Banana salsa – a foodie challenge

After My last recipe I got a tweet through about recipes which come in dreams:20130323-104728.jpg

A moment later another tweet pinged up with a photo of the salsa attempt:

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Naturally, I took this as a challenge!

My first thought was that over-ripe browning bananas would be too sweet. To make a good go of a banana salsa they would need to be as green as possible. Green bananas have a grassy flavor and the near-crunchy texture that holds together when mixed in with other ingredients. I didn’t want a mushy compote job. To avoid this, It’s a good idea to chop everything fairly roughly and combine it gently.
The salsa actually turned out very nicely and, served alongside a griddled chicken breast in a satay-style sauce, was delicious. If you’re a veggie you could do the same sauce with some griddled aubergine, quartered lengthways. The banana gives the salsa a bit of substance and the pistachios shake up the texture a bit. The citrus, chilli and herbs brighten it up and avoid the inevitable comparison with that most disappointing of deserts – the fruit salad (which I’m pleased to say even my mother has realised is an inappropriate ‘treat’).

Recipe:

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Banana Salsa
Three green bananas
One pink grapefruit
Pineapple (fresh or tinned) about five rings
One green pepper finely chopped
One red chilli
One green chilli
Handful of pistachios – shelled and roughly chopped
Large handful of coriander
One lime
Tsp sugar
Salt to taste

– Chop all ingredients roughly and combine in a bowl with the juice of the lime, the sugar and salt. Mix together. Salsa!

Satay-Style Sauce
Chicken stock
One tbsp peanut butter
Half tbsp light soy sauce
One tbsp sweet chilli sauce
Two tsp dark soy sauce
Half tbsp rice wine vinegar
One tbsp chilli bean paste (optional)

– Bring 100-200ml stock to the boil and add all other ingredients. Let it simmer and reduce whilst you griddle your chicken breast (or quartered aubergine). You can add a little cornflour if you want to thicken it but make sure you cook it out. Sauce!

Whap it all on a plate, perhaps with couscous or rice, et voila!

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I hope this meets the challenge and you enjoy it as much as we did!

Till next time!

R

Marmalade curried beef (this is not a typo)

This week’s recipe comes to you from a bleary eyed Saturday morning after a brilliant night out watching Dick Gaughan in Dundee with oor pals Brendan and Caddy. If you haven’t heard of him you really should check him out!

It’s been a slow week in the office for me, reading and attempting to write, but I feel like I’m making some headway with my research so today is a chirpy one.

We’re going to drop by a friend’s place the Fountain Cafe along the road later on for brunch. It’s worth pointing out that he has just opened a new takeaway coffee and sandwich joint on Lauriston place called Contino. Check it out if you’re in that end of town. I can tell you that the coffee, from the fair hand of Meg, is rich and dark (a relatively unknown Italian supplier) and that a smoked salmon and cream cheese roll will set you up nicely for the day.

[Update] – As is perhaps apparent, this is not Saturday. I wrote this post yesterday and published it today which means I can bring to you an exclusive picture of one of the best brunches you could hope for. Simon (our pal, the owner) recommended the pancakes with bacon and maple syrup which, even having had a fairly large breakfast only an hour before, was entirely irresistible. The salty savoury bacon with the sweetness of the syrup and the light fluffy stack of pancakes delivered pleasure beyond measure! Here they are in all their glory!

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The recipe this week is rather experimental, especially because it came to me in a dream about 3 months ago. You hear of these things happening to musicians, they wake up humming a wee ditty or whatever, but it’s never happened to me before. Naturally I had to cook it! Catherine took a bit of persuading (hence the 3 month hiatus) but I finally ground her down enough to let me try it. It is a real corker (if I don’t mind saying so myself). I’ve just asked her for a quote on the curry:

Not as bad as I thought it would be… Nah, it was amazing

Take from that what you will.

