2013

Happy Easter Chilli Padawanz!!…no wait..that’s not right is it? Give me a hint?…NO I have it!!, let me try again…*ahem* HAPPY HALLOWEEN CHILLI PADAW…*what?* OH…that’s not right either? Hmm, okay gimme a minute it’ll come to me! Anyway, seasons misgivings aside, I am here to bring you the latest of my video reviews! And this one is the last in a FANTASTIC box set (which itself would be a GREAT xmas prezzy for a chillihead!) released by The Wiltshire Chilli Farm. Jamie’s fantastic and unique “Voodoo Box Set” is finished off beautifully with this Peach Habanero sauce, and a cracking price you can’t go far wrong!

Jamie’s box sets tend to be high in chilli content, so that you can really get a taste for the fiery fruit, and this “Peach Habanero” sauce is no different, 50% of the bottle is pure chilli, the rest is a blend of awesomeness and secret spices that make this sauce a absolute belter! The bottle itself (like the rest of the range) features a cracking little voodoo doll emblazoned across a high quality glossy label, which also has the name of the sauce, and of course the producers name too, heck we wouldn’t know who’d made it otherwise.

Ingredients:

Peach habanero 50%, cider vinegar, sugar, peach, salt, spices.

The sauce its self is a sort of yellowy almost pale orange colour, with seeds, flesh and other coloured flecks in it, which I can only assume is the “spices”, it’s at this point I would usually go into a long drawn out paragraph about how this sauce tastes..but HURRAH for modern technology, here is a video! (I am ably assisted by my friend Dawn in this one)

So there you have it! A very tasty, peppery sauce, thats mighty hot to boot, and for me it was an INSTANT heat, as you saw in the vid, it hit me pretty hard, but Dawn just took it in her stride, fair play to her because it messed me up! The “voodoo Sauce box set” can be bought from Jamies online store  for  £20 (yes, the price has gone up since the video, due to limited stocks left), thats three sauces in a *beautiful* presentation box with embossed logo, as I said before, an ideal xmas gift for any chillihead… and as of writing this I am told there are only about 40 box sets left and they are selling FAST!! So get on it Padawanz if you don’t want to be left in the dust!

Anyway, another review reaches its conclusion and its time for me to head back into my mancave and cook up another review, so until next time my chilli padawanz, may the sauce be with you….always!

Flavour
(8/10)
Heat
(9/10)
Packaging
(9/10)
Value (7/10)
Overall
(8/10)

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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.

As a review team, one of us is a fan of chutney generally where the other is less so, so we hope that this will give readers in both camps a good idea of whether this is a product for them.

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?

Ingredients:

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.

Flavour
(9/10)
Heat
(6/10)
Packaging
(8/10)
Value (10/10)
Overall
(9/10)

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Now there is a company in the UK doing wonderful things for gardeners across our land, and chilli growers are well catered for as a lot of the items they sell work very well for optimising crop yield. I am of course talking about Greenhouse Sensation who started making their own products some time ago. One of the things the company is most proud of, is the fact the designing and manufacturing is done in the UK. During the 2013 growing season I have been using one of the companies more popular products, the Quadgrow for review. Now the season is over, here it is.

The product is bigger than I expected, at 130cm long its quite a beast in the box, and there are two boxes in total.

The contents are:

Main Reservoir with moulded lid, A & B Nutrients, Pack of 4 capillary matting ‘wicks’, 4 x 11 litre pots, Plastic Screws to hold the lid to the base

The main unit is a 30 litre tough plastic reservoir with a rectangular lid which is moulded, and has drainage holes and a hole for each wick. The moulding enables the 4 square pots to fit neatly on top. There is a piece cut off one end of the lid which simply sits there and is removable to enable watering.

Quadgrow with Nutrients & one wick installed

I am particularly impressed with the thickness of the black plastic and it appears very durable having been moulded from one piece there are no seams which can fail, a common problem with cheap water butts.

Assembly is a piece of cake too, with minimal parts, the lid sits of top and plastic screws join the lid to the base as a safety precaution. The only slightly fiddly part is the installation of the pots, wicks and compost but it just takes patience. To save me explaining this in detail, here is a video of my friend Jim from The Clifton Chilli Club setting one up. Please note that the Quadgrow in the video is a slightly earlier design so has the old style watering hole in the lid.

So that’s it set up and ready for use. The instructions say that you may have to water the top of each pot from time to time if the compost starts to dry out a little but I had no problems in this area, the wick worked very well at drawing up the water/nutrient mix into the compost so it always stayed just moist enough. Those who already grow chillies will know that the plants hate over watering, if compost is left too wet then the roots start to rot very quickly.

The science with the wick is that it only draws up nutrient water as needed, the roots therefor are able to get maximum oxygen in the compost and grow quickly which gives the plant the energy to grow big and strong and make producing chillies a doddle. The roots manage to fill the pot quickly and find their way through the wick hole and create a thick mat down into the reservoir by the end of the season. This all combines to give you up to double the yield of standard growbags or pots.

I was initially concerned with the amount of nutrients supplied once mixed with water, it just didn’t seem like enough to last the season but they did. Even with one of the sunniest summers in quite a while and the temperature in my polytunnel reaching 40+ degrees on quite a few occasions, the topping up the reservoir was never a problem, especially with the redesigned watering hole.

