Events

Let there be a CHILLI WAR. This is a special fundraising event in aid of Cancer Research UK so why not come down to the Upton Inn at 2pm and watch some very well know super stars from the UK chilli world cook up there best.

Chilli Wars - Upton Inn

Confirmed cooks so far for this epic competition are:

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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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This August why not take a drip to sunny Dorset and how about visiting Sea Spring Seeds, the home of the Dorset Naga, and take a look at their nursery, talk to them about their seed trails.

Sea Spring Seeds

Michael and Joy Michaud are some of the most knowledgeable growers of chillies you will find, they are also happy to help answer any question you may have (I have asked a lot). They also have a great selection of seeds you can buy ready for next year or why not a few plants already covered with chillies.

The Drop-in days are every Wednesday in August 2015 (5th, 12th, 19th and 26th) between 10:30am and 9:00pm so set your GPS for DT2 9DD (Sea Spring Seeds, West Bexington, Dorchester, Dorset. DT2 9DD. Phone 01308 897898 email info@seaspringseeds.co.uk or www.seaspringseeds.co.uk

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