Chilli Event Reviews

Review and information about chilli related events in the UK

It’s strange how a passing remark can evolve into a special event, but that’s what happened following a conversation with Russell Williams from Grim Reaper Foods about his range of chilli products.

Like many other Chilliheads I continually incorporate various chilli products in my cupboard into my everyday cooking and it was whilst remarking that I had used his then recently launched Incinerator oil and Blaze of Glory mustard to make Yorkshire puddings, roast potatoes & mash potatoes as part of a chilli themed Sunday Roast, that an idea bulb appeared above Russell’s head and his creative mind got set to work.

So when some 9 months on Russell put the word out on social media that he was taking over a local restaurant for one night to hold a Chilli extravaganza using his products, well, I just had to be there…

In advance of the event, which took place on the evening of Sunday 14th April, Russell had posted the menu online a few weeks prior to the event; so I, Chris ‘The Lurch’ Saunders and around 24 other individuals, who travelled to Restaurant 65 in Hemel Hempstead, knew what delights lay in store for us.

Luckily enough I didn’t have too far to travel but such is the popularity of Russell’s products that the opportunity to attend this unique event drew chilliheads in from as far afield as Derby & Birmingham.

1st course:-  ‘Elixir of Life’

The evening kicked off with Prosecco cocktail containing a candied chilli: a choice of an Orange Habanero or Lemon Drop.

Within the Prosecco Russell had also added some ‘Tears of Pestilence’. Using one of the molecular gastronomy kits more akin with Heston Blumenthal’s style of cooking, Russell had created little tear shaped drops of gel containing a small amount of ‘Pestilence’ (one of his recent newly released products) which is a transparent coconut rum spiced chilli syrup.

The tears could be popped open in the mouth if you wanted a sweet chilli kick or swallowed whole for the less brave. As nice as the tears were though, for me the highlight of this course was the candied chilli.

I’ve never tasted a candied chilli before so I was looking forward to trying this element of the course and being a lover of the flavour of the Lemon drop chilli I opted for that rather than the Orange Habanero.

I certainly wasn’t disappointed as the sugared citrus flavour of the chilli finished off the cocktail with a nice chilli kick.

 2nd course:- ‘Last Rites’

After the cocktail aperitif a batch of freshly baked bread, made using Russell’s Rookie Goblin sauce with Vengeance chilli oil as accompanying dip. The earthy flavours of the spinach & coriander worked really well in the bread and the addition of nutty flavour of Vengeance was a good combination.

3rd course:- ‘Potent Potion’

Russell’s Potent Potion was a shot glass of mango, lime, mint, Evil One sauce with a dash of grenadine. Here the refreshing qualities of the mango, lime and mint certainly deceptively hide the bite of the Evil One and from the reaction of several individuals in the restaurant who drank this, the chilli kick caught them by surprise.

4th course:- ‘Rest in Pieces’

Next up was a fish dish combining a fillet of Sea Bass on a bed of Scotch Bonnet Lemon risotto with coriander pesto followed, drizzled with Incinerator chilli oil. Here the rich creamy risotto suitably complimented the simplicity of the pan fried Sea Bass and the flavour of the fresh coriander pesto.

This was undoubtedly my favourite dish of the night and, as I found out at the end of the evening, that of many others too.

5th course:- ‘Hallowed be thy Pain’

The second cooked dish of the night utilised one of Russell’s as yet to be released products – the ‘Sands of Time’ spice rub.

This Naga based spice mix was dusted onto a corn fed chicken breast seasoned and served with stir fried vegetables & Bok Choi in Tempest chilli oil. The subtle flavour from the spice rub enhanced the flavour of the chicken breast and although the heat was less compared to the previous course, Russell advised that he had he’d purposely held back from using too much of the spice mix in the dish.

6th course:- ‘Soul Cleanser’

Cooling things off before the final dessert course, a sorbet duo of carrot & ginger and a lemon sorbet was served up next. This was very refreshing and cleansed the pallet really well, although I did wonder if the coconut flavour of ‘Pestilence’ would have made a nice little addition to the lemon sorbet for those who wanted to continue the chilli theme in each dish.

7th course:- ‘Torn between Heaven n Hell’

Russell finished off the culinary evening with a white chocolate cheesecake utilising his Purgatory chilli chocolate. Despite having more of a savoury than sweet tooth, I’m a sucker for a good cheesecake and this certainly didn’t disappoint.

This was a beautifully crafted dessert with the cheesecake held in a chocolate cage and dusted with shavings of Purgatory – a savoury / sweet combination supplemented by the warmth of the Naga powder used in Purgatory.

Overall Russell crafted not only a brilliant menu of great tasting food, but creatively integrated his range of products into a full blow seven course meal. Full compliments go to himself and Grant Young (owner & head chef at Restaurant 65 who assisted Russell on the night). Both chefs worked relentlessly hard to serve 26 covers at the same time and Gina & Sarah of Restaurant 65 also kept the front of house running smoothly too.

