David Kelly

Gideon Burrows is probably the last person you’d expect to have a penchant for chillies given that he has a stomach ulcer that can be aggravated by spicy food, but as chilliheads we sometimes just can’t help but satisfy our capsaicin needs.

‘Chilli Britain (A Hot & Fruity Adventure)’ bookAlthough he’d had a penchant for chillies for some time and considered himself a chillihead, it was after a chance visit to a chilli festival several years ago that Gideon had an epiphany moment: there were many more people who like him had a craving for all things chilli. His curiosity to understand why this was the case made him embark on an expedition to find out more about these strange fruits that have become part of people’s lives and write a book about it.

Like a stereotypical Tarantino film the book opens at dramatic moment late in the overall story – at the Hertfordshire chilli festival where Gideon is about to partake in the de rigueur chill eating competition. After this opening sequence subsequent chapters provide the backfill to the story of his exploration of the chilli scene and how he ended up entering the chilli eating competition.

Essentially the book is a travelogue of Gideon’s exploits around Britain meeting a selection of chilli related artisans and personalities. Think of Gideon as a Karl Pilkington character or a Robbie Coltrane on a Raleigh bike – no Cadillac here! – travelling around Britain crafting a Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Britain’s Chilli Scene, akin to the fictional Hitchhikers guide book as featured in the “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” franchise.

On his travels Gideon encounters a global dispersion of aficionados around Britain: Artisan sauce makers bringing Zambian, Caribbean, Nigerian and authentic Mexican culinary tastes to the masses; scientists and boffins studying the nature of chillies and experimenting with their horticulture; and the chilli devotees whose obsession for all things chilli banishes bland food from their diet – fanatical characters such as Chilli Dave, Dave MacDonald and Jim Booth from Clifton Chilli Club, Kankun Luchador and his alter ego Roland Cardena, and Tony Ainsworth aka Darth Naga.

Gideon Burrows PlantingInterspersed during his exploits of tasting sauces, chocolate, superhot chillies, extract and extreme chilli challenge curries, Gideon provides progress updates of his growing ventures (and his determination to get fruit from his favoured Habanero 7 plant). There’s even a generous dash of chilli history too.

‘Chilli Britain’ is an informative, enlightening book that gives the reader an insight into the eclectic and eccentric nature of the British chilli scene. The book’s light hearted prose and humour make it a very easy, enjoyable read. With a plethora of chilli cook books and horticultural books available on the market, it’s refreshing to be able to read something completely different about chillies.

If you’re a chillihead you’ll love reading more about some of the personalities on the scene like Darth Naga, who guides his new Padawan in the ‘poke and purge’ technique (use the fore finger Gideon!). And if you’re not a chillihead, see it as a Bluffer’s Guide book that quickly brings you up to speed with all things chilli related. Either way I highly recommend this book.

It would be great if Gideon could see his way to continue his exploration of the chilli community in Britain (including the rest of the UK) and produce a second volume, as the book only begins to touch the surface of the many characters that constitute this chilli community. With 600+ tons of UK grown chillies now being exported to countries traditionally associated with chillies such as India & Mexico, it’s definitely a burgeoning industry.

Chilli Britain is available for Kindle via Amazon & paperback from www.chillibritain.com for £9.99 with free P&P (sample chapter can be read here) and given the time of year of writing this review, it would make an ideal chilli themed Christmas stocking filler.

Overall
(10/10)

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One of the great things about the UK chilli scene is the social interaction within the community. Be it face-to-face get-togethers at the various festivals throughout the growing season or online through social media platforms like Facebook or Twitter, individuals come together to share their enthusiasm for all things chilli.

#ChilliHour

Sheena Horner from Galloway Chillies, a regular contributor on social media, had interacted with other individuals on Twitter as part the #ScotFood hour, a regular chat session on Twitter that shared food & drink experiences in Scotland. Noticing the success of these events and being aware that there were many Twitter users across the spectrum who shared a common interest in chillies, Sheena thought a similar chilli themed chat session would be a great way for these enthusiasts to come together to share advice & knowledge. And thus #ChilliHour was born.

#ChilliHour has been running now for over a year and takes place on Twitter every third Monday in a month between 9-10pm (GMT). Each month there is a series of set questions covering a variety of chilli related topics such as growing, harvesting, cooking, and sourcing products. There’s also a good dose of humour too with past questions having covered more amusing topics such as chilli challenges & mishaps.

To participate in #ChilliHour all someone needs is a Twitter account. Users then simply follow the hosts for #ChilliHour (who tweet out the questions during the session) and ensure they add the hashtag #ChilliHour to their tweets. This allows other users to easily see all of the related tweets being posted & tagged ‘ChilliHour’ through use of the hashtag search feature in Twitter.

Whilst Sheena initially hosted the event herself, as user participation has grown during the year, so has the need for additional hosts.

The current hosts are:
• Sheena from Galloway Chillies (@Gallowaychilli)
• Myself (@Norn_IronMan)
• Ivor Davies from Bountiful Seeds (@Bountifulseeds)
• Chris Saunders (@TheLurch) and
• Lewis & Katie from The ChilliGeeks (@TheChilliGeeks)

It’s not essential to have an interest in chilli to participate in #ChilliHour but it can help. Neither is it necessary to be based in the UK, with users from American, The Republic of Ireland and France all participating regularly in #ChilliHour. #ChilliHour is simply about having an hour of lighted hearted social interaction on Twitter for all things chilli.