The dish itself requires a little time and actually works best, I’d say, in a slow cooker or a casserole dish in the oven. this allows the flavours to infuse and for the beef to tenderise. The marmalade, although unconventional, dots the curry with sleek jewels of bitter-sweet rind and gives the curry a richness that is hard to beat. Just think of it like mango chutney and you’ll soon get over the apprehensions I’m sure you’re harbouring as you read this.

So, to the recipe! This is pretty rough so you should feel free to muck about with it a little if you like. Let me know in the comments if there are any additions/substitutions you discover. Also, it looks like a lot of ingredients but if you combine the whole spices in a wee bowl before hand then you can turf it all in at once!

Marmalade curried beef

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Ingredients:

1 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1/2 cinnamon stick
1 red onion roughly chopped
3 cloves of garlic
2 sliced red chillies seeds left in (adjust to tastes/tolerance)
1 black cardamom
5 cloves
1 star anise
1 tsp fennel seeds
1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds
1 tsp sea salt
500g stewing beef diced
1/2 butternut squash diced
1/2 courgette diced
3 tbsp thick cut marmalade
Beef stock
1 tsp garam masala

Method:

1. Toast coriander, cumin and cinnamon in the pot you’ll use for the curry over a medium heat. When they just start to smoke and release a bit of their fragrant oils tip them into a spice mill and grind them to a fine powder (you can do this in a mortar and pestle if you prefer/if it’s all you have).

2. Return the pot to the heat, whap in a glug of veg oil and gently fry the onion until soft. Add the garlic and chilli and fry for a further 2 mins.

3. Now tip in the whole spices (cardamom, cloves, star anise, fennel and fenugreek seeds) and stir them in. It should be smelling amazing by now! Give it a few minutes and then tip in the ground spices and salt. Keep stirring so they don’t burn.

4. After a minute or so throw the beef in and let it seal all over (4-5 minutes should do it).

5. Now add the veg and the beef stock and two tablespoons of the marmalade (the last one will go in at the end) and bring to the boil. The stock should just cover the meat and veg (if you’re using a casserole dish add a little more as it will reduce a little in the oven).

6. If you are using a casserole dish give it 2-3 hours in the oven on 180C or gas mark 4-5. If you’re using a slow cooker give it 5-6 hours on low (you can really leave it all day if you’re out though and it will be amazingly succulent and tender when you get home).

7. Just before serving stir in the remaining tablespoon of marmalade and the garam masala. this will just brighten it up a little.

8. Serve with boiled basmati rice and yoghurt (the entirely pretentious orange zest is optional).

I really hope you try this one out, it’s well worth stepping a wee bit out of your comfort zone for! The dream recipe thing seems to work, perhaps next time we’re hosting for dinner I should have a wee nap and see if I can come up with a whole menu?

Let me know what you think.

Till next time…

Twice cooked Chinese pork belly – worth the weight!

Right.

I’m back after a bit of an extended lapse in concentration (6months!)

So much has happened in that time – too much to get into here, and more than anyone is really interested in. I have managed to start the MSc Research year of a longer PhD programme after moving over to Edinburgh. That’s mainly what’s been keeping me busy whilst I found my feet.

The biggest news,though, is that Catherine and I got engaged back in October!! This is very exciting for us and the first thing we thought about was the food. No, really. We have some exciting ideas which will make the day yummy and a bit different but I’ll keep them to myself for now…

this blog post, as the title hints at (with the use of frankly painful punnery), is worth the wait and the weight. We just finished this meal and as I write this I’m salivating thinking about the wee lunch portion I’ve got waiting tomorrow.

One of the things about getting engaged, which we didn’t know or we’d have gotten engaged sooner, is that people give you presents. This has seen our tiny kitchen grow even more. Some of the new goodies have been: a timed filter coffee machine that wakes us up with the smell of a fresh pot each morning; a slow cooker which I will write a post about soon but has, needless to say, been a total revelation to us; and another revolutionary item a good solid griddle pan.

The griddle pan has come in handy so far for making THE best steak fresh from the Stockbridge butcher who sliced a slab off a whole cows rump; chicken breast for a warm sweet chilli chicken cucumber salad (a dressing of sweet chilli sauce, soy sauce and rice wine vinegar), ‘Friday night pork’, and this delicious recipe using pork belly.