 

For those who missed out on the event Russell has advised that he will be releasing all of the recipes on his blog in the forthcoming weeks allowing everyone to try out the dishes. Even better though Russell has hinted that if he gets enough interested he may run another one of these evenings somewhere in the country, so keep your eyes peeled if you missed out on this opportunity – you may yet be in luck of having a meal cooked from the hands of the Grim Reaper himself!

And for those of you still not familiar with the Grim Reaper’s products, here’s a little advert created by Martyn Tott, a friend of the Reaper himself!

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There have been many Chilli Festivals to attend this year with the culmination being FFUK which this year was held on 14/15/16th September. This year’s festival was all the more poignant with the untimely passing of Pete Seymour, weeks before the event. He was Godfather of the Chilli world and head of the ChilliPepperPete operation which runs the festival. For the first time, the festival opened on the Friday night to extend the weekend fun. This is my report;

The gates opened on the dot of 5.00pm at the event held in Victoria Gardens, Brighton opposite the rather grand Royal Pavilion.The Friday night entertainment consisted of a “World Record” attempt by some unlucky individual (separate article coming) and the “Man Vs Fire” Buffet both compared by comedian Matt Whistler.

The buffet consisted of a whole host of different snack items including the likes of chilli pizza, chilli cocktails, fresh chillies, Super-hot burgers supplied by Burger off (a local burger restaurant)  Satan’s ashes curry, Chilli Chocloate Brownies and a few other “delicacies’”.Each was labelled with how many Scoville Heat Units were in it and the contestants could collect the labels once they had eaten each one.

 There was a 10 minute time limit too. Our own Darth Naga took part along with 4 others including Ted “The Fire Breathing Idiot” Barrus, who had been flown in from the US for the festival, he may be familiar to some of you, but you can see some of his videos he produced at the event on YouTube here but be aware that some of the things he attempts should not be attempted at home! and there will be some bad language.

It turned out that the eventual winner of the buffet was the only female taking part, Clare Cameron (pictured above with her trophy) who I believed consumed something in the region of 9 million Scovilles!

On Saturday the gates opened at 11.00 and the event started to fill up, the sun was shining, the bar was very popular! There was a great selection of traders including The Chilli Pepper Company, Grim Reaper Foods, Mr Vikkis, Mad Ass, Burning Desire, Chillilicious and China Spice.

I was asked to be a Judge, along with Ted Barrus and Carl Anderson on the National Chilli Awards for the professional sauces which meant us sitting on our own and tasting lots of small containers of chilli products to decide the winners in various different categories.

After that we as Judges were then invited on stage with compare Rob Dumbrill to present the Chilli Awards.

These awards have become very prestigious as previous years entrants in the Amateur category were not only now set up and selling their sauces but also now winning the professional awards too.Congratulations to those that won.

Next was a very moving video tribute to Chilli Pepper Pete which was played on the large screens, you can see it below:

Then at 6.00pm the Chilli eating competition began, 15 contestants, 10 chillies, last man or woman wins.

Rules –

  • Every competitor has to swig a mouthful of beer to start, which washes away any substance they may or may not have secreted in the mouth to help with the burn.
  • The whole chilli must be chewed and swallowed (excluding the stalk)
  • If anyone is sick they are out, even a “burp with substance” counts as Rob so nicely stated

So the competitors progressed through the rounds from the Aci Sivri at about 5,000 SHU’s and topped out at the Borg 9, topping a cool 2 million SHU’s! until there was a winner.

The evening continued with live music and the bar kept serving until the show closed at 9.00pm.

Sunday began with live music again, and the judging of the Amateur Sauce category, this is a much sought after title as previous winners of this have gone on to start up their own companies.

This was won by Karen Willmott who goes under the name “Mrs Chutney”,with her Chilli sauce called Sunrise.

Not only did she receive the award, but by winning she gets to work with ChilliPepperPete on getting her chilli sauce into production.

Also at the show was the National BBQ Network, who were running 2 days of their “Ready Steady Q” which is a take on Ready Steady cook where contestants got the same cut of meat and could choose 5 additional items from their store cupboard and in 45 minutes had to create something on the BBQ to impress the judges, everything was supplied and winners would go through to the final with a chance to win some great prizes.

This was a nice extra attraction on both days and the spectators were able to sample the freshly cooked food

But before you could say Habanero, it was time for the 2nd Chilli eating competition…3…2…1…chew!

And then sadly the festival was over for another year.

I think it was very fitting tribute to Pete Seymour.

The festival will be seen again albeit in parts, on television as ITV and the BBC were at the festival filming for different TV shows.

All I can say is bring on next year!

 

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It seems so long ago now but on the 8th September 2012; a Chilli farm in the wilds of the West Country was transformed with stalls, cooking and of course cider drinking! I am of course talking about the 4th Upton Cheyney Chilli Festival.

 This event has continued to grow each year it has been held, and for the first time I had the opportunity to throw the tent in the car, and leave normal life behind. The Chilli festival is as far as I know, the only one to actually be held on a Chilli Farm. Alex and Louise Duck plus the team that support them work very hard to make this increasingly successful festival happen.

 I arrived on the Friday and found the Farm (luckily I had visited the farm back in April) fairly easily. I checked in at the farm shop and was given directions to the camping field.

