Storecupboard smokey chilli sauce

Storecupboard smokey chilli sauce

Admittedly the storecupboard in question is one of a serious chilli fanatic, but the point here was to make a chilli sauce that was totally different from the ones using fresh chillies which abound in my kitchen during the long-distant summer months. All the chillies used are whole and dried, which means you can keep them in your cupboard for a long time and they’ll still be flavour-packed; and are available from loads of retailers online (see below). This sauce has an almost barbecue-y flavour, but without the cloying sweetness of so many purpose-made barbecue chilli sauces, and it goes as wonderfully on fried eggs or chips as it does on a lamb kofte.

Storecupboard smokey chilli sauce
Makes 2-4 smallish bottles 

8g facing heaven chillies
18g pasilla chillies
22g ancho chillies
36g peperoncino chillies
16g mesilla chillies
(or a similar proportion to make up 100g total weight)
625ml distilled malt (white) vinegar
50g caster sugar
30g salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder

Remove the stalks from all the chillies, place in a bowl and cover with a kettle of boiling water. Weigh the chillies down with a small saucer, if necessary, to keep them submerged and leave for around half an hour until they are all tender. Drain the chillies (reserving the soaking liquid) and place in a saucepan with the remaining ingredients. Cover with a lid and simmer for 30 minutes, then puree until completely smooth, adding a little of the soaking liquid until you have a consistency you’re happy with. Decant into sterilised bottles, it should keep for at least a year.

*UK Stockists I particularly like:
Capsicana Chilli Co
South Devon Chilli Farm
Chilli Pepper Pete

DIY butter – (and scones) – homemade kitchen alchemy

Homemade butterWhat’s that you say? You’ve never made your own butter? Oh daaaarlink, you simply must – it’s so easy!  I was amazed recently by how many people reacted with surprise when I said you could make your own butter in just 5 minutes, using nothing more than an electric mixer and some double cream. In fact, you don’t even need the electric mixer – if you cast your mind way back you might even recall making it in a jam jar at primary school. But unless you still have the boundless energy of a 7-year-old, or the arm muscles and equipment of a 19th century dairy maid, I strongly recommend using the electric mixer.

Homemade butter won’t necessarily taste substantially different or better than anything you can buy (although if you do it with delicious farm-fresh organic cream it will certainly knock the socks off anything Lurpak can produce), but it is just such fun – watching the transformation of a common kitchen substance (cream) changing state from liquid to solid, plus of course you get a delicious bi-product (buttermilk) which just cries out to be baked with, ideally into something you can slather your lovely new butter on.

Whilst we’re on the butter and milkmaid topic, if you fancy a cheap giggle Google ‘butter churner’ then look at the 3rd search result* (adults only!)
Read on for the recipe and more lovely illustrations!

Chinese accompaniments: Umami-rich Egg fried rice and easy carrot pickle

Egg fried rice and easy carrot pickleTo my mind no oriental meal is complete without some rice and some pickles, and one of my favourite parts of any Chinese takeaway is the egg fried rice – for something so apparently simple it is something that has consistently gotten the better of me in the kitchen, never managing to recreate that wonderful simply savoury depth of flavour, so much so that I’d all but given up trying.

When I was planning some accompaniments to go with my Leek and ginger pork gyoza with soy dipping sauce which I posted last week, I turned for advice to Kylie Kwong’s Simple Chinese Cooking and although I can never resist making a few tweaks to any recipe I follow, it turned out perfectly.  The pickles are a variation on hers too, and go wonderfully both with rice and dumplings, plus they keep for several days in the fridge so you can nibble them with anything else you have lying around – cheese or ham for instance.

Keep reading for my versions of both recipes…

Scotch Bonnet Chilli Caramel (or Jelly)

Scotch bonnet chilli caramelAlthough this site was named Souperior for my love of soup-making, it could very easily have been given a weakly punning title based on one of my other two great food loves – Preserves or Chillies (in fact it was originally going to be called ‘Hooked on Heat’ – until I realised there was a rather fabulous blog called this already!). Every autumn I spend part of most weekends bottling, jamming, canning and pickling a glut of fruit and vegetables, not out of any notion of thrift but for the simple joy of the preserve-making process.

Wherever possible I preserve things picked or foraged from my own garden and surroundings, and this year I have been patiently cultivating two dozen chilli plants of various varieties, and been positively salivating at the possibility of making my own super-fiery chilli sauces and jams. I didn’t pick the best year weather-wise to start growing Capsicum annuum however, and they are only just starting to ripen now – something that has had me chafing at the bit preserve-wise. With the announcement of two food blogger events I very much wanted to take part in – Vanilla Clouds & Lemon DropsSweet Heat Chilli Challenge and A Little Bit of Heaven on a Plate’s Homemade & Well Preserved I couldn’t wait any longer, and went out and bought myself a load of stunning jewel-coloured scotch bonnets from my local Caribbean store (where you’ll find them for a fraction of a price of the supermarket packs) to combine with a glut of green tomatoes from a major deforestation in the tomato patch to kill a bout of blight.