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This dish is really simple but takes a few hours all told. It’s completely and utterly worth it though! Pork is by and far my favourite meat and this recipe makes pork belly (and mine) sing! The tough fatty cut is best cooked slow but that doesn’t mean that you can’t hit it with a bit off heat at the end and crisp that bad boy up! If you don’t have a griddle pan, just stick it under the grill.

Twice cooked Chinese pork: (1.5-2hrs. Serves 3-4)

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Ingredients:

– Light soy sauce
– Dark soy sauce
– Xiaoxing rice wine
– Tbsp chilli bean paste (optional)
– Two tsp Chinese five-spice
– Three star anise
– Three cloves of garlic crushed
– One whole chilli chopped roughly
– Four nice slices of pork belly

Method:

1. Mix all ingredients above in a pot with about 300ml of water and bring to the boil.
2. add pork to the boiling stock and add a little water, if necessary, to just cover the meat. Bring back to the boil.
3. Once boiling turn down to the lowest heat and cover simmering for at least 1.5 hours. This will tenderise the meat and give it a beautiful spiced flavour.
4. When tender, remove the pork from the stock and turn up the flame to boil the liquid. This will become your sauce.
5. Mix two tsp of cornflour with water (ordinary flour will do if necessary but it’s worth having cornflour in your cupboard) and pour into the stock. Bring to the boil and allow to bubble away until you serve. this will reduce the sauce and thicken it.
6. Slit the fat all the way along the pork to stop it curling on the griddle (this is called French trimming – Google it if you’re unsure what to do).
7. Heat a griddle pan (or grill) until smoking and then add the pork. This is my favourite bit because the spitting fat and the smokey meaty smell remind me of summer and get my senses going for the feast ahead.
8. Finally, serve up the pork with a good ladle of sauce over the top.

We served this tonight with griddled courgette and roasted cauliflower and sweet potato but it’d go we’ll with rice, noodles, mash… Just about anything!

For desert I picked up some treats on the way home. I got a walnut brownie and a salted chocolate tart from Lovecrumbs on the Wesport (our new favourite cake and coffee joint) where the cakes are baked fresh each day and the coffee is some of the best in the city!

We went for the tart tonight with its deep rich chocolate and an almost savoury note hinted at by the salt crystals on top (these are, after all, the people who introduced me to the caramel and smoked bacon brownie!!). Here it is in all its glory along with some bangin HagiDazzle dulce de leche ice cream.

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Ok, so that wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be and I will try and get another post up soon. I’ve come to the realisation that this will be a sporadic (though hopefully more frequently than biannually!) blog and it’s all the more important that you subscribe for updates ūüėČ

In the meantime, enjoy the pork and if you’re in Edinburgh, check out Lovecrumbs!

Till next time

R

Xiangbala Hot Pot – An Unmissable Foodie Experience

This is a restaurant review, one which you’d be foolish to ignore!

Having just moved back to Edinburgh from Glasgow recently we have been exploring the local area for coffee, shopping and eating options. We’re living in the West End of the city now and have been doing most of our shopping at Lidl on Dalry Road (which I have to say I’m pretty impressed with). The only problem with this arrangement is that after doing a shop – whilst hungry (an activity fraught with danger!) – we’re forced to walk home past the Xiangbala Hot Pot. After a number of these episodes I decided that enough was enough; we were going in.

The first thing you notice, after the amazing aroma which seems to transport Dalry road directly to tea-time Beijing, is the almost exclusively Chinese client√®le – students looking for the authentic taste of home perhaps? The bright orange fa√ßade is unassuming in its garishness and the interior, a mix of neon painted walls, abstract paintings and christmas decorations, is deliciously kitsch to boot. Don’t let this put you off though because This restaurant offers what is regarded to be one of the most authentic Chinese dining experiences around. The idea is: eat as much as you like for 2 hours for ¬£15 per person and cook your own food.

