Happy new year everyone! I’m slowly getting over the festive season hype and hitting the ground running on work, projects and most excitingly, my garden for 2016.
Whilst the weather is still mild I’m out refreshing the compost bin, preparing my delicate infant plants for the snow (we can only hope, says the inner child in me) and tending to my winter flowers. I’m also thinking about new additions to the garden for spring time and have already bought a heap of flower and vegetable seeds to begin sowing in the coming months.
However, there’s not a whole bunch to do in the garden at the minute, apart from preparation, therefore I’m spending more time in the kitchen using up bits n’ pieces from the garden last year (still feels weird to call it last year)!
At the beginning of December I picked all my remaining chili plants (‘Cheyenne’ variety from Thompson and Morgan) and made myself a mini ristra -type structure to dry them out. You can dry out chilies in several ways such as in the oven on a low heat for several hours, in a dehydrator or literally hanging them up in a well-ventilated, sunny area. I chose the latter.
Just grab some string, wrap the stalk of the chili in the string and tie a knot. Do this along the string with each chili and hang up by your kitchen window. Simple. I left these for a month and most of them have dried out brilliantly. Some need more time so I have left a few for another few weeks/month.
This afternoon was spent with my lovely friend Nancy who has always been a keen chef and fond of nature. I thought I’d combine these passions and pinch her expertise in the kitchen to make some homemade spices. I use spices in so many dishes, from curries to spaghetti bolognese, so thought having some pre-made, pimped out spice combinations in the cupboard would be ideal.
We got to work with the pestle and mortar (luckily my housemate has 2 so Nancy and I needn’t take it in turns and just halved the workload) grinding down the chilies. I’m not going to lie, there was a lot of elbow grease involved and it took a good 20 minutes or so to grind it up into finer flakes. I also gave up and used the food processor in the end, but shhh.
Warning: the chilies will make you cry, cough and sneeze. Buy tissues before attempting.
Once the chilies were ground up to our satisfaction, we started thinking about the different concoctions we could experiment with. We came up with 3;
Burning Down The House
We did have a slightly different name for this, as it’s hot… but there’s no place for that on this blog! My chilies are quite powerful anyway, but this can be used to spice up any dish.
1 Tbsp – Chili powder/flakes
1 Tsp – Cumin
1/2 Tsp – Cayenne
Mix up in the pestle and mortar and funnel into a jar.
Pimp Up My Casserole
This is a great addition to a sausage or beef casserole as it contains those classic flavours, and adds some heat to it.
1 Tbsp Chili powder/flakes
1 Tsp Fennel seeds (ground)
1 Tsp Nutmeg
Again, mix them up and funnel into a separate jar. If your jars are identical – remember to label!
Pimp Up My Meat ‘n’ Fish
This is a paste/ rub you can make to pimp up a steak or bit of salmon. As Nancy says, it gives it a touch of India, yum.
1 Tbsp – Chili powder/flakes
1 Tsp – Garam Masala
1 Tsp – Fennel Seeds (ground)
1 Tsp – Tumeric
Pinch of Salt
5 Tbsp neutral oil such as sunflower or vegetable.
Mix it up!
I got these super cute condiment glass jars from a car boot sale for around 20p! Perfect to house my new spice mixes.
Let me know what you think. Any other concoctions you have created? Drop me a comment below 🙂