The Chillees is the playful brand name for a range of chilli-laced foodstuffs produced by Nick and Francine Lee from their base in Taunton, Somerset. They describe themselves as having a small, but growing, range of products, yet a quick look at their website reveals an already satisfying list of goodies. An encouraging note on the website states that The Chillees products are “made for the flavour, not just the heat” – music to these reviewers’ ears – so let’s see how their HabApple (nice play on crab-apple!) Hot Apple Chilli Chutney lives up to the message.
Jar kindly supplied by The Chillees.
First impressions based on labelling are just as important as the product itself from a marketing point of view. Nick and Francine have done a good job with theirs – it is clear and uncluttered, the brand stands out without being “in your face”, and the text is enough to tell the customer everything they need to know without being wordy.
The jar opens with a satisfying ‘pop’ so that we know the chutney has been preserved properly, and releases a marvellous aroma of habanero along with the sweet apple and sharp vinegar.
This is a chutney with a silky smooth base texture, but without an excess of wetness. The base apple sauce contains a good amount of sweet vine fruit and slivers of onion, as well as tantalising flecks of chilli.
So far so good… so, what about the taste?
Apples (52%), sugar, vinegar, onions, habanero chilli (2%), raisins, sultanas, currants, garlic, ginger, lemon, sea salt, cinnamon, cayenne.
Apple is the first flavour to come through, along with sweetness from the vine fruits, all lifted by subtle vinegar sharpness. This is swiftly followed by a hit of heat and the distinctive flavour of habanero, which lingers pleasantly after the other flavours have begun to dissipate.
The ingredients list includes ginger and cinnamon, but these are not particularly noticeable in the flavour notes. However, this being apple chutney, these are ingredients that would be more conspicuous by their absence rather than being flavour front-runners.
In taste testing we’ve found that the chutney works beautifully on sandwiches with mature cheddar cheese or sausages, and with gammon steak – and will go equally well with all other usual accompaniments to sweet-based chutneys. This would also make a wonderful replacement for apple sauce to spice up a pork dish.
Heat-wise, the label suggests that this is a 3-out-of-5 on the heat scale. We tend to agree that this is a mid-level chutney. The heat is pretty immediate, possibly due to the inclusion of cayenne, and continues to build to a very pleasant and recognisable habanero burn which is mellowed slightly by the sugars in the fruit.
HabApple Chutney is available from The Chillees’ online store, priced at £3.50 for a 200g jar.