The plan was to make a chilli jelly (the green tomatoes don’t contribute much flavour, just a nicely tart pectin-rich juice in which the fruity flavour of the chillies shines through), but it was taking forever to reach the proper heat, I got distracted by some washing up and when I looked back – BOOM – frothing brown caramel everywhere (and I mean EVERYWHERE – all over the hobs, down the side of the cooker, over the floor – it took me forever to clean it all up!) Disheartened and not a little grumpy I bottled it anyway, and ever-dependable hubby talked me down from my strop long enough to start thinking what I could use three jars of napalm-hot super-sticky caramel for. Well, let me tell you this stuff is so good (once you’ve wrestled it out of the jar) you’ll think you’ve died and gone to chilli heaven.  It’s just perfect to use as a glaze for meat and poultry – warm it in a small pan or add a splash of boiling water to loosen first – before smearing on your meat and roasting, grilling or barbecuing.  I’ve also taken to adding a spoonful or two to my wholewheat bread dough (use it instead of the sugar at the yeast-creaming stage), where it adds a terrific treacly depth, and the heat of the chilli is tempered by the wheat so you get a beautiful warmth rather than blistering heat. You could of course forgo the ultra heat treatment and pull it off the stove at the jelly stage (you’ll need considerably larger jars) in which case it would be a fabulous condiment for cheese & biscuits or cold meats.

Scotch bonnet chilli caramelScotch Bonnet Chilli Caramel (or Jelly)

Makes 3 small jars

2kg green tomatoes, roughly chopped
500ml water
8 scotch bonnet chillies
Caster or granulated sugar (see method for quantity – have at least 1kg in the house)

You will also need: jam thermometer, jelly bag & stand or a large sheet of muslin and some method of suspension, strong glass jars

1. Simmer the tomatoes, water and 5 of the chillies in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan or a preserving pan for 35-40 minutes until soft and collapsing.

2. Blitz the fruit with a hand blender, then pour into a jelly bag and leave to strain through overnight (make sure you have a deep jug or bowl underneath it to catch every drop). Resist the urge to squeeze or otherwise force the juice out or the end product will be cloudy.

3. The next day, measure your strained liquid (discard the pulp, ideally into a compost bin), and for every 600ml juice weigh out 450g sugar, and combine juice and sugar in the (clean) large saucepan – it is essential there is plenty of space at the top of the pan as this will bubble and seethe ferociously! Heat slowly, stirring to dissolve the sugar, then pop in a jam thermometer, increase the heat and boil rapidly until it reaches 105˚C/220˚F (for jelly) or 112˚C/235˚F, aka ‘soft ball‘ stage (for caramel).

4. Whilst your sugar is dissolving, wash and sterilise your glass jars either by running through the dishwasher or by rinsing with warm water then placing in a moderate oven until dry and piping hot (place the lids – or rubber seals if using kilner jars – into a jug of freshly boiled water to sterilise them too). Finely chop the remaining chillies, discarding the seeds, and distribute evenly between the sterilised jars. When it is at the correct temperature, pour the chilli goo into the jars but remember: your caramel is hot and your jars are hot – pour it in a tiny bit at a time or it will boil over the tops in seconds. Pop the lids on, label the jars when cool and sit back and enjoy chilli heaven in the coming months!

Homemade & well preservedSweet Heat Monthly Chilli Challenge

Elderflower Cordial

Elderflower Cordial Few things capture the scent and flavour of early summer as well as elderflowers and homemade cordial is my favourite use for these aromatic beauties. There are hundreds of recipes out there, almost all of them based very simply on varying quantities of flowerheads, lemon, sugar and (optional) citric acid. The method is similarly very easy: measure, stir, steep is almost all there is to it, but there are a few key things to bear in mind which will ensure exemplary results….

1. PLAN AHEAD. Citric acid is often listed as an optional ingredient, however if you want your cordial to last more than a week or two it’s actually pretty darn essential, and generally not as easy to get hold of as most writers would have you believe. Recipes will tell you to seek it out in chemists but I checked with the chemists of all chemists – Boots – and they only sell it on prescription. You may have some luck with a small friendly non-chain store, or alternatively I’m told many kitchen/homewares stores selling home-brew kits will stock it. I buy mine from a lovely Warwickshire company called Fox’s Spices (01789 266420) – they don’t have a website but if you give them a buzz they’ll send you a catalogue in the post. Citric acid lasts almost forever, so buy plenty and then you wont have to worry next year.

2. PICK FRESH. Pick your elderflowers early in the morning on a dry day – rain does the flowers no favours and their aroma is stronger first thing. Whatever you do, don’t pick them until you have procured all your other ingredients, as the aroma vanishes within hours of picking.

3. PICK EARLY.  Avoid older ‘turning’ elderflowers – the smell is quite unpleasant in the finished product. Make your cordial at the beginning of the season in late May and early June (although this can vary – my Elder has already finished for this year, but elsewhere in the country they’re only just starting to bloom), and pick only the freshest-looking, bright white blooms.

Now you’re ready to make your cordial. I’d make as much as you possibly can, as it makes excellent presents (the commercial stuff can’t hold a candle to it, and your friends & relatives will love you forever). Most recipes will tell you it lasts at most a few months, but I’ve found (with this recipe at least) that it will easily last a year if you sterilise your bottles before decanting, and keep it nice and cool – I keep my sealed bottles in a box in the garage, and opened bottles in the fridge. There’ll be some sediment after a few months but just give it a shake before pouring.

Read on for the recipe…