How to make Spicy Oil and take another step beyond the low fat era



...low fat

…low fat

In an earlier post I explained How to make Ghee and move beyond the low fat era, and in addition to providing a recipe I gave a brief description of why we need to end what I call the low fat era. As you all know, during the past few decades we were told repeatedly that a low fat diet was essential for a healthy low fat body, yet according to the CDC 36% of Americans are obese. Either the low fat diet hasn’t worked, or there are other reasons for obesity in America, I suspect both. The message we received seems to be that if you eat fat then you become fat. This has not been the case in my experience, in fact it seems that the more fat I add to my diet the leaner I become. A majority of my meals are prepared by sautéing food in some type of oil such as ghee, sunflower, sesame, or occasionally lard. I also regularly add olive or coconut oil to my meals even when sautéing isn’t necessary, for example, in my post Best oatmeal recipe ever, for dinner I recommend adding ghee or coconut oil to the oatmeal. When I purchase dairy products, which is not very often, I always choose the whole fat option. When I eat meat, which is not every day, I never trim the fat. Listen people, I understand that my personal experience doesn’t count as a valid scientific study. Could other factors such as genetics, exercise, lifestyle, and body constitution account for my lean physique? Absolutely. I’m not trying to declare a universal law here, I’m simply trying to demonstrate that eating fat does not always equate to being fat. Now, let’s move on to the recipe…

This recipe produces one pint of spicy oil. I store my oil in a canning jar and leave it on my counter top for easy access. Any time I need a convenient way of adding some flavor to my sauté, I add 1-2 spoons of spicy oil to my cast iron skillet. This is a great way to make eggs.

2 cups refined sunflower oil

2 tablespoons mustard seed

1 tablespoons cumin seed

2 tablespoons turmeric powder

2 teaspoons hing (also known as asafoetida)

Heat the oil on medium for approximately 20 minutes. Add a few mustard seeds starting around 10 minutes and wait for popping. If the seeds pop in 16 seconds you need to heat longer, if they pop in about 8 seconds that is a good temperature, but anything less than 4 seconds and your oil is probably too hot, so add seeds often and monitor closely. Your spices will burn if the oil is too hot, and it is best to avoid overheating oils, see below for more on choice of oils. Once you have reached optimum temperature turn off the heat and quickly pour in the mustard seeds and cover. I say to cover because there will be a reaction, but covering prevents the moisture that is released from escaping. An alternative to covering would be to use a pot tall enough to prevent an overflow from the reaction. After the popping is complete quickly add the cumin seeds and cover if necessary. After a few minutes add the turmeric and hing. Wait for the oil to cool, stir, and then pour the oil and spice mixture into a sturdy jar.

It is important to be aware of the smoking point of the oil you use. I like Spectrum oils because they tell you the temperature range appropriate for each oil. Normally I choose unrefined oils for improved taste and nutrition, but for the higher temperatures required of spicy oil you must choose a refined oil to avoid the smoke point. I have been using refined sunflower oil with good results, though I have learned that sunflower oxidizes rapidly, along with many other popular oils including canola, hemp and flax to name a few, so in the future I am open to trying different oils. Hing will definitely be the most difficult ingredient to find, but if you are having difficulties try an Indian store, Asian market, or herb shop. For the gluten free people, be warned that hing is often mixed with wheat flour to counter its sticky qualities. I found a rare variety that is mixed with fenugreek powder instead of wheat at an herb shop in Seattle. You could skip the hing if it is too much of a hassle.

The concept of using food as medicine is a defining component of Ayurveda, but diet alone is simply not enough. In Ayurveda there is great emphasis placed on digestion because your food cannot be your medicine if your body is not efficiently processing it. One way that digestion can be improved is through the use of spices such as those found in this spicy oil recipe. Go ahead and try this recipe, it is an essential ingredient in my kitchen because it enhances digestion, improves taste, is convenient, and nourishing. Take another step beyond the low fat era, enjoy!