His recipe column in The Guardian recently had some experimental fusion dishes under the moniker “Yotam Ottolenghi’s fusion feast”, so what did I do: I combined elements of two of these dishes…

In one of these recipes, he did a mash-up of dishes from Italy and China by combining a Sicilian aubergine caponata and a Szechuan mapo tofu. Ottolenghi states that they are mashed together “in a union so wrong, it’s right” and I wholeheartedly agree. This dish is fantastic and has everything that you wish for. Smokey oven-roasted aubergine with a sweet, sour, and spicy dressing served with silken tofu, coriander, spring onions, fresh ginger, and sesame seeds.

Given the origin of mapo tofu, my fusion element was adding the Szechuan pepper-based “numbing” chili oil from the Cabbage with Ginger Cream recipe that I made ahead (the rest of that dish was astonishing as well). The fried elements resulted in a vibrant, multilayered taste, and the heat only comes as a pleasantly subtle afterburn sensation. As expected, it paired brilliantly with the silken tofu, but with the caponata as well. The chili oil is super versatile and found its way on many other dishes over the next 2 weeks.

For the chili oil
  • 10 tbsp sunflower oil, divided
  • 1 banana shallot, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1cm / ½” piece ginger, peeled and finely grated
  • 1 whole star anise
  • ½ fresh red chili, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp red bell pepper flakes (I used the same amount of dried Aleppo peppers)
  • 1 tsp chili flakes (I used the same amount of dried Aleppo peppers)
  • 1½ tsp Szechuan peppercorns, roughly crushed
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1½ tsp tomato paste
  • 1 tsp each black and white sesame seeds
  1. Heat 2 tbsp of the sunflower oil in a small saucepan on medium-high heat. Add the next 9 ingredients (including the salt), turn down the heat to medium and fry very gently for 5 minutes, often stirring, until the shallot is soft.
  2. Add the tomato paste and both types of sesame seeds, cook for another 2 minutes, then stir in the remaining sunflower oil.
  3. Reduce the heat to low and simmer very gently for 20 minutes – if the oil starts to bubble at all, just take it off the heat for a minute – then leave to cool and infuse for at least 1 hour.
  4. If transferred to a (sterilized) jar with a lid, it should keep for about 2 weeks in your fridge.

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