Cooking with Mexican Chillis

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It was so lovely on Saturday to have everyone who came to my very first workshop at Claremont Farm in October all come back together! Their enthusiastic support and encouragement have really helped me push forward and get creative with devising new workshops.

On Saturday it was all about cooking with dried Mexican chillis, although we also used fresh Jalapeños and Habañeros. We made fresh corn tortillas, and turned them into a scrumptious brunch of “Huevos Divorciados” using super fresh eggs from Raby Eggs ! “Divorciadous” rather than “Rancheros” because we added a green tomatillo salsa.

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Dried Mexican chillis need careful handling to bring out their smoky fruity aromas. But with a little experience they can be easily incorporated into everyday soups and stews, as well as traditional Mexican dishes, they are a fabulous ingredient to have stashed in your store cupboard. We made a wonderful super healthy black rice salad which everybody raved about, a great illustration of how Mexican chillis are not just for Mexican dishes!

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I demonstrated how to make healthy baked taco shells, and we transformed some home made blue corn tortillas, into tortilla chips and used them to rustle up a plate of Nachos.

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I have two places left at my Workshop in March, so head-over to my website if you would like to come along, its a great way to spend a cold winters day!

The take home goodie bag included some dried chillis, a jar of home made “chipotles en adobe” and some luscious brownies created by the super talented Katie of Squidges Bakery, using a “Mulato” chilli paste which I made and top quality Cassia Bark from Spice Kitchen . A packet of  Sea Spring seeds chilli seeds was also included, if you do want to have a go at growing your own this year, now is a great time to get started,  Sea Spring seeds have a wonderful range, and they are the foremost authority on Chilli Growing in the UK.

There was also lots of salsa making, and everyone learnt to make a batch of empanadas.

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Last but not least I made a plate of ever versatile Tostadas for everyone to share. Whitmore & White now stock tiny corn tortillas which are the perfect size for making Tostadas, plus a range of other Mexican ingredients. 

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My Workshops in April and May will all about “Southern Mediterranean Cooking” I will be adding the dates to my website later this week.

Thanks so much to Beth Edmondson for taking all these fab photos.

Handling The Heat

20170930_101157When I launched my workshops a Claremont Farm a couple of months ago I was obviously hoping I would find people interested enough to come along :-)! But I have been genuinely surprised and thrilled at the enthusiastic response and positive feedback I have received from all the lovely people that have attended. The first two workshops sold out and such was demand I have arranged another Workshop for the 18th of November – which again on paper is full.

When I first advertised the workshops I gave a rough outline of what I was offering but had not finalised the details. So I thought I would write a little post to give you more of a feel for what the workshops are about.

September & October, are the hight of the chilli ripening season in the UK, so my table decoration was easy! I was able to display the “Scoville Scale” in chillies, and run through all the varieties from mild to super hot with everyone over coffee.

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Whatever workshop you attend I will always provide a hearty brunch, on this occasion it was Shakshuka, made with fabulously fresh eggs from Raby Eggs; Cheshire Tomatoes via Fine Fruits, fresh Harissa made with my chillies of course and topped of with some super tasty micro greens from City Veg, and served with my home made bread.

 

After brunch everyone got to make there own batch of Harissa, adjusted to their own heat level preference. I aim to make the workshops a relaxing experience and try to alternate the more hands on tasks with demonstrations and tastings ! I do quite a bit of talking – but try to make that informative – sharing everything I have learned about growing and cooking with such a wide range of flavoursome chillies.

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I always like to include one salad and, or a fresh Salsa. Many of the Peruvian varieties I grow are perfect for salads, having a crisp texture and wonderful fresh flavours. I was a little apprehensive about how my Venison Blackberry and Hazelnut salad would be received – but thankfully everyone loved it. I used the wonderful “Rocoto Chilli”, it has thick juicy flesh, and if all the membrane and slightly frighting black seeds are removed, it works perfectly in this dish.

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Then everyone got to make Tortellini, there was a little bit of a “cheat” involved, but it makes it a relaxing and achievable experience for everyone, they may not have all been perfect, but they were all edible! I made a tomato and basil broth to go with the Tortellini that was already in everyones goodie bag so they had a kind of “Fakeaway” ready to go!

To finish off I demonstrated how to make a simple but super tasty “Quesadilla”, which was devoured with relish!