If you’re looking for gloopy sweet’n’sour or greasy spring rolls this isn’t the joint for you. If, however, you want some tasty, fun and healthy Chinese grub then you’re on the right track. Xiangbala Hot Pot only does one dish but the possibilities are endless. We sit down (booking required on Fri and Sat evenings) and are given an extensive wipe clean menu and a highlighter:

Xiangbala Hot Pot Menu

Xiangbala Hot Pot Menu

From here, as you can see above, we chose starters, a few broth bases and a whole array of raw ingredients.

We started with cold braised soy sauce beef, tea leaf eggs (eggs boiled in salty tea; not much to write home about) and chilli chicken’s feet. The chicken’s feet are an acquired taste and I actually fairly enjoyed their gelatinous rubbery texture paired with the background heat of the chilli but they aren’t for everyone and I’d steer clear if you’re squeamish.

Starters

Starters

We went for a clear broth – plenty of garlic, ginger and spring onion as well as dried red Chinese dates – and a hot and spicy broth with chilli oil and a load of dried red chilli. These were brought to the table in a big split pan and placed on a hotplate in the middle of the table where it boiled and bubbled between us throughout the meal (topped up with stock by the friendly waiters as necessary):

Xiangbala Hot Pot

Xiangbala Hot Pot

This is where the fun begins!

The hotpot is like a big Chinese fondue and because it’s a boiling stock (as opposed to cheese, oil or chocolate) it’s actually very healthy! Our raw ingredients arrived on one massive platter and a number of smaller plates:

Raw ingredients platter

Raw ingredients platter

The majority of the platter was made up of various types of seafood including fresh crab claws and legs, razor clams, king prawns and fish balls:

Seafood

Seafood

Platter

Platter

There were also a number of vegetable offerings here including cauliflower, pak choi, Chinese leaf, dried fungus and wild mushrooms. We had also ordered pork and beef and these came wafer thin and also raw:

Meat

Meat

At this point we were taken over to the sauce table by our waiter. In my excitement at being allowed to mix my own sauce up using a range of ingredients (including: peanut paste, soy, sweet chilli, fresh coriander, spring onion, rice vinegar, chilli oil, sesame oil, oyster sauce, hoi sin and slightly worryingly MSG) I forgot to take a photo of the table. I did, however, manage to get a snap of my sauce before I mixed it:

Sauce

Sauce

As you can see, I went heavy on the peanuts, peanut paste and chilli oil to make a sort of satay style dipping sauce. I went back and made a few more over the course of the evening and they all had different qualities.

We spent the next hour or so experimenting with cooking times, dropping ingredients into the broth and forgetting they were there, getting it just right, getting it wrong, laughing and enjoying the experience.

Cooking

Cooking

The food is only as good as you are at cooking it and for some this is not the idea of a fun night out. If you’re a foodie (and let’s face it, you’re reading a food blog…) it almost certainly will be.

We finished up with some sweet dim sum dumplings. Steamed balls of dough filled with a sort of sweet date paste and shaped into a cute hedgehog. This came with a slice of refreshing watermelon.

Dim Sum

Dim Sum

Overall:

The food here is good and fresh and the fun of cooking it yourself would lend itself well to a group night out. Perhaps not a first date kind of a place…

The decor isn’t exactly chic but it adds to the fun atmosphere and many of my favourite restaurants (e.g. Kampong Ah Lee Malaysian Delight) have fairly suspect interiors. The deal – the one and only option – is good value if you’re hungry, essentially encompassing three courses for ¬£15. The house wine’s not bad and there is the option to BYOB (however, with a rather hefty ¬£5 corkage).

I highly recommend trying Xiangbala out at least once and I bet, like me, you’ll be hooked on hot pot!

Guest Post: Duck breast in a red wine and marmalade sauce, spicy puy lentils and potatoes dauphinoise.

Having been rather busy of late, getting myself sorted for the impending postgrad onslaught, I haven’t had time to put together a post (although I have a nice recipe waiting to be written up for you fine folk when I get a sec). I have however had a reader’s contribution from an old uni friend Felix.

