Tony Burroughs

Ever since I received my box of chilli products to review, this particular Hot-Headz product has sat on my shelf tempting me towards the Dark Side likes a Chilli Sith Lord (Darth Naga perhaps?). Looking at the ingredients I know that this product has 95% Carolina Reaper in it (currently the official worlds hottest chilli coming in at up to 2,200,000 Scoville Units {editors note: official world record is 1,569,3000 SHU}), which means it’s going to be painful and It’s likely to have some reaper-cussions but it tempts me nonetheless.

Hot Headz Hard Core Carolina ReaperThe product is a part of Hot Headz Hardcore range which prides itself on showcasing the flavour and heat of the chilli rather than any other ingredients. It comes in a 50ml bottle and retails at £6.99. The packaging is simple and effective and is consistent with the other products on in the Hardcore raneg. The ingredients (not many in this case) are listed as per usual, alongside the following statement: “The chilli, the whole chilli, and nothing but the chilli – That’s the Hot-Headz! Hard Core Range! No fancy herbs, spices or garlic – just pure unadulterated chilli puree flavour and heat. Just as nature intended. Only for the Hard Core!”

Ingredients: 95% Carolina Reaper® Chilli, salt, citric acid.
Bottle kindly provided by Hot-Headz

Now I have to be honest, I seriously considered whether or not I was going to try this product” Am I one of the Hardcore?” I thought to myself. “I don’t think I’ve ever considered myself Hardcore at anything”, I like my chilli sauce hot but this possibly the hottest extract free chilli product available. After much consideration, the fact it was unlikely to kill me became the deciding factor. So with some forward planning which involved me booking a Saturday in my calendar where, 1. I had no plans on the Sunday, and 2. also had the following three working days booked as annual leave, I decided to go for it.

I have to say I was unsure how this product should be used. Should it be primarily used as a food additive or as a hot sauce? Either way I opened the bottle and had a sniff. I instantly smell the fresh chilli and the saltiness, it doesn’t smell great to be honest, but I still load up a teaspoon of a puree and without hesitation shove it in my mouth. I can taste the flavour chillies and saltiness, it’s not a floral flavour but you can taste some of the fruitiness. This is followed by an intense burn that coats my tongue, roof of my mouth and my throat. My body is producing a lot of saliva and I literally feel the puree as it move down my throat and all the way to my stomach where it feels like it’s literally burning a hole. The burn builds and builds, my nose is running and I’m sweating. Strangely enough the burn in my mouth doesn’t seem too bad, but the feeling in my stomach is unreal. This sauce really is for the Hardcore.

Overall I found the flavour too salty for a sauce to have neat or as a dipping sauce. However, as a food additive this works great and as little will go a very long way, this product is reasonably good value. I added a teaspoon to a tomato sauce with meatballs which gave my meal a welcome kick.

With bonfire night fast approaching this is sure fire way of keeping warm when outside in the cold. You could easily add a teaspoon of puree to a chilli con carne or a sausage casserole, or even mix it with some ketchup to make an extra spicy hot dog, which is guaranteed to give you a bigger burn than any Guy you have sat on top of your bonfire.

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

Hot-Headz Hard Core Range

Also in the range are all the above.

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Challock Chilli Festival is a small local chilli festival which takes place annually at Victoriana Nursery Gardens in the Kent village of Challock. The nursery grows over 100 different varieties of chilli from mild varieties to the Carolina Reaper. The festival had the usual food stalls you expect from a chilli festival, alongside a number of craft stalls. However, what drew me to the festival was the opportunity to look at all the different chillies they had growing in their poly tunnels and the opportunity to try them.

The number of different varieties they grow is incredible and for a £1 charitable donation we were able to try as many fresh chillies as we wanted. I literally had to pinch myself to check I wasn’t dreaming.

Challock Chilli Festival

Naturally they had many different varieties of Jalapeños, Habaneros, Cayenne etc. but also had many rare chillies that, not only had I never heard of, but had never had the opportunity to try. This include Holy Mole (a Mexican chilli), Purple Tiger and Tokyo Hot to name but a few. We tried quite a few different chilli’s including some I’d like to grow next year.

Challock Chilli Festival

In terms of food stalls, we got to sample sauces from Karimix UK who, not only had their own sauces and preserves to try, but also had some products from Byron Bay Chilli Company and Kankun.

We also brought some fresh Pakora’s made using Aji Lemon chillies for lunch which were simply delicious.

There were a number of craft stalls which all appeared to have at least one chilli related product including chilli fridge magnets, chilli glassware, chilli tea towels and chilli balloons, and for those with a competitive streak, a chilli tossing competition.

Challock Chilli Festival Polytunnel

I’d never heard of Victoriana Nursery Gardens before and I was really impressed by the sheer number of chilli plants they grew. They sell seed for many of the plants they grow and sell seedlings in the Spring. As a very local business, I will certainly be looking to support them by purchasing some seeds for next years grow.

Whilst only a small chilli festival the focus on the actual fresh chillies made this a unique experience and I look forward to attending next years festival to tick a few more chilli varieties off my list.

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Having followed the UK chilli scene over the past two years, I am often jealous at the abundance of fantastic looking chilli festivals across the country (especially the South Coast and South West), and whilst I plan to travel further a field and witness the Clifton Chilli Club putting people through pain in the flesh rather than on Youtube, it would be nice if there were some a bit more local to me. So it should be no surprise that I’ve had the 27th September pencilled in my calendar as soon as I heard there was going to be a chilli festival in London.

