What is it?
Fresh herbs and olive oil, blitzed and strained to produce a clear, fragrant, Christmassy-green oil, is the fastest, smartest, brightest way to add instant colour and flavour to festive eating. European chefs are mad for it, and local chefs have their own love affairs with particular herb oils, from Asian basil to sorrel.
Where is it?
Chef Chris Low of Orto Trading Co in Surry Hills makes fresh coriander oil to serve with crisp-skinned ocean trout with fennel, watercress and blood limes. At The Owl House in Darlinghurst, chef Roy Ner infuses extra virgin olive oil with lemon peel and mint for his free-range chicken ballotine with lentils, potatoes and asparagus. At Gastro Park in Kings Cross, Grant King gives herb oil a high-tech twist by freezing sorrel leaves in liquid nitrogen, and blending the resulting powder with oil into a glossy green dressing for his caramelised veal sweetbreads with choy sum, turnip ravioli and nasturtiums.
Why do I care?
Herbs. Olive oil. Simplicity. Deliciousness. Christmas friendliness. And you don't care?
Can I do it at home?
Yes, just blanch a load of fresh herbs, refresh them in icy-cold water, dry them off and blitz them in a blender with your preferred oil, then strain through a filter overnight. It's easier to do a large amount than a small, so go for broke.
Sourcing it (Sydney)
GastroPark, 5-9 Roslyn Street, Kings Cross, (02) 8068 1017.
Orto Trading Co 38 Waterloo Street, Surry Hills, 0431 212 453.
The Owl House 97 Crown Street, Darlinghurst, (02) 9357 5060.
Sourcing it (Melbourne)
Taxi Dining Room, Level 1, Transport Hotel, Federation Square, city, (03) 9654 8808
Matteo's, 533 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy North, (03) 9481 1177
PM24 24, Russell Street, city, (03) 9207 7424
Recipe: Parsley or basil oil
* Begin preparing the day before
2 bunches flat-leaf parsley or basil
150ml extra-virgin olive oil
100ml grapeseed oil
Sea salt and pepper
1. To make the herb oil, chop off and discard the heavier stalks, leaving you with about 150g of leaves. Blanch the leaves for 20 seconds in a large pot of boiling water, then remove and plunge immediately into a bowl of ice-cold water.
Drain well, squeeze dry and roughly chop.
Whiz the herbs in a blender with the oils, sea salt and pepper. Strain overnight through dampened muslin or a paper coffee filter set inside a funnel (without stirring or rushing it) and use within seven days.
Drizzle over lamb, chicken or fish, or serve with a salad of mixed coloured tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella, basil leaves and a scattering of cracked wheat, soaked in hot water for 30 minutes until tender and drained.
Kebabs. The perfect gift for the control freak is the Kebabacue, a silly-but-useful device that holds cubed meats and veg in position, ready for skewering. $14.95 from Henry Bucks, Melbourne and Sydney.