Take it away Felix, this recipe looks great!

  • Guest post: Felix Slavin
Felix's Duck

Felix’s Duck

I was served this, as a main course, at the Newton Hotel in Nairn. I couldn’t believe the flavours that were coming out. I recommend everyone tries this dish. It’s amazing. The sauce and the red cabbage are two additions I made to the dish, but I think complement the other components very well.

  • Duck breast in a red wine and marmalade sauce, spicy puy lentils and potatoes dauphinoise

4 x Duck breast (trim excess fat)

For the spicy lentils:

–¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†1 red onion (finely diced)

–¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†1 ‚Äď 2 red chillies (seeds removed, finely diced)

–¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†ginger (finely diced)

–¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†2 cloves of garlic (finely chopped)

–¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†1 sweet red pepper (finely diced)

–¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†1 ¬Ĺ tsp ground coriander

–¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†1 tsp ground cumin

–¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†1 tsp curry powder

–¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†soy sauce (for deglazing)

–¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†2 tbsp tomato ketchup

–¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†1 ‚Äď 2 tbsp brown sauce

–¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†1 ‚Äď 2 tbsp honey

–¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†400g puy lentils (brown lentils)

–¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†Large bunch of fresh coriander

For the potatoes dauphinoise:

–¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†Knob of butter for greasing

–¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†2lb 40z waxy potatoes such as Desiree

–¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬ľ pint whole milk

–¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬ľ pint double cream

–¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†1 garlic clove

–¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†2 sprigs thyme

–¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

–¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†Handful of freshly grated parmesan

For the red cabbage:

–¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†1 red cabbage

–¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†1 onion (finely sliced)

–¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†1 bramley apple (grated)

–¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†4 tbsp red wine vinegar

–¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†2 tbsp muscavado sugar

–¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬Ĺ tsp ground allspice

–¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬Ĺ tsp grated nutmeg

–¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†2 tbsp orange marmalade (alternatively use red currant jelly)

For the jus:

–¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†250ml red wine

–¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†Pinch of salt

–¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†1 star anise

–¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†1 ‚Äď 1 ¬Ĺ tbsp marmalade

–¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†Splash of balsamic vinegar

–¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†Juices from the duck breast when resting

Method:

For the potatoes:

Heat oven to 160c. Line an 8 inch square brownie tin with greaseproof paper and then butter the paper. Peel and slice the potatoes to the width of a pound coin. Pat dry. Pour the milk and cream into a pan, add the garlic and thyme. Heat to boiling point, cool a little and strain into a jug. Sprinkle with nutmeg and keep warm. Layer half the potatoes in the tin overlapping the slices. Pour over half the liquid and finish layering the slices, then add the rest of the liquid and scatter over the cheese. Bake for 1 Р11/4 hours until the potatoes are tender and the top is golden. Leave to stand for 5 minutes before serving.

For the Red cabbage:

Melt 25g of butter in a large pan and add the onions. Cook for 5 mins. Then add the spices, cabbage, red wine vinegar, sugar, and 100ml of cold water. Bring to the boil and simmer for 1 hr. Season to taste and then add the marmalade or jelly for glazing.

For the Duck breast:

Preheat the oven to 180degrees. Trim any excess fat from the breasts and score the skin to help the cooking process. Once prepared place the duck breasts and the excess skin in a cold frying pan, set to a high heat and season the duck breasts with salt and pepper. No oil is required. Allow the skin to crisp up until golden brown for about 3 ‚Äď 5 minutes. Turn the breasts over and then place into the oven for 8 ‚Äď 12 minutes depending on how good your oven is. When cooked leave to rest for as long as possible (roughly 10 ‚Äď 15 mins). Keep aside the duck fat from the pan for making roast potatoes on another occasion and keep the resting juices from the duck for the sauce. Slice the breasts into strips.

