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Hazelnut chilli oil

this recipe started as a version of the popular Chinese condiment garlic chilli crunch using the ingredients we had in Norland, it started after our trusty gardeners Darren and Frank started bringing us chilli and taking great pleasure in watching me decide if they were still sweet or if they had become eye wateringly hot.

When they became hot we would use them more sparingly so drying was a good solution to save the glut.

In place of star anise we used sweet Sicily seed, cardamom was hogweed, wood aven roots for clove, we grew Sichuan peppercorns in the pub garden (an exotic local flavour for West Yorkshire).

this recipe is very interchangeable with what's around you. hazelnuts can be swapped for peanuts or added sesame, or simply left out if you prefer. More or less chilli or different varieties can be used, it's all up to what you have at hand.

I have adapted the moorcock recipe to use more generally accessible ingredients. but if you do have access to wild spices and seeds I recommend finding ways to introduce them to your cooking and this is a great place to start.

Hazelnut chilli crunch

1kg vegetable oil

30g dried heaven facing chilli (deseeded)

200g hazelnuts

250g peeled garlic

500g onions

1g cloves

2g green Sichuan pepper

3g red sichuan pepper

5g coriander seed

8g cumin seed

8g fennel seed

15g cracked black pepper

2g star anise

4g sand ginger

2g cardamom powder

40g salt

60g sugar

  1. heat oil to 150C, and preheat oven to 180C.

  2. In the oven toast Sichuan peppers, star anise, cloves, coriander, until fragrant, about 10 minutes. let them cook and grind in a blender or a mortar and pestle. and set aside.

  3. Slice garlic and onions finely on mandolin, about 1-2mm somewhere past transparent.

  4. fry the sliced garlic until evenly golden, remover from the oil, then repeat with onions, it is a lot of onions for the amount of oil, frying in 2 or three batches will make it quicker. when frying the onions and garlic you want all the moisture to be removed or the final condiment will become more chewy as it sits on the shelf. slow and steady is the best approach.

  5. Fry dried chilli skins until becomes a rusty colour, remove from the oil.

  6. Fry hazelnuts, don't be tempted to raise the temperature of the oil for them to cook faster, you want them golden on the outside and the inside, frying slowly really infuses the flavour of the nuts into the oil and helps remove the small amount moisture that the dried nuts retain, slow frying adds alot to the final crunch. remove the nuts from the oil.

  7. Switch the oil off the heat and once it gets below 110C add the fennel, cracked pepper and cumin seeds.

  8. The collection of crispy fried ingredients all need to be chopped or crushed before being added to the warm oil. for larger batches I will pulse them all in a blender. If I want the texture to be a bit more pronounced I will hand chop the fried hazelnuts and crush the remaining ingredients with my hands. however you choose once crushed everything can be added back into the pot of oil with the powdered oven roasted spices, sugar and salt before being ladled into jars and kept in the cupboard for safe keeping.

this was the backbone for a dish we served of fried pumpkin, salted goose egg mousseline hazelnut chilli crunch. at home I use it to dress salads, especially with shaved raw vegetables and smoked fish. or simply spooned on sliced tomatoes as a snack or side dish.

if you google chou chow sauce or any chilli crunch recipe you will see where else this condiment can be used. it is very addictive.

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