowl large enough to hold the pasta. Grate the cheese and finely shred the basil.

Cook pasta until al dente according to the packet instructions. Scoop some cooking water into a cup and then drain pasta. Toss in the bowl with the chilli oil mix and then toss through the basil and parmesan and if it looks dry some of the reserved pasta cooking water. Season and serve immediately with extra parmesan passed separately.


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  • Hi Clance. I actually had this dish at Sean’s Panorama and it was superb. Thanks for the reminder!

  • That Chilli Oil looks great! And so simple to make. Sounds like it would make a great food gift, too. Must remember for when xmas comes around again.

  • chili oil sounds like a great idea! do you think red jalapenos would be okay for the oil? i don’t really come across a lot of fresh red chilies here in america except for the jalapenos.

  • yay em. I think I’m going to try it next time I’m there.

    great idea lili… I think I might pinch that one… a red oil just has to be christmassy

    I know Susan, I remember that from my time living in California. Am sure red jalapenos would work a treat. you might need to play around with the chilli to oil ratio a bit though. let me know how you get on.

  • Made a jar of this yesterday and it worked really well. I guess it’ll get a bit more potent as time goes on, but it was fantastic in the pasta last night. I’m going to mix it with passatta for spreading on pizza bases to give them a little kick.

    Great tip, thanks.

  • Hi Jules

    I tried this out two nights ago (the spaghetti/chilli oil recipe), and found I needed to adjust as I went. Did you intend for us to use 200ml chilli oil when we use a commercial brand?

    I cut the oil down a little and added about 3 of my Mum’s bottled tomatoes (pureed) which I’d cooked down with a little garlic. I added slivered almonds too, and the whole dish was yum. :)

    Delish! keep ’em coming,



  • farmer gal
    it’s taken a while for me to get into the whole flavoured oil thing too. hope you enjoy the chilli oil

    glad you liked it, great idea to include it in pizza

    yeah I did use the whole 200mL oil but if you wanted a lighter version you could easily tweak it down to 150mL. glad to hear your tweak ended up tasting good… that’s what the best cooking is all about. taking an idea and making it your own


  • I read your website every week, its great and got lots of information to take in and lots of interesting articles.

  • thanks for reading ava

    you don’t have to deseed the chillis – it’s all up to you and really depends on how hot your chillis are and how hot you want your oil to be. I usually get lazy and deseed most but leave some with the seeds in.

  • I’ve got a copy of your book and love it. I was going to make this oil, but read around a few other recipes first and came across a number of people discussing the risk of botulism.

    Does simmering the oils, garlic and chilli together kill the bacteria? If not, does using dried chillies rather than fresh (which apparently removes the risk of botullism) make much difference to the taste? Many thanks.

  • good questions paul
    dried chilli would be fine – slightly different flavour but still great. and as you say much safer, although I’m wondering if there’s a risk from the garlic

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