For the red wine and marmalade sauce:

Add 250ml red wine, the star anise and a pinch of salt to a sauce pan. Bring to the boil and allow for it to reduce. Add a splash of balsamic vinegar, the juices from the duck and then the marmalade. Reduce further and look for it to coat the back of the spoon.

Hi folks, Ruari again, I hope you all try out, and enjoy, Felix’s recipe. Let me/him know what you think and how it turns out by commenting below. I’d also like to get more guest recipes for future posts so if you have something you’d like to share then email it to me at ruari.sutherland@gmail.com with a good photo or two and I’ll stick it up some time.

Warning: contents are seriously hot and saucy!

Now, having successfully debased myself by tabloidising the blog I want to assure you that this post is morally sound. I am, of course, going to be talking about chilli sauces today. If you came here for something a little less savoury (no pun intended) then the jokes on you because even if you leave now, I’ve still got another hit. If on the other hand, you, like me, need nothing more than some soft focus pictures of spicy condiments to get you going then I can offer you both real, spicy, heat and the more metaphorical and almost equally as satisfying heat of foodporn (incidentally there is a foodporn website which I recommend for those long nights alone – here).

I had a few vouchers for Valvona and Crolla (the original Italian deli in Edinburgh for those not in the know) this week and I decided to top up my hot-box. I have been on a hunt recently, with a seemingly insatiable thirst, for the hottest chilli sauces, pastes and jams I can find. I love a bit of chilli and will order the hottest dishes I can get my hands on. It is now bordering on an obsession and so I have decided to write about it because I heard somewhere that admission is the first step (towards what?). This post, then, is a run through the bits and pieces which currently make up the hot-box with a review of each. I will also add a recipe for your own Thai birdseye chilli sauce which I resorted to making in order that it might be hot enough.

Hot Box Contents

Hot Box Contents

These are the current contents of my hot-box and this only really covers half the hot sauces brands etc I’ve tried. I still haven’t quite found the kind of mind-blowing stuff I’m after but some of these are a good start. I’m going to taste them all individually now: a teaspoon of each. I’ll let the heat develop and subside before taking a mouthful of milk and a dry cracker to kill the burn and cleanse my palate between each. I’ll be marking each condiment out of 10 on both heat (1 being an arctic winter and 10 being like reading 50 shades of grey whilst watching fellini) and flavour (1 being something found on the floor and 10 being something you’d happily lick off the floor) so the final score will be an aggregate of these two categories (a possible 20).

Might as well get cracking:

  • Encona West Indian Original Hot Pepper Sauce
Encona West Indian Original Hot Pepper Sauce

Encona West Indian Original Hot Pepper Sauce

This sauce from Encona has the mildest heat which is surprising being made from habanero and scotch bonnet. It’s a wee bit nippy at first but dies quickly giving way to a slight throb but very little overall. The flavour is good with a fair bit of spice action though so well worth a punt. It’s also easily available from most supermarkets which is a plus.

Heat: 5   Flavour: 7    Total: 12

  • Eaton’s Jamaican Scotch Bonnet Pepper Sauce
Eaton's Jamaican scotch Bonnet Pepper Sauce

Eaton’s Jamaican scotch Bonnet Pepper Sauce

A very fruity sauce with a slow build in heat but, ultimately, a slightly disappointing climax (smutty doublentendre for further tabloid effect). This sauce, as the name would suggest, is a scotch bonnet blend and has a strong chilli flavour which would imply a good amount of real pepper has gone in (rather than extract). There is, however, a slightly over-vinegary note which I’m not massively keen on.

Heat: 6   Flavour: 5   Total: 11

  • Dalgety West Indian “Extra Extra Hot” Pepper Sauce
Dalgety West Indian "Extra Extra Hot" Pepper Sauce

Dalgety West Indian “Extra Extra Hot” Pepper Sauce

A slightly bitter sauce with an instant hit of heat which subsides almost as quickly as it comes. This one says “recommended only for persons capable of consuming – EXTREMELY HOT PEPPER!” on the side but I have to be honest, this sauce barks like an¬†Alsation but bites like an old toothless¬†Labrador.¬†Perhaps I am being overly harsh because of the macho tone of the bottle but the sauce needs to live up to the task you’ve set on the label… this does not.

