🌶️ Chilli Oil Please
There’s a lot of chilli oil out there and there are a lot of Laurens, but both this chilli oil, and this Lauren, are unique.
Lauren Ross’s 500ml whisky-style bottle is fat and thick, sealed under blood-red wax, with a single dried chilli bobbing inside. The oil itself is a good, buttery olive oil from Central NSW near Yass, rather than the cheaper, thinner neutral oils normally deployed in these situations, and is infused with enough dried Indian chilli flakes to build into a pleasing warmth. It won’t punch you across the jaw with heat. “It’s a workhorse,” Lauren says and she’s correcto, this is an oil to finish a bowl of ramen, to start a soffrito for paella, or to kick off a puttanesca sauce for spaghetti. Lauren “grills coral trout skin side down in it, with a laksa sauce on the side, or uses it as a dipping sauce alongside soy for gyoza or siu mai, or any damn dumplings at all.” She works it in everywhere and so do we, the richer oil holding and delivering the heat of the chillies quite slowly on the palette, a trojan horse for flavour.
The birth story of this project is a bit rando, but like any good pandemic tale it began with a “shit load of spare time.” It’s a sort of reboot for Lauren, who actually launched a range of chilli oil back in 2012 after wrapping a course at Le Cordon Bleu and her mum was sick of her “doing nothing.” Doing nothing pays sometimes! The label back then was stark white with bold black text. CHILLI OIL. It sold out immediately. But soon her one wild and precious life got in the way (Lauren has worked her way around Sydney’s big names in food in operations at Fratelli Fresh, Victor Churchill, Vic’s Premium Meats, Orchard St and now Worktones) and a few years went by unoiled, until the pandemic got its teeth into all that. Now, the project has been resurrected with a fancier bottle and cooler label showing a busty cartoon Mona Lisa, her eardrums blowing out with steam, and sick serving suggestions. “Fry pork katsu in it instead of normal oil,” she says. “Dirty your caprese salad with chilli oil instead of extra virgin. Drizzle it on pizza. Do... whatever.”