Rob House

Back in January we reviewed Wiga Wagga’s Chilli Sauce and were impressed by its flavour. Since then they have scooped their first two Great Taste Awards including a 2 star award for their Wiga Wagga Chilli Paste.

I’m sure a few of our readers will have just read the previous paragraph and thought Wiga who? Well for those of you who missed our review at the beginning on the year here’s a quick snippet about the company.

Wiga Wagaa are relative newcomers to the UK chilli scene and were founded by owner Victor Nwosu in July 2012. Victor has drawn inspiration from his travels across Africa, Asia and Europe to create a range of products which deliver a fusion of the flavours he experienced.

Recently you may have heard Victor on BBC Radio Newcastle or had the pleasure of meeting him at a chilli festival such as The Great Shoreham Chilli Fest 2013.

Today I’ll be taking a look at something different from the Wiga Wagaa range – Wiga Wagaa Chilli Oil. In the last couple of years chilli oils have become quite popular in the UK, but this is the first product I’ve seen made with sunflower oil.

Before I get started with the tasting, let’s see how the product looks. The oil is presented in a 110ml square bottle with a large plastic cap and vibrant orange labels. The labels have a quality finish to them and have been applied to two sides of the bottle.

The front label features the company’s logo, a heat rating and a general description of the Wiga Wagaa product range whilst the rear label contains an ingredients list, contact details and even more information about the product range. There is also a dried bird’s eye chilli suspended in the oil which is a nice touch.

I found the ingredients list a bit hard to read on this product as a lot of information has been crammed onto the back of the bottle. Personally, I think this product would benefit from a single large label covering 3 sides of the bottle as it would allow the information to be better presented. Some simple recipe suggestions would be a nice addition too.

Ingredients:       Sunflower Oil (47.3%), Water (14.2%), Onion (9.4%), Ginger (9.4%), Scotch Bonnet Chillies (9.4%), Soy Sauce (4.7%), Sugar (2.3%), Garlic (1.4%), Seasoning (1.5%), Salt, Herbs, Preservatives (Sodium Ascorbate, Potassium Sorbate).

Bottle kindly provided by Wiga Wagaa.

Upon opening the bottle I am greeted by a waft of enticing aromas. It’s hard to identify the individual ingredients, but the onion, ginger and garlic are most prominent. The smell reminds me of stir fried vegetables which is not surprising given the ingredients which have been infused into this oil.

I pour a little oil onto a spoon and take a moment to inspect it. The oil is clear, but more golden in colour than other sunflower oils I have used. Upon tasting the oil I am again reminded of stir fires and Asian cuisine. The fusion of flavours is nicely balanced whilst the chilli provides a decent kick of heat that lingers for quite a while.

I have since used this oil in stir fries, salads and homemade hummus. In all instances, the chilli oil imparted a lovely flavour. Sunflower oil is very versatile and I’m sure this product could be used to liven up a lot of other dishes too. There’s even a recipe for sweet & salty chilli popcorn on the Wiga Wagga website.

Wigaa Waga Chilli Oil is currently priced at £3.25 which is reasonable given that most chilli oils we’ve reviewed have been priced between £5 and £8 for a 250ml bottle. You can purchase this product online from Corbridge Larder or find it at one of the many Wiga Wagaa stockists.

Flavour
(7/10)
Heat
(5/10)
Packaging
(6/10)
Value (7/10)
Overall
(7/10)

 

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Twisted 7 Sauces burst onto the UK chilli scene last year when they scooped a well-deserved 2nd place is the amateur sauce contest at the National Chilli Awards 2012 – our very own Darth Naga was one of the judges. Since then, owner Dean Pearman has been hard at work assembling a huge range of products.

In January, Dean sent us his first 9 products including the fiery Chocolate Sorz and the vibrant Sweet Ah-hee. Today I’ll be looking at another of his sauces – Candescent Cranberry.

In recent years cranberries have become increasingly popular. Many people consume them as part of their daily diet for the purported health benefits whilst others simply enjoy them for their tart flavour. Either way, these little berries have found their way into many everyday products including cereals, breakfast bars and beverages. That said, cranberry sauce is still regarded by many as a seasonal product and is typically only purchased to accompany turkey at Christmas or Thanksgiving dinners. Personally, I think cranberry sauce can be used for much more than livening up poultry, so I’m going to dispense with tradition and get stuck in.