Heat: 5   Flavour: 4   Total: 9

  • Tabasco Brand Habanero Sauce
Tabasco Brand Habanero Sauce

Tabasco Brand Habanero Sauce

Ahhh, Tabasco. A classic chilli sauce. This is the hottest of the Tabasco brand – made from habanero peppers as opposed to the regular sauce which is made from the considerably milder Tabasco pepper. I don’t know if it’s because I’ve had a fair bit of chilli already but I can feel this behind my eyes and it’s the first sauce that’s given me a beaded brow and a bit of a runny nose. The flavour is great with a whole load of ingredients including garlic, mango and Banana(!?). This is the most readily available sauce in my hot-box too.

Heat: 7   Flavour: 9   Total: 16

  • Mrs Renfro’s Ghost Pepper Salsa
Mrs Renfro's Ghost Pepper Salsa

Mrs Renfro’s Ghost Pepper Salsa

because this is a salsa it’s much more flavoursome than the others and has great juicy lumps (more of the smut) in it. The heat is a bit disappointing really considering there are ghost peppers in (the ingredients reveals only 1% with 7% jalapenos). It is still adequate though with the longest burn so far and would make a good addition to a burger or nachos.

Heat: 6  Flavour: 8   Total: 14

  • Hot-Headz Whole Dried Chipotle Chillies
Hot-Headz Whole Dried Chipotle Chillies

Hot-Headz Whole Dried Chipotle Chillies

Now, I obviously haven’t stuffed a dried chilli in my mouth but I did grind some and add them to a packet of fajita spices (lazy cooking FTW) and they made such a difference! I reckon they’d also improve a chilli con carne or any Mexican dish. Chipotle are smoked jalapeno chillis so they don’t pack a massive punch but they make up for that in flavour. These are cracking chillis and can be bought in Valvona and Crollas or online. I recommend you go out and buy some of these now.

Heat: 5   Flavour:  8   Total: 13

  • Hot-Headz Naga Deadly Hot Chilli Sauce
Hot-Headz Naga Deadly Hot Chilli Sauce

Hot-Headz Naga Deadly Hot Chilli Sauce

The hottest chilli variety in the world is reputedly the Naga. This is made from Naga chillis.

As is the character of Naga chillis, the heat in this grows slowly and steadily until my eyes are throbbing slightly again and I can feel the burn on my lips and throat. I have a slight sweat on and I’m enjoying the heat on this one. It’s not killing me but it’s pretty bloody hot. The flavour is not particularly strong but there is a good taste of ginger and garlic in there. This is a pretty good sauce!

Heat: 8  Flavour: 7  Total:15

  • Cambridge Chilli Farm Nagalade
Cambridge Chilli Farm Nagalade

Cambridge Chilli Farm Nagalade

with the heat of the last sauce still playing around the edges of my lips we meet the Naga again. Nice one…

This is a chilli jam made up with Naga chillis in big chunks. I just got one. The flavour’s good, if a little sweet, and the heat is solid. Just like the last sauce, the heat grows to a climax which I’d imagine could strip paint. This is not for the faint hearted! The chunks hang around in my mouth a bit because it’s sticky and it’s hard to escape the burn. This is the stuff!

Heat: 9 (always room to improve)  Flavour: 8   Total: 17

  • Ruari’s Thai Birdseye Chilli Sauce
Ruari's Thai Birdseye Chilli Sauce

Ruari’s Thai Birdseye Chilli Sauce

This is my own sauce and it draws on Thai flavours to make a slightly different sauce. The heat is fairly medium and after the last two is actually soothing. I will add the recipe for this below because it’s nice to make your own.

Heat: 5   Flavour: 10 (obviously)  Total: 15

I’ve now eaten quite a lot of chilli and I have a fair sweat on as well as a pair of tingling lips (enough!). I am also feeling pretty euphoric which makes sense because chilli releases endorphins. I also feel like it might hurt later on.