During the hottest period of the summer I was only topping up every few days and this was stretched to over a week or more in cooler weather. This is one of the products many key selling points, there is no need to water daily and you can go away on holiday leaving them to do their thing, so if you forget to check them after work you will have some grace!

I planted my Quadgrow with a Jay’s Ghost Scorpion Red and Peach and 2 Carolina Reapers. These were new varieties to the UK this season so a good test. All 3 varieties set chilli pods readily and it was interesting to compare the Jay’s to the other plants I had in normal pots. I found the Peach variety a very late producing plant and a very difficult plant to grow, always looking pale green but the one in the Quad Grow was always a deep lush green and produced some very gnarly large pods a lot earlier than the others.

All the plants grew very strong branches and side shoots, soon reaching at least 6 foot. The ‘trunks’ on the plants above the soil level grew very big, showing they were loving the conditions.I underestimated how big the plants would get as it became a struggle to get past them! The plants set lots of pods and these were all large and good quality.

Now my only negative with the product (and it can be seen as a positive too!) Because the plants grow so well in both height and width, they end up as one big mass of  lush green foliage so it can be difficult to determine where one plant starts and another ends! not a problem if you are growing all the same variety but if you have 4 similar varieties it can be difficult working out which plant it came from. I’m sure a lot of research has gone into the spacing of the pots. I suppose it just demonstrates how well the unit works.

Now at the end of the growing season the pots can be emptied, the root ‘beards’ cut off and all the bits washed and stored ready for next year, just remembering to place your order for replacement wicks and nutrients.

As a Christmas gift, you will need a very large stocking but if you know a chilli/tomato grower, I’m sure they would love one of these, they are available direct from Greenhouse Sensation for £42.90 each or you can get two for £64.90, a saving of £20

The Quadgrow comes recommended by many people and has been reviewed in high profile magazines. It is used at River Cottage and at the Upton Cheyney Chilli Company where Alex Duck has had a whole Polytunnel devoted to them this year. I myself have recently taken on a new bigger growing space and am very tempted to put 2 or 3 rows of these in having seen the yield from Upton Cheyney.

The Quadgrow tunnel freshly planted at Upton Cheyney – Photo Alex Duck

Chilli variety Fatalii in the same tunnel just before harvest last week showing the yield – Photo Alex Duck

Amazingly I managed to repot one of the Carolina Reapers straight into a bigger pot and bring it inside, here it is under an LED grow light and shows no sign of slowing down, setting pods all over! The Quadgrow certainly creates a healthy plant.

 

 

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Now when someone mentions Absinthe, what comes to mind? A green high alcohol content liquid which causes hallucinations and massive hangovers maybe. Well times are changing and Absinthe is enjoying something of a revival. We were sent this bottle of Chilli Absinthe from the German manufacturers, Cannax. This just adds to the growing trend of adding Chilli to alcohol.

This bottle certainly dispels the rule that Absinthe is green, this is a rich red and the company even make a black variety too. So what is Absinthe?

Well here are some of the facts. It is an aniseed flavoured liquid usually between 45- 74% alcohol content, traditionally made with the flowers and leaves of Artemisia absinthium otherwise known as “grand wormwood”), together with green anise, sweet fennel, and other medicinal and culinary herbs.

Absinthe has indeed caused a great deal of controversy in it’s history, having been banned in the US and most of Europe by 1915 because of it being an addictive psychoactive drug, however this was never proved and has enjoyed a revival in the 1990’s in the countries which banned it.

So here we have the Chilli Head Absinthe. This comes with real chillies in the 50cl bottle. I have to mention the bottle as it is moulded into a skull shape, something very unique. It would certainly look great sat amongst any chilli fans collection. This is a difficult product to review the spirit Absinthe is very much an aquired taste, most serving suggestions have the spirit watered down a little before consumption, and with a 55% alcohol content I’m not surprised.

Bottle kindly supplied by Cannax

Once the cork is removed, you get the aniseed aroma which is very familiar, reminding me instantly of the flaming Sambucca’s I enjoy at my local curry house at Christmas. So what does it taste like? I’m a little nervous if I am honest, the label is all in German so I have no idea what it is saying. I decide to try it ‘neat’ to get a true reflection of the chilli flavour.

Wow!….It certainly packs a punch straight from the bottle, the taste is as expected, aniseed, herbal flavour and a very strong alcohol hit, followed by the chilli burn which combines really well with the other flavours and lingers in the throat but is never uncomfortable and fades away fairly quickly leaving the standard Absinthe flavours. I expected it to be quite sweet but it isn’t.

I know Absinthe is not normally the spirit that most would have sitting in the drinks cabinet but I am pleasantly surprised by this product. The tip of my tongue has a slight tingle about 10 minutes later and the general aftertaste is not unpleasant.

So here is another product which may well appeal to the seasoned chilli head for their Christmas stocking, if nothing else it does look stunning.

Available from various places online including Amazon for £26.00

Flavour
(7/10)
Heat
(4/10)
Packaging
(10/10)
Value (7/10)
Overall
(8/10)

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