(Theguardian) – A fiery chilli oil made with peanuts and garlic is the perfect accompaniment to this springtime dish
Salsa macha is a deliriously delicious chilli oil from Veracruz,a port on the eastern side of Mexico. It is made with toasted garlic, peanuts and sesame (an ingredient brought over from Africa, via the Caribbean), and it has a natural affinity with seafood – a must with raw seafood tostadas. Here I pair it with a British crab and new potato salad, which makes a lovely starter.
Crab, new potato and watercress salad with pickled onions and salsa macha
The chilli oil adds an intensely nutty, lightly fiery and terrifically garlicky spark of flavour to the salad. Leave out the sesame and peanuts for a simpler version. Chile de arbol can be found online and in good supermarkets, but substitute with any hot, dried red chilli.
Prep 5 min
Cook 40 min
500g new potatoes (jersey royals, anya or pink fir apple are great varieties)
100ml cider vinegar
3 tbsp caster sugar
2 large banana shallots, halved and finely sliced
6 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
The juice of 2 limes
200g dressed crab meat
2 bags watercress
1 large bunch each of basil and tarragon, leaves picked
For the salsa macha
25g dried red chillies (I use chile de arbol)
6 fat garlic cloves
25g sesame seeds
600ml sunflower oil
90g peanuts – raw, untoasted, unsalted
2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp caster sugar
Put the potatoes in a saucepan, cover with cold water, add a quarter-teaspoon of salt, bring to a boil and cook until tender.
Heat the vinegar in a small pan with 100ml water, the sugar and half a teaspoon of salt. When hot, pour this mixture over the shallots and set aside.
Now make the chilli oil. De-stem the chillies, discarding any seeds that fall out, and bash the garlic cloves a few times with a heavy object to remove their skins. Toast the sesame seeds in a dry frying pan over a medium heat for four to five minutes until they are a pale gold, then set aside.
In a medium saucepan over a medium-high heat, warm 200ml of the oil and add the peanuts and garlic, gently frying until both turn a light caramel colour, (but turn the oil down if it sizzles too much – burning the peanuts, garlic or chillies will make the salsa taste bitter). Pour the oil through a sieve and empty the nuts and garlic into a bowl. Pour the oil back into the pan, add the chillies and fry for one to two minutes, over a medium heat until they darken in colour and smell nutty. Pour in the rest of the oil to stop the cooking and turn off the heat.
Grind the sesame seeds in a blender, for a few minutes. Aadd the chilli and garlic, half the peanuts, one teaspoon of salt and the sugar. Blitz to a coarse crumb. Now pour in the oil and blitz for another minute. Add the rest of the nuts, stir well and taste, adding more salt, and a little sugar, if necessary.
Cut the potatoes into finger-thick discs and toss in half the olive oil and half the lime juice, then season. Stir the rest of the olive oil and the lime into the crab, and season.
Wash and dry the watercress and herbs and arrange on a large platter, with the potatoes on top. Scatter with the crab, the pickled shallots and a little of their vinegar, and drizzle with one to two teaspoons of the salsa macha. Serve with fresh bread and more salsa on the side, for those that want more.
And for the rest of the week
The chilli oil does crazily good things to eggs and vegetables – I spoon it over a fried egg for breakfast, or underneath braised green vegetables for supper. It adds a lovely heat to smashed avocadoes, and is great with pasta – try toasted breadcrumbs, anchovies and walnuts. Lastly, try a little of it over slow-roasted summer tomatoes on toast. The leftover pickling liquid from the shallots is great with summer fruits such as raspberries and cherries.