Introduction: Pili Pili - a Pepper Infused Oil
Picture a farmer market in a rural village in France. As you walk along the stalls you pass a table - about 4 meters wide and 1 meter deep - absolutely full with bags of herbs and spices. This is where I discovered Pili Pili.
The basic recipe of Pili Pili ( also known as piri piri, pily pily, etc. ) is:
- (olive) oil
- chili peppers
Traditionally the Capsicum frutescens 'African Devil' is used, but any spicy pepper will do.
- herbs and spices
Step 1: What Does It Do?
Pili Pili is an oil infusion. By making an infusion you add flavours you like to your oil. In this case the main goal is to make your oil spicy. The herbs and spices aren't really necessary, but do add a lot of flavour to the oil, which makes reactions go from "Hmm, this is nice and spicy..." to "Woah! Where did you get this?".
In France I've seen it being used as an accompaniment to bread, this makes a simple but delicious appetizer. It's also a great way to spice up a pizza, I really prefer this to Tobasco or any other ready-made product.
Whether the Pili Pili is just spicy or more flavoursome, it can of course be used as an ingredient during cooking as well.
Step 2: Ingredients.
For this batch of pili pili I used:
- A neutrally flavored olive oil
- Dried peppers
- Black peppercorns
- Bay leaf
- Lemongrass ( this was an experiment for me, turns out it's a lovely and fresh addition to the flavour )
I won't give you the proportion of ingredients to use, because it all depends on the flavour you want to create ( and because I simply eyeballed it ;) ).
What I can tell you is this: I used a one liter jar ( that's 2.399x10^-13 cubic miles, for you non-metrics ), added the dry ingredients ( half of which was chili peppers ) and ended up adding about 800 mL ( 3 small bottles and a bit to top the jar off ) of oil.
Step 3: Mise En Place.
Prepare and add your ingredients to the jar.
Most of your dried ingredients can go in as they are. The fresh ingredients you'll want to bruise a bit to make sure the natural oils and flavour will infuse into your olive oil.
Lastly, add your oil. Try to add as much oil as possible so there will be little to no air left in the jar when sealed.
This step is pretty straight-forward, the pictures show you what I did.
Step 4: Infuse for a Fortnight.
Store your sealed jar in a cool and shady area. Not to cold, or your oil will go solid.
Clean and save your empty bottles, you'll be able to put the finished Pili Pili back into these.
Twice a day slowly turn your jar, so the ingredients and flavours mix better. Keep doing this for two weeks and your oil should be perfect. You can of course keep tasting it and infuse it shorter or longer until it seems right to you.
Step 5: Sift and Store.
You don't need to sift your oil, but I chose to do it for two reasons.
1. Quality control. If you keep the ingredients in the oil the flavour will get stronger and stronger. This isn't necessarily a bad thing if you just want it to be spicy. But with ingredients other than chili peppers
the flavour could go wrong.
2. Ease of use. When used during cooking you don't want to worry about peppercorns dropping in your food, so sifting before use seems like a good idea to me.
At first I tried to pour the Pili Pili directly into the small bottles using the funnel. I ended up with more oil on the counter than inside the bottle. I quickly decided to first sift using a second container and then pour the clean oil from this one into the small bottles. This worked great.
See the pictures for more detail.
Step 6: Use It.
And now, you're almost done... you just have to start using the Pili Pili.
Most infusion recipes I've read say cold-infused oil will keep about 2 months. If you store the oil in several small bottles in a cool place they will keep longer. My latest bottle of Pili Pili ( now completely empty ) on the other hand I've used for over six months without it going rancid. Just keep an eye on it, trust your own judgement and you'll be fine.
I hope you will try making Pili Pili, and succeed of course. Let me know how it goes or what you think about the recipe.
Lastly, you might want to label your Pili Pili. You'll regret mistaking this spicy, spicy oil for your regular olive oil.
Thanks for reading!