The joys of growing chillies AND May Sweet Heat Chilli Challenge!

Homegrown chilliesLast year was a bit of a mixed bag in terms of grow-your-own success for me: we had chillies in abundance but due to a failure in labelling the seedlings we ended up with 2 varieties growing prolifically, whilst all the rarer and more temperamental (hubby wanted me to say ‘horticulturally challenging’!!) lineages were unwittingly abandoned as being too small to be worth planting out. I shouldn’t complain though, our freezer is still chock-full of the remains from the 2011 crop, and thanks to the mild autumn even in January we were still getting harvests like this:

Homegrown chilliesThis year I’m growing 7 varieties: Poblano, orange Habanero, Hungarian hot wax, paper lantern, cherry bomb and the seemingly impossible hot chocolate Habanero.* They’re currently incubating next to a sun-soaked window by day and in a hot airing cupboard at night – a method I hit on when I realised that really, I should have started them off in erm….March, and I knew they were going to need a serious kick-start. Mind you, last year I was a chilli newbie and didn’t start my seedlings off until June and I still got a great crop, so it’s honestly not too late to start yours if you haven’t already, just pick low-maintenence types like cherry bomb and aji limone!

Sweet Heat Chilli ChallengeThis month I am excited to play host to Lyndsey’s Sweet Heat Chilli Challenge which, in case you are not aware, is a monthly bloggers challenge that anyone can participate in where the star of the show is of course, the chilli. As 5th May is Cinco de Mayo, this month’s theme is Mexican so start rustling up your tamales, ceviches, tacos, salsas and xocatl!

The Rules:
  • You must mention Sweet Heat in your post with a link back to this post and to the parent site Vanilla Clouds & Lemondrops. Please feel free to include the Sweet Heat logo, however it’s not mandatory.
  • Send your post url and a photo (or preferably a link to the image) of your creation to me by 25th May, and please CC in Lyndsey at vanillacloudsandlemondrops @hotmail.co.uk
  • You can create your own recipe or make your favourite recipe but please credit the original source if using someone else’s.
  • The round up will be done at the end of every month. The new challenge will be announced on the 1st of every month.
  • Most crucially: you must include chillies/chili/chile peppers of some type in your dish!

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*I’m not affiliated with the South Devon Chilli Farm by the way, they’re just where I get all my chilli seeds from and I can honestly say they rock!

This weekend: The Great Kitchen Clearout, London

I mentioned this a few months ago and suddenly the day is almost here, it’s time for (drumroll please)…..The Great Kitchen Clearout!

The Great Kitchen ClearoutI’m very proud to say that, thanks to my company’s support, we’ve been able to donate lots of goodies to the cause, and I’m looking forward to picking up some new bits for my kitchen as a result! Will I see you there? Hope so!

Food Cycle’s A Good Meal

Some time ago I wrote about the horrors of food waste, and it’s a subject that’s still at the forefront of my mind. Times are hard and wasting food isn’t just bad for the environment, it’s hard on the pocket. I wince every time I find a wilted half-bag of salad at the bottom of my fridge, knowing that sure as eggs are eggs, I’ve just thrown money down the bin.

But what about all that wasted food which DOESN’T have to be thrown out? Us at home throw out a fair bit, but the supermarkets? Now here’s a figure to make you queasy…400,000 tonnes a year of PERFECTLY EDIBLE FOOD is ditched by UK retailers. To showcase what can be done with this preposterous amount of squandered comestibles, the awesome charity FoodCycle recently hosted a series of dinners called ‘A Good Meal’ where their team of volunteers produced three-course banquets for the public, using ingredients solely from ‘waste’ donated by local supermarkets and other food retailers. Here you can catch a glimpse of what it was all about, courtesy of the lovely peeps at hiSbe:

Fabulous food, fabulous cause, fabulous evening – it was awe-inspiring the way it showcased how food can bring a room of total strangers together, which is part of what FoodCycle is all about.  I came away from it with new friends, a determination to get more involved with volunteering, and a lovely jar of chilli-pineapple chutney which one day, someday, I hope to work out the recipe for….

Insanity Chilli

There are those who scale Everest “because it’s there” and those who cheat on partners “because I could”, and then there’s the crazy olde people at Fiery Foods who decided to breed a chilli as excruciating as acid, just “because”. The full story can be seen here but to put it in a nutshell….the Bhut Jolakia (aka ‘Ghost Chilli’/Naga Jolakia/Dorset Naga) wasn’t hot enough apparently (at 1,041,427 scovilles), so some nutters have spent the best part of 2 years developing a chilli which is 19,558 units hotter. In case you don’t know, a scoville unit is the official method of measuring chilli heat (capsaicin), and is the amount of sugared water gram for gram it takes to dilute chilli heat to a neutral level. A regular bell pepper is usually around 100-500 units, a jalapeno around 2,500.

I have but one thing to say on this, which is…….why??? Being a serious ‘chilli head’ myself, I confess to a supreme addiction to the hot stuff, but I am also evangelical about the flavour. To me, there is no point in pure heat without taste. I tasted a few drops of a noxious compound called ‘devils sh*t’ at the Fiery Foods festival two years ago and – after I’d drunk half of East Sussex’s cider supply – all I was left with was a numb palate and a fierce desire for an antacid. Compare that with sipping a dropful of one of my favourite chilli sauces – St John & Dolly Smith’s or Devine Foods Coconut & Chilli. Both are hot, seriously hot, but they have such a beautiful flavour you want to go back for another taste, and another, and another. Chillis like the beautiful lantern-shaped Scotch Bonnet have such a stunning fruitiness it seems such a waste to ignore them in favour of sheer, masochistic, heat.