The product is presented in a 200ml square glass jar which is adorned by a gold lid. A black label covers 3 sides of the jar and complements the ruby red sauce really well. The label has a matt finish and provides all the information that I’d hope to find on a chilli product including a heat scale and the type of chilli used in the product. The product logo is an orange flame which is consistent with other products in the range.

Ingredients: Cranberries (42%), Water, Sugar, Lemon Juice, Paper Lantern Habanero chilli peppers (3%), Port, Pectin

Jar kindly provided by Twisted 7 Sauces.

Upon removing the lid from the product, I am instantly greeted by a rich, fruity aroma. The port is very prominent whilst the sugar appears to have done a good job of masking the acidity of the cranberries.

The sauce is perhaps a little bit on the thin side, but shouldn’t present any problems as you’ll need a spoon to garner the contents from the jar. Upon closer inspection, I observed plenty of soft cranberry pieces and a few flecks of habanero chilli in the sauce. There were a few tiny cranberry seeds too, but this is to be expected. Conversely, I didn’t find a single chilli seed which is nice.

The initial taste is quite rich, but the fruitiness of the cranberries does come through after a few seconds. Overall, the balance of ingredients is excellent and there is just enough sugar to mask the tartness of the cranberries without turning this into another sweet chilli sauce.

The paper lantern habanero chillies provide a nice background warmth which is pleasant and not overbearing.

So far, I have tried this sauce with roast chicken, turkey sandwiches and soft cheeses. In all instances the sauce complimented these foods brilliantly. It also makes a fantastic addition to a brie & bacon baguette and would be a great accompaniment to game dishes and savoury foods such as pork pies too.

Priced at £4 for a 200ml jar its good value and in line with what I’d expect to pay for a product of this quality.

Unfortunately, it appears that I’m not the only one who has been impressed by this product as Twisted 7 Sauces have currently sold out. Dean assures me that he’ll be making more as soon as he can source some fresh paper lantern habaneros. In the meantime I’d recommend checking out the other products in the Twisted 7 Sauces range as there’s something to tempt everyone.

Flavour
(8/10)
Heat
(3/10)
Packaging
(7/10)
Value (7/10)
Overall
(7.5/10)

 

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I look forward to any event which is hosted at a chilli farm or nursery. I’m not sure if it’s the intrigue of someone else’s growing setup or just the sense of awe at seeing row after row of chilli plants.

Last weekend I had the pleasure of attending one of the first events on the 2013 chilli calendar; the Simpson’s Seeds Day of Fire and Spice. Simpson’s Seeds occupy a walled garden nursery in the beautiful Wiltshire village of Horningsham. The village forms part of the Longleat estate which is famed for its large country house and safari park. Historically, a team of gardeners at the nursery produced flowers, fruit and vegetables for the house. The grape vines and peach trees may be long gone now, but the raised beds help the nursery maintain a traditional feel.

The Walled Garden Nursery

This event has been running for a few years now and is coordinated by proprietor Matt Simpson. It’s primarily a plant sale, but Matt also invites a handful of guest stallholders along to sell their chilli products too.

The event kicked off at 11am, although a few eager chilli-heads had arrived earlier in the morning to ensure that they got their hands on some of Matt’s more unusual chilli plants. Two of the more interesting varieties were Gibbering Idiot and Goats Weed – a Capsicum Annuum variety which is thought to originate from Venezuela.

The Gibbering Idiot is a new Habanero variety which is being developed by Simpson’s Seeds and was only available in limited quantities on the day. Needless to say they were all snapped up very quickly!

 Gibbering Idiot

In total, there were over 30 varieties of chilli on offer in the glass house. These were complemented by a wide range of sweet peppers, herbs and tomatoes too. During the day, Matt was on hand to give customers expert advice and insightful recommendations. Matt has written books on both chillies and tomatoes and really knows his stuff.

Outside in the sunshine were stands from Deer’s Leap Chillies and the Upton Cheyney Chilli Company. The Deer’s Leap Chillies stall had a lovely selection of condiments including a delicious lime pickle and a spicy Sicilian style sauce that I am looking forward to trying later this week.

Matt Simpson with Sarah Gratton of Deer’s Leap Chillies

The Upton Cheyney Chilli Company stall was manned by a few members of the Clifton Chilli Club. Customer favourites included their Megalodon and Oak Smoked Chipotle sauces, the latter of which sold out just as I arrived at the event.

