Spice up your life: Thomasina Miers’ recipes for chilli jar gifts

Christmas shopping has snuck up on us once again. After years of panicking about what to give various relations, heroic teachers and lovely workmates – and with an inherent dislike of buying random, carbon-producing tat – I now invariably turn to food or experiences, with the logic that fun times and good food are always appreciated. For food, think luxurious treats such as cheese, chocolate or olive oil, or heartfelt, homemade delicacies. This trio of chilli treats should delight any foodie and be pleasing to make – just don’t forget the packaging!

Ancho relish
A deeply flavoured, rich chilli relish that is delicious drizzled over grilled vegetables, lamb chops, slow-cooked chillies or tacos.

Prep 15 min
Macerate 1 week
Makes 1-2 small jars

8 ancho chillies, stems and seeds discarded
6 baby shallots, peeled and finely chopped
5 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
150ml good-quality red-wine vinegar
300ml extra-virgin olive oil

Put the ancho chillies in a food processor and blitz to the size of small confetti. Transfer to a lidded plastic box, mix with the remaining ingredients, then season to taste, cover and leave to macerate in the fridge for at least a week – the longer the mix is left, the better it will taste. Transfer to jars, where it will keep for several months.

Chinese chilli oil
Prep 10 min
Cook 5 min
Makes 2 jars or bottles

2 tbsp chilli flakes
5 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
2 tbsp sichuan peppercorns
3 bay leaves
600ml peanut oil
3 tbsp sesame oil

Put the chillies, spices and bay in a heatproof bowl. Pour the peanut oil into a heavy-based pan and, heat until it just begins to smoke (keep your eye on it so it doesn’t burn), then turn down the heat slightly and leave it for a further 20 seconds. Take off the heat, leave for three minutes to cool slightly (to 110-120C), then pour over the chilli mix in the bowl. Add the sesame oil and leave to cool.

Strain into a jug, discard the aromatics and, then pour the oil into glass bottles or jars and seal. Leave for another hour to infuse, then the chilli oil is ready to use. It will keep for a month in the cupboard.

Chiltatis (the Mexican dukkah)
A nutty, gently spiced, seasoned seed sprinkle to throw over salads, soups, pasta dishes and more.

Prep 10 min
Cook 5 min
Makes 3 jam jars

300g pumpkin seeds
20g fennel seeds
15g coriander seeds
10g thyme leaves
15g hot smoked paprika
7g garlic granules
30g soft brown sugar
15g salt
Zest of 2 limes
1 tbsp ancho flakes
150g blanched roast hazelnuts

Put the pumpkin seeds in a large frying pan over a medium-low heat and toast, shaking the pan, until they begin to colour and pop. Remove and leave to cool.

Put the fennel and coriander seeds, thyme, paprika, garlic, sugar, salt, lime zest and ancho flakes in a food processor and blitz until medium fine. Add the hazelnuts and pumpkin seeds, and pulse/blitz a few times to create a toasted seed mix with texture. Transfer to clean, sterilised jam jars, seal and decorate with cool string and tags, or beautifully written labels. This will keep for one to two months.