Everyone took home a “Chilli Gourmet Goodie Bag”, which included a selection of fresh chillies, a 14 page recipe leaflet with all the recipes we made on the day plus many more. And some fabulous Chocolate Chilli cookies made specially for me by the super talented Squidges bakery.

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Obviously chillies are highly seasonal in the UK and thus my workshops in the New Year will take a slightly different approach, but you will still be able to get to sample a wide variety of chillies. I will also be including a chilli growing guide, please see individual workshops for details.

I big thank you to the amazingly creative Beth Edmondson for coming to my first workshop and taking all the pictures included in this post today.

 

NEW Italian Style Chilli Sausage!

downloadI am thrilled to announce that the talented team of butchers at The Lambing Shed in Knutsford have made my dream sausage a reality! For years I have been making a blissfully easy Rick Stein recipe “Fennel sausages braised with lemony potatoes and bay leaves” but as is so often the case (me being me!) I just thought it needed a little chilli heat, so I always add a little purple haze chilli to the dish. It got me thinking what a wonderful combination garlic, fennel, lemon and purple haze chilli would be to make a spicy sausage.

I have made a special sausage seasoning paste for the the lambing shed, and Steve the butcher has carefully balanced this with the pork to produce a totally delicious sausage! I make the paste using fresh garlic, purple haze chillies, and lemons, the spices are all freshly ground, and you can buy the sausage from today! A big thank you to Kathryn for being so open minded and willing to take on the project.

DSC_0329I will definitely now be using this sausage in the afore mentioned Rick Stein recipe; But also cooked on a barbecue and severed with some roasted peppers, courgettes and aubergines, and a dollop of Salas verde. I think they would make a refreshing and delicious alternative to a burger, just grill the sausage slice up and serve in a bun with lots of salad, and if you want a little extra heat a dash or two of my Tompeeper sauce 😉 also available in store at the Lambing shed.

One of the first things I am going to try when I get my hands on some is to serve them with a zesty salad of shaved fennel and lots of herbs. I have already posted a recipe here for an “Italian Sausage and Lentil Stew” – although I am not making my fresh tomato sauce that I mention in the recipe at present, I have posted a recipe for “Roasted Tomato & Chilli Sauce with Purple Haze Chillies” which is ideal to use now we are at the hight of the english tomato season. Just cut back on the garlic a little and leave out the chilli if you don’t want anymore heat.

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I will post more recipes when I have had time to experiment but please let me know if you do something different with them and I will happily share your recipes here.

 

Chilli Gourmets Website Now Live

Well a lot has happened since I last wrote a blog post two years ago. I have been kept so busy growing my chillies, developing new products and getting the Chilli Gourmet brand up and running. I have also been building a new website which is finally “live” although I still see it as a work in progress!

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This years chilli season is really swinging into action now, although the hotter varieties will not start to ripen in earnest for at least another month. Although I am not selling my chillies via the website at present, please do e-mail me if you would like to purchase any and I will see what I `can do. However I am pleased to say my unique range of chilli condiments are now available to purchase online, and I will be adding seasonal specials from time to time.

There is a list of my local stockist on the website. A small selection of my plants and soon my fresh chillies can be purchased at Claremont Farm and they also stock my full range of condiments.

Whitmore and White in West Kirby also stock my full range and use a couple of my condiments on their lunchtime menu. My “Crunchy Carrot” pickle they serve with hummus and my “Tompepper” sauce as a dipping on their Falafel Platter.

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I have just received my first Great Taste Award for my “Brilliant Beetroot” Relish which has been my best selling product since I launched it two years ago – although my “Crunchy Carrot” pickle and “Sun Kissed” Scotch bonnet hot sauce are now following closely behind.

DSC_0412Great Taste starts with great ingredients don’t you think? I believe the beautiful purple haze chilli developed by the super talented Sea Spring Seeds is the key to this products unique flavour.

Now the website is up and running I intend to get back to posting lots of creative recipe ideas on the blog, both using my products and fresh chillies.

For now I need to get back to preparing for Chester’s first ever chilli festival tomorrow. I will be there with lots of other chilli traders outside Chester Town Hall, so come and say hi if you are about. I will have plants and all my products available plus a “Super Hot Piri Piri Sauce” I have made especially for the occasion. Hope to see you there 🙂

THE CHILLI – The Healthy Piquant Pod

After reading a fascinating article by my friend Anjula Devi SpicIMG_1510e for Life it made me think of all the health benefits of eating chillies. Scientists have only recently started to discover the many potential medical uses of chillies and their heat giving capsaicin. A recent article in the New York Times Eating Spicy Food Linked to a Longer Life even suggests eating chillies may help us to live longer !