If you have never been to this area, you cannot fail to be impressed by the views especially those that greet you from the campsite. Once the tent was pitched, I ventured down to the farm to see what was going on and found myself at the village pub for a quick drink, well the sun was shining after all! A short walk back to the farm and I soon got involved helping with the setup of marquees and other things, obviously with cider in hand!

The evening saw the bar open for those early arrivals, and gave everyone an opportunity to relax, chat and put names to faces, from Facebook or Twitter conversations. There was a BBQ with burgers and hot dogs produced from meat reared on the main farm by Dave the farmer. Soon enough it was time to turn in ready for the day of the festival.

I awoke in my tent really cold having expected the sun to have been nicely warming it for me, as the forecast had predicted. I opened the tent to be greeted by fog so thick I couldn’t see the next tent! The farm shop was serving breakfasts but I had brought my own camping cooker, so after a nice bacon and egg roll I wandered down to the farm.

I arrived just in time to see the start of the 1st Upton Cheyney Chilli Cook Off at 10.00am. For those not familiar, this was something that started at the Reading Chilli Cook Off event earlier in the year and run by the one and only Jon Doody, each team had 4 hours to cook the very best Chilli they could to secure the prize of £250 and the honour of winning.

The festival opened at 12.00 and there was soon a queue forming at the entrance gate, just as the fog cleared to reveal a cloudless sky. This year, due to the increase in size Alex had changed the layouts etc but it still seemed to work really well. The traders were spread around the field including Mr Vikkis, Hot-Headz, Bath Pig Chorizo, Seaspring Seeds, Love Unlimited Ceramics, and Simpsons Seeds.

 There were inflatable bouncy things for the kids, Belly Dancers and even mud wrestling thanks to Inferno and 3G for the slightly older kids!

As the sun shone, this meant the bar was popular all day with a steady queue, something in common with festivals, and likewise with the ice cream van.

In no time at all, it was time for the judging of the Chilli Cook Off which was won by the Royal Q Pit Crew headed by Steve Heyes. Before this, wooden spoons were being “sold” to visitors for them to get tasters from each team after the judging, with the proceeds being donated to CLIC (Cancer & Leukaemia in Children)

There were reports of some people not being able to get samples due to the teams running out, from what I saw it was very busy and as some teams had dropped out, this meant less food to go round. Jon Doody is already busy organising future events to address this sort of issue and has just set up the UK Chilli Cook- off Association, details will follow soon, regardless, £421 was raised by this for the charity.

4.00pm saw the final event of the day, the Chilli eating competition, something no Chilli festival would be complete without. Back in the spring, In a moment of madness I had entered this, why, I don’t know, but suddenly there I was sat on the stage with the other victims, the likes of Leo “HomegrownUKchili” Scott, Jay “ChilliAlchemist” Webley, Darren “Dazza”Trent, Rob “House” House and many others, being introduced by our own Darth Naga.

There had been talk of beginning at a Habanero but luckily the Chillis started off a little milder, but very quickly we were up to Dorset Naga and Bhut Jolokia. I was ok until  “Jonny Bonnet” to my left, was sick! We moved on to a 7 Pot Burgundy, and this was my downfall along with a few others. My face, mouth, throat and stomach were on fire. The crowd were baying for more. This left 3 to eat the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion, soon “House” left the competition leaving “The Curri Monsta” and “ The Chilli Warrior”. After going another round, it was decided to make them joint winners. Well done to Al George and David Phillips. There are videos on YouTube if you wish to take a look!

So that was the main day programme done, the festival was not over. Everyone left and the site cleared up in readiness for the evening party, something which was strictly ticket only and had sold out months earlier. This was being held in the old Tithe Barn and bar just outside. We all returned to recount stories from the day’s goings on over a pint or two of cider, listening to live music and eating from the BBQ or the other food stalls set up.

In summary, this festival is unique in that it is set on a Chilli Farm and has a very laid back atmosphere to it, but is quite busy, Alex estimates that attendance for the whole day was around 4000 and both Louise & Alex were always seen rushing around working really hard to co-ordinate things.

This event is one to watch for next year, and is taking place on the 7th September 2013 ( it’s always the 2nd Saturday in September) so keep an eye on http://www.uptonchilli.co.uk/   for news early next year.

 

 

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1st Annual Reading Chilli Cook-off

1st Annual Reading Chilli Cook-off

On the 6th August the 1st Annual Reading Chilli Cook-off will take place! 20 teams will do battle in the beautiful gardens of the College Arms public house (Wokingham Road,Reading, RG6 1JL) where they will have just 4 hours to cook a world class chilli from scratch.

Judging will take place at 4pm after which the public will be able to sample each team’s effort. The will be live music, BBQ, a special “Challenge” burger for hardcore chilli-heads, face painting for the kids and me dressed in some bizarre costume I’d expect.

If you feel your chilli is worthy of such an event and would like to enter, please contact chillimaster@chilligonebarmy.com for entry information. If you want to check the rules these can be found on their web site www.chilligonebarmy.com.

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