I hope you manage to get your hands on some good chilli sauces and if you have any recommendations I’d love to hear them!

  • Ruari’s Thai Birdseye Chilli Sauce
  1. 10 green birdseye chillis – chopped
  2. Bunch of coriander
  3. Three cloves of garlic
  4. Two inch piece of Ginger
  5. Half an onion finely sliced
  6. Three tbsp of Thai fish sauce
  7. 150ml of white rice vinegar (or distilled malt vinegar)

Рplace all ingredients in a pan and boil  for 5 minutes

– cool and blend until smooth

– pour into a sterilised bottle and seal

This sauce keeps for ages because of the vinegar. Add more or less chilli depending on your taste.

Hom(age) to Ken: Crispy Pork and Braised Aubergine

Hom(age), see what I did there? Ken Hom? Never mind.

I was watching a back episode of Ken Hom’s new programme this morning whilst eating breakfast and it gave me some good ideas¬†(as well as making me want dumplings all day). This dish is inspired by my pal Ken and incorporates a few of his techniques from various recipes I’ve seen him do over the years. It’s simple but there are a few ingredients you’ll need to have. First is kecap manis which is a really sweet, thick,¬†molassesy¬†soy sauce (this is my favourite brand). The second ingredient is Jimmy’s Satay Sauce¬†which is not like the thick peanutty sauces you get over chicken skewers, it is a Malaysian paste which adds a sweet and savoury note to your dishes. If you don’t have these I recommend both heartily!

The benefit of braising the aubergine, rather than frying, is that it doesn’t soak up a load of oil and in this way is slightly healthier (ignore the fact that it’s belly cut) and you get a lot of flavour without the greasiness.

Anyway, here’s the recipe:

Crispy Pork and Braised Aubergine

Crispy Pork and Braised Aubergine

  • Crispy Pork and Braised Aubergine:
  1. 500g of pork belly – sliced into bitesized chunks
  2. One whole onion – roughly chopped
  3. Three spring onions – chopped
  4. Three cloves of garlic – roughly chopped
  5. One whole red chilli – chopped
  6. One whole aubergine – diced into 1cm cubes
  7. 100ml water
  8. Two tbsp rice vinegar
  9. Two tbsp kecap manis
  10. Jimmy’s Satay Sauce
  11. One tbsp dark soy sauce
  12. One tbsp light soy sauce
  13. One tbsp of lime vinegar
  14. Handful fresh coriander
  15. Juice of half a lime (if no lime vinegar use juice of whole lime)
  16. Whole green pepper – sliced into rings

– First, and this is a Ken Hom tip, heat 2tbsp of oil in your wok until smoking and then fry the pork in batches until crispy. Remove each batch and drain in a¬†sieve. This might seem like a hassle but it makes the pork so tender when you return it to the wok later and I promise it’s worth it!

– Once all the pork is fried and resting, add to the hot wok the onion and spring union and fry until soft. Next add the garlic and chilli and fry for a further 3 mins.

– Now add the aubergine, the pork and the water and place a lid over your wok. Allow to braise for five minutes.

– It is now time to get it going: bang in your flavours (ingredients 8-14), stir through, and replace the lid for a further three minutes.

– At this stage I’d get ¬†some chow mein noodles¬†on¬†(or whatever style you prefer).

– Finally, you are ready to serve. Drain the noodles and toss in a little toasted sesame oil to stop them sticking and for a bit of rich nutty flavour. Serve the pork and aubergine over the noodles, squeeze the lime over for a bit of zing and top with the green pepper and a few sprigs of coriander.

I’ve just finished eating this and I want more… There’s something about the fatty pork belly and the salty sweetness of the kecap manis that I can’t resist. This dish contains a lot of my favourite things and is a recycled variation on all sorts of dishes I make in order to get the same things in: pork belly, kecap manis and Jimmy’s. With any one of those ingredients you can’t go wrong; with all three, you’re in heaven.