“…Consuming spicy food six to seven times a week reduced the risk by 14 percent.

Rates of ischemic heart disease, respiratory diseases and cancers were all lower in hot-food eaters. The authors drew no conclusions about cause and effect, but they noted that capsaicin, the main ingredient in chili peppers, had been found in other studies to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.”

The article admits that further studies are needed but the fact that chillies are good for us in a number of ways is not disputed. Chillies are packed with Vitamin C and are also a good source of most B vitamins, vitamin B6 in particular. They are very high in potassium, magnesium and iron. Their high vitamin C content can also substantially increase the uptake of iron from other ingredients, such as beans and grains.

Thats not to mention that chillies are the ultimate feel-good ingredient! It is the capsaicin in chillies that provoke the sensation of heat and the body defends itself against these effects by releasing endorphins, the body’s natural pain killers, which in turn trigger a positive feeling.

I am sure there health giving benefits were well known to the Aztecs who often mixed chillies with that other ancient endorphin boosting ingredient chocolate (or more precisely Coco Beans) to make a a thick drink called “Cacahuatl”, hot chocolate with a real kick! (Do read this excellent blog post on this subject How Cacahuatl Became Chocolate )

All this being said I grow and eat chillies because they are delicious, but it is nice to know they are good for you too!

Italian Sausage & Lentil Stew

Ingredients

500g of Italian sausages (or 500g of a good meaty pork sausage combined with 1 teaspoon of fennel seeds, 1 crushed clove of garlic and 1 teaspoon of chopped rosemary)

1 tub of Chilli Gourmets Tomato & Chilli Sauce (Mild)

4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

2 garlic cloves, peeled and squashed

250g of Castelluccio or Puy lentils

250ml of chicken stock

2 celery stalks, with the leaves, chopped

Salt and pepper

1 teaspoon of rosemary, chopped

A bunch of fresh parsley

Method

  1. For the lentils, fry the garlic in 2 tablespoons of the olive oil for a few minutes in a large pan. When the garlic starts to turn pale golden, add the lentils, stock and celery and cook for 30 minutes or until the lentils are soft & the stock has all but evaporated.
  2. While the lentils are cooking bring a large pan of water to the boil. Poach the sausages in the boiling water until they pop up to the surface, about 2-3 minutes. Leave until cool enough to handle, then peel off the skins.
  3. Fry the skinned sausages gently in the remaining oil until golden on all sides, about 5 minutes, adding the fennel seeds for the last minute. Remove the sausages and put to one side.
  4. Add the tomato sauce to the pan you cooked the sausages in and warm through gently for a minute or two, loosening the cooking juices left in the pan with a wooden spoon and incorporating them with the sauce. Add the chopped rosemary.
  5. Gently stir in the tomato sauce to the cooked lentils, check for seasoning then add the sausages and allow to cook gently together for about 5 minutes.
  6. Sprinkle with fresh parsley and drizzle with a little top quality extra virgin olive oil if you have some.

Serve with a good hunk of bread, a crusty sourdough would complement this dish perfectly.

I would also serve with a bowl of undressed rocket leaves to cut through the richness of the dish but a glass of red wine would also help to do that!

Spaghetti with Prawns

Ingredients (Serves Two)

250g dried spaghetti

Sea salt

3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

1/2 lemon (juice and zest)

1 fresh cayenne chilli chopped (optional)

1 large handful of parsley, chopped

180g peeled raw prawns

1 tub of Chilli Gourmets Tomato & Chilli Sauce (Mild or Hot)

2 large handfuls of wild rocket

Method

  1. Put a large pan of water on to boil and a generous amount of salt.
  2. Combine the oil, lemon juice, grated lemon zest and extra fresh chilli if using.
  3. Cut the prawns in half lengthways and remove the black vain. Toss the prawns in the dressing.
  4. Put your spaghetti on to boil and cook for about ten minutes until “al dente”.
  5. Warm through the sauce reducing it slightly, 5 minutes before your pasta is cooked add the prawns to the tomato sauce and gently cook until they are pink and cooked through.
  6. Drain the spaghetti return to the pan then stir in the sauce and prawn mixture and combine thoroughly.
  7. Serve each portion with a little mound of wild rocket on top.