 Matt checking out the range of sauces from the Upton Cheyney Chilli Company

Inside, there was a vast array of seeds from the Simpson’s Seeds catalogue and a selection of Matt’s “Yummyliscous” sauces too. The sauces included the award-winning Horny Goat and the humorously named Sillius Soddus which took pride of place on the “Nutters Table”.

The “Nutters Table”

After a steady stream of visitors, the event drew to a close at around 4pm. Several had travelled from as far as Birmingham and Swansea but had been rewarded with the fantastic range of plants and chilli products that were available on the day. A few growers from other southwest chilli farms were also spotted throughout the day which just goes to show how friendly the chilli community is.

Last to leave were a few members of the Clifton Chilli Club who decided to film a video review in the glass house. The backdrop of “Nutter’s Corner” seemed particularly apt as they sampled a new chilli extract product from Bristol-based Dr Burnorium.

Clifton Chilli Club reviewing a product in “Nutters Corner”.

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The word chocolate is derived from the Nahutatl word xocolatl which means “bitter water”. In both the Mayan and Aztec cultures, xocolatl was a cold, thick ceremonial drink made from cocoa, water and corn meal. Since sugar did not reach Central America until the 16th century, the Aztecs added chilli and spices to flavour this unsweetened drink.

BlackWidow-Front-OriginalFast forward a few hundred years to the present day and chilli & chocolate are still regarded as a congenial pairing. Today I’ll be looking at a product which aims to reap the benefits of these two ingredients – Black Widow by Grim Reaper Foods.

Bad puns aside, I’m actually quite excited about trying this product. Grim Reaper Foods was formed by Russell Williams in October 2009 and began trading a year later following Russell’s success at the National Chilli Awards with The Evil One. Since then Russell has scooped another 3 National Chilli Awards, 2 Great Taste Awards and a Scovie Award – an impressive haul for such a new company.

So I’m sure many of you will be dying to know how it tastes, but I feel that I have to give special mention to the packaging first. Quite simply put – it’s stunning!

The chocolate comes packaged in a glossy cardboard folder which depicts the Grim Reaper with a chilli scythe. Often packaging which features skulls or references to death can divide opinion, but I think the cartoon styling and choice of colours work really well. On the right-hand side of the product there is a hand-tied ribbon which adds to the premium feel.

BlackWidow-Open-OriginalUpon removing the ribbon, the product opens like a book revealing the bar of chocolate and details of the other chocolate products offered by Grim Reaper Foods – Hell Raiser and Purgatory.

One final note on the packaging – the ingredients list appears in Czech, French and Italian too.

Ingredients:

Dark Chocolate (Cocoa Mass 70%, Sugar, Cocoa Butter, Emulsifier-Soya Lecithin, Natural Vanilla), Essential Oil of Lemon, Essential Oil of Geranium and Naga Jolokia Chilli Powder.

Product kindly provided by Grim Reaper Foods.

The chocolate has a nice sheen to it and there was a reassuring snap as I broke off a square. At 70% cocoa mass I was expecting intense cocoa aromas, but these have been mellowed by the fragrance of the geranium oil. The overall aroma is inviting and reminds me a little of Turkish Delight which is commonly made with rose water.

I pop the square in my mouth and take a few moments to savour it. To my surprise the chocolate isn’t bitter at all. There’s still a pronounced dark chocolate flavour, but the essential oils add a subtle sweetness to the overall taste. The Naga chilli provides a lovely background heat which adds to the experience without being overpowering.

Where possible, I like to try cooking with chilli products too but have never cooked or baked with chilli chocolate before. Russell is an experienced chef and suggests that Black Widow would be ideal for making chocolate fondants, so I found a recipe and decided to give it a go.

ChilliChocolateFondant-OriginalCall it beginners luck, but I was very happy with the results of my chilli chocolate fondant. The chocolate was easy to work with and the essential oils enhanced the overall flavour of the dish. I found that the lemon oil became more pronounced during cooking whilst the geranium oil added a lovely aroma.

I have to admit that I was expecting the combination of dark chocolate, chilli and lemon to be too bitter, but Russell has created a unique product that has exceeded my expectations. The product is presented beautifully too and would make a fantastic gift for any chilli lover. Black Widow usually retails for £5, but if you hurry you can pick it up for £4 from the Grim Reaper Foods website. It is also available from several UK and international stockists too.

Flavour
(9/10)
Heat
(3/10)
Packaging
(10/10)
Value (7/10)
Overall
(9/10)

 

 

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