The Lakes Chilli Fest, Levens Hall – Show Report

by Tim on August 19, 2010 · 0 comments

in General Information

The first surprise of our weekend at the event was the weather. We left Cambridgeshire in the pouring rain early on Saturday morning and arrived some four and a half hours later to be greeted by dry, sunny weather. Sunday was especially good with unbroken sunshine for the whole day.

As a stallholder, it’s often difficult to get around the event to visit all of the other stallholders to taste whatever they have on offer. This time I made an extra effort to do just that and I’m glad I did. There were so many tasty sauces, pickles, relishes, etc. on offer, but there were a few which I think deserve a special mention.

Rico Picante

Rico Picante

A company I hadn’t heard of before called Rico Picante had a stall just to the right of ours and although all of their sauces were very tasty, two in particular caught my eye and I ended up buying a bottle of each. The first is their ‘Amazon’ chilli sauce. It’s largely based on Peruvian Aji Amarillo chillis, but it was the 25% Rocoto chilli content which I was interested in. Rico Picante rate the heat level of this sauce as a 4/5 on their heat scale, which is probably a little bit ambitious as I would describe the heat as medium, although I realise that interpretation of heat is subjective. It’s such a tasty sauce! I can pick out the cumin but it doesn’t overpower the sauce. A minute after the initial tasting, I get the mustard and the distinctive citrus tones from the Aji chillis. I can see this sauce being used for pouring over wraps, or perhaps pepping up a salad. The second sauce, called ‘Andes’ really shouldn’t have appealed to me due to one of the main ingredients being Huacatay (Peruvian Black Mint). I don’t dislike mint at all, it’s just that I prefer it to be in chewing gum, or sweets, not in savoury things. Rico Picante rate this as a 3/5 on their heat scale, which seems about right. The mint wasn’t overpowering which was a surprise as I expected it to be, especially as it’s listed as the second ingredient. Try as I did not to like this sauce, I couldn’t and I liked it so much, I bought a bottle. This is going to be slathered over lamb chops in our house and I imagine that it would be another great sauce for adding to a salad.

Trees Can’t Dance

Trees Can’t Dance

The third sauce in my stash from the weekend comes from Trees Can’t Dance. The sauce is their ‘Pennine Fire Hot Sauce’. As soon as I saw the word Cajun on the bottle, I had to try it. The sauce isn’t particularly hot to my taste, but the flavour is fantastic! The cajun spices are there right away with the heat from the habaneros creeping up afterwards. I liked the fact that there are bits of pepper and onions floating around in the sauce. This is going to be great for all meats and if I had a bigger bottle, I could see myself just using it as a dip. I’ll be buying this one again for sure.

The next sauce is from a company about 15 miles or so from our chilli farm and they are called Completely Chilli. I’m a bit of a sucker for anything with blackcurrants in it, so I was quite excited to see jars of ‘Blackcurrant & Chilli Sauce’ on their stall. Unfortunately, it is a limited edition product as it’s made with blackcurrants from their own bushes, but it’s a ‘must try’ sauce. It’s got just a hint of chilli in it, making it extremely versatile. I watched Helen pour it into the sample bowl and was pretty much chomping at the bit to get a taste! It’s a jet black (as you’d expect), smooth, thick sauce and the blackcurrant tartness is just right. I needed a few tastes to get the chilli, but for what I would use this sauce for, I think it was about right. Completely Chilli suggest trying it with duck and I imagine that it would go well with any dark meat. I reckon it would be great on toast in the morning too.

The Chilli Pepper Company

The Chilli Pepper Company

I had to sample some naga products and the first was PPP (Pure Pain Paste) made by The Chilli Pepper Company, based just down the road from Levens Hall. This is a naga paste, so you know it’s going to be hot! I dipped into the jar and loaded the spoon with a good sized dollop of PPP. Onto the cracker it went and from there into my chilli primed mouth. To me, the taste of naga is unmistakable – a lot of the naga products available now seem to have the naga heat but not the flavour of the pepper. Not so for PPP. The flavour of the naga comes through right away and then slowly but surely, the heat builds. It’s this quality that I like so much about the naga pepper; flavour, then heat. I found the heat still building several minutes after tasting PPP and could see it having an almost endless list of uses such as adding to dishes to pep them up and add a bit of naga flavour. I’d probably use it (sparingly!) with strong cheese and crackers.

Mr Vikkis

Mr Vikkis

Finally, I tasted some ‘King Naga’ made by Mr Vikki’s. Obviously it’s another naga product, so you know it’s going to have a kick. Just the smell alone had me salivating. I guess the spices in King Naga are a bit of a secret, but whatever they are, they suit the naga perfectly. There’s no point in me going on and on about this product – I loved it, simply loved it. I have quarter of a jar left out of the jar I picked up on Sunday, two days ago. I used to quite like the ‘Mr Naga’ pickle but found that it lacked a real bite. King Naga tastes very similar, but it seems to me to have that bite. Fantastic stuff.

Not only was the weather great for the whole event, there were very few wasps, which for anyone who saw my stall at West Dean the week before, you’ll know just how relieved about that I was! The event was very well supported by thousands of visitors who all seemed to be having a great time. Roll on The Lakes Chilli Fest, Levens Hall 2011.

Tim Murphy, Cambridge Chilli Farm

Editors Note: A big thanks to all who contributed to our remote coverage of what seems like a show not to be missed, we have it on our45 plans for a Holiday next year.

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