The Festival of Heat - London’s Chilli Festival - 27th September 2015

This year was the 3rd annual Festival of Heat and it took place Red Market Gallery on Old Street in London’s now trendy East End. Over the past few years chilli sauces have been given a similar cultural status to craft ale and beard grooming, and as a result are very popular with the subcultural group known as Hipsters (see this amusing Hipsta Cop cartoon for further proof http://www.thepoke.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/tumblr_no86n6IaRo1uvs95yo1_1280.jpg), therefore it was no surprise to see this festival taking place in this particular part of London.

The East End is also famous for being one of the most multicultural parts of London, so it should be no surprise to hear that this was reflected in the festival’s entertainment and food stalls.

Despite being late September, it was a bright sunny day (something my chilli plants could have benefited from in August, instead of grey clouds) and there was already a long queue to get into the festival prior to it’s opening at 12pm.

Once inside we had a stroll around the Festival Market area and got stuck into sampling some of the many chilli sauces on sale from over 18 different stalls. Festival regulars such as Burning Desire, Grim Reaper Foods and Mushemi Fire were present, alongside some local sauce makers such as Dips, Made in Hackney and Gifty’s Kitchen. Particular highlights for me were Dips BBQ bonnet sauce, Capsicana’s Brazilian cook sauce and #Piggate chilli Pork Scratchings sold by Mushemi Fire who either had insider information on rumours about our Prime Minister or had the packaging printed that week in time for the festival.

The festival was sponsored by Encona, who also had a stall and was selling their range of sauce for £1 per bottle. Whilst, in my view, their sauces are nowhere near as nice as those sold by the smaller sauce makers present at that festival, at that price I picked up a few bottles and was given a chilli chocolate cupcake for my troubles!

Around 1pm the festival stage area opened with live music including Bengali Folk and Bollywood dancing, which my two year old enjoyed dancing to as opposed to trying the chilli sauces (“Chilli sauces are too spicy Daddy!”),

The Festival of Heat1

The festival also had a Kitchen Area which hosted workshops of chilli sauce making, chilli oils, medicinal attributes of chilli plants and saving chilli seeds. I attended the ‘Rare Chilli Masterclass’ hosted by Pritesh Mody from World of Zing, a company who make sauce, spices and dried chilli’s. Pritesh spoke about the different varieties of chilli and their different uses in cooking, and passed a few dried chilli’s around for us to try. This included Aji Amarillo, Pasilla and Chinese White Chillies. To finish we were shown a demonstration on how simple it is to make a really tasty chilli sauce.

By 2pm the festival was heaving to the extent where it was hard to sample as many sauces as I would have liked, therefore the organisers may want to consider a bigger venue next year but overall we had a really nice day. The weather was great, the chilli sauce stalls were varied and with the live music and kitchen workshops meant there was something for everyone and I’m already looking forward to next years festival.

The Festival of Heat5

The Festival of Heat4

The Festival of Heat2

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Devon Fire Chutney is an onion, pepper and orange chutney from Otter Vale Products a small Devon based family business who produce a range of hand-made chutneys, savoury jellies, and other food accompaniments. Their website and packaging emphasises that their products are handmade using the finest ingredients (locally sourced where possible) with no artificial colours or flavourings and they are gluten free. A quick look at their chutney range demonstrates a company who appear to be willing to experiment and try different and interesting flavour combinations (Curried peach chutney and Minted Goosebury to name but two). Their products have won a number of awards including Devon Fire Chutney which was a Gold Winner at the Taste of the West awards.

Otter Vale Products Devon Fire Chutney

The chutney comes in a typical 225g jar and costs £2.25. The packaging is clear and simple with illustrations of some of the ingredients in the product, in a style which you would typically associate with similar products from family businesses.

Ingredients: Sugar, Acetic Acid, Onions (26%), Peppers (11%), Maize Starch, Oranges (3.75%), Chillies, Salt, Spice.

Now, being a fan of all things chillies I like to know what chillies were used in a product, after all chillies have a diverse range of different flavours, smells and heat, so I’m always a little disappointed when a product’s ingredients simply states ‘chillies’, however a quick look at Otter Vale’s website informs me that the chilli used in Devon Fire Chutney is the fruity and fiery Scotch Bonnet.

I’ve never had orange in a chutney before and as someone who is not a fan of marmalade I was initially unsure whether this would be a product for me, however I’m pleased to say I was proven wrong.

When I open the jar I initially smell the vinegar followed by the fruitiness of the orange and a hint of coriander, which automatically reminds me of a good homemade Mango Chutney, my instinct is to grab a stack of poppadoms and get stuck into to the chutney but, alas there were no poppadoms, so I use a Jacobs cracker instead. The chutney has a nice sticky consistency with small chunks of onion, pepper and Scotch bonnet. From my first taste I’m won over, the chutney has a sweet tangy flavour from the orange and onions, with a hint of coriander. This is quickly followed by a decent, but not overwhelming burn from the Scotch Bonnets. The orange gives the chutney a subtle citrus flavour and it really helps bring out the fruitiness of the peppers and Scotch Bonnets. Every now and then I’m surprised by a burst of coriander in my mouth as I bite into a seed but it’s not unpleasant.

For me the great thing about this Chutney is how versatile it is. As I mentioned, it would go very well with poppadoms and other Indian cooking as an alternative to mango chutney. It would also be a great chutney to bring out at Christmas to have with cold meats or as a very welcome addition to your cheese board. The sweet tangy flavours would really complement a mature cheddar or stilton, but at only £2.25 a jar why wait for special occasions when a dollop would also enliven an otherwise dull cheese sandwich.

Flavour
(9/10)
Heat
(4/10)
Packaging
(5/10)
Value (10/10)
Overall
(9/10)

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