For more information about #ChilliHour visit Sheena’s Blog ChilliBabies, where each month she posts the latest questions. Suggestions for future topics or questions are always welcome too – just let any of the hosts know should you have any ideas.

P.S. Follow this link to find out when the next #chillihour is.

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The Mad-Ass Chill Sauce Company based in Croydon run by Dave Etheridge & Tony Walker have a wide range of sauces with lots of different flavours and unusual combinations. Their product that I have for review here is no different and I don’t believe there are other chilli sauces out there using Thyme as a main ingredient. However with chilli sauces becoming ever more increasingly mainstream, why not make a sauce that incorporate a herb which compliments most meats so well?

The familiar Mad-Ass menacing chilli appears on the front of the label and as with other Mad-Ass products there is a QR code on the label but strangely when scanned the product is incorrectly identified as their ‘Double Smokey’ product.

Ingredients:

Green bullet chillies, Cider vinegar, Demerara sugar, ‘The Garlic Farm’ garlic, Lime juice & zest, fresh thyme, fresh root ginger, rock salt, cracked black pepper

Kindly supplied by Mad-Ass

The sauce is a rich green colour with flecks of black pepper throughout and although I can see that the sauce is somewhat pulpy, it seems quite fluid in the bottle. Opening the bottle I get a big hit of a fresh zesty citrus aroma from the lime and ginger; strong undertones of thyme with hints of cider vinegar and salt are also present.  Pouring the fleshy sauce onto a spoon I can see bits of garlic, chilli flesh and thyme throughout it. When tasting, the lime and ginger flavours are very much at the fore with the sharpness of the lime being well contained by the sweetness of the sugar. The flavour of the bullet chillies, thyme and garlic then come rushing through and peppery tones remain in the aftertaste. The heat from the chillies begins to attack the back of my mouth but the burn effect is quite mild.

Labelling on the sauce indicates it’s to be a marinade not a condiment sauce so I’ve got to try it as such. Thyme is a great accompaniment to most meats but I particularly like it with lamb. Alas much as I suspect it would work really well with that I don’t have any lamb at home so instead I’ve to make do with marinating some peppered mackerel in the sauce.

Some hours later after marinating and cooking the fish, I get to taste it again. The sauce has done a good job in complementing the flavours of the mackerel. It cuts through the oiliness of the fish well and the thyme & lime flavours have really intermingled and work well together. The zesty of the lime is still there but not as sharp as uncooked. I have to say it whilst it tasted nice ‘neat’ from the jar, it tastes even better when cooked.

Overall a great tasting marinade sauce – one worth trying if you are looking for something with a more unusual flavour. Available from the Mad-Ass website at £5 for a 150ml bottle (as pictured) or £2 for a small 30ml taster.

Flavour
(8/10)
Heat
(4/10)
Packaging
(6/10)
Value (7/10)
Overall
(8/10)

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Yellow Fever is an acute viral haemorrhagic disease spread by female mosquitoes in South America. Its symptoms include: fever, chills, nausea and vomiting, which sound remarkably similar to symptoms that chilliheads can suffer from when eating excessive amount of chillies located higher up the Scoville scale. Perhaps that’s why in part the guys from Mad Ass named this sauce as such.

Labelling on this product is akin to the other Mad Ass products previously reviewed on the ChileFoundry, with the customary mean looking chilli, this time in a mustard yellow colour. Unfortunately with the colour scheme used on this label the white coloured font on a yellow background makes it extremely hard to read the lettering clearly, particularly on this smaller sample size jar.

Ingredient:

Yellow Habanero chillies, ‘The Garlic Farm’ garlic, fresh ginger, malt vinegar, soft brown sugar, lime juice, rock salt, cracked black pepper, mustard powder

Kindly supplied by Mad-Ass

The pungent smell of Habanero’s and mustard is clearly apparent when I open the jar with subtle hints of sugar, vinegar and cracked pepper underneath. It’s a sweet n sharp combo on the nose. The sauce is a rich mustard yellow colour and is reasonably fluid and it’s easy to see bits of garlic, cracked black pepper and some chilli pepper pulp suspended within it.  The natural flavour of the habaneros is clearly apparent when tasting and the mustard flavour intermingles really well with it. Some sweetness from the sugar and a little bit of sharpness from the lime juice can also be detected. Whilst the flavour from the mustard is apparent it’s not a dominating flavour.

The heat from the Habanero’s comes almost instantly, initially at the very front of my mouth and residing at the back, somewhat disappointingly though I don’t get the expected nasal burn that would accompany a good spoonful of English mustard. The intensity of the chilli kick recedes quickly but there’s still a good, satisfying burn left behind in the mouth.

Not surprisingly given its mustard base this product goes amazingly well on a steak sandwich, so well in fact that my taster / sample jar was emptied after trying it this way. If you are looking for a variation on the mustard theme this is definitely worth trying. The mustard taste isn’t full-on as normal English mustard thus making it a great alternative or substitute for those who English mustard that little bit too intense.

Available from the Mad-Ass website at £5 for 150ml bottle or £2 for 30ml taster/sampler jar.

Flavour
(7/10)
Heat
(5.5/10)
Packaging
(5/10)
Value (7/10)
Overall
(7/10)

N.B These scores are based on the recipe used for this sample. Looking at the website it appears the latest batch of the product uses a new recipe with yellow Bell Pepper & Yellow Scotch Bonnet Chillies rather than Habanero. Heat should be of a similar level but I would imagine the flavour would be somewhat different due to the naturally sweeter flavours of the bell pepper and Scotch Bonnet chillies.

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