Many of my friends are complete chilli addicts and will pile extra chopped chillies or red-hot chilli sauce on to anything you put in front of them. It can be a bit offensive if you have just done the cooking, but I try to stay calm about it.
We recently did the Food Rocks festival in Dorset and Michael and Joy Michaud of Sea Spring Seeds set up shop among the many local producers. They had a fantastic array of chilli plants for festival visitors to take home, re-plant and cook.
Having a chilli plant or two in your garden, or even window box, is extremely handy when cooking on the hoof – because you have grown them, you know their strength, whereas shop-bought ones can go either way when you open the packet.
Corn and chorizo chowder
This is a great autumnal warmer and the rounded spiciness of the chorizo works well with the sweetness of the corn. You can add more chorizo if you wish and even more chilli. Make sure you buy the cooking chorizo for this and not the cured, dry, slicing type.
1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped
120g cooking chorizo, cut into ½cm cubes
1 small green or red chilli, finely chopped
1.2ltr hot chicken stock
The corn from 2 cobs of corn or 1 x 250g can of sweetcorn
1 large potato, peeled and cut into rough 1cm cubes
2tbsp chopped parsley
60ml double cream
Gently cook the onion, chorizo and chilli in the butter for 4-5 minutes, until soft. Stir in the flour and cook on a low heat for 1-2 minutes. Gradually add the hot chicken stock, bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes.
Add the sweetcorn and potatoes, season with salt and pepper and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove one-fifth of the soup from the pan and blend until smooth.
Return this to the pan with the cream and parsley and simmer for 5 minutes. Check the seasoning and re-season if necessary.
Crab-stuffed chilli peppers
For this, you need to find the large green chilli peppers that aren't too hot – such as jalapeño. You could use a couple of small dressed crabs, as they have both the brown and white meat – with a large crab, I find there is maybe too much meat.
16 or so large green chilli peppers
The brown and white meat from a small cooked crab, or a couple of dressed crabs
1tbsp good-quality mayonnaise
Half a lemon
50g gluten-free, self-raising flour or tempura flour, plus a little extra for dusting
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Vegetable or corn oil for deep frying
Bring a pan of water to the boil and blanch the chilli for 10 seconds, then drain and leave to cool. Make a slit in the chillies down one side without cutting through to the other side, keeping them intact. Season the white crab and stuff as much as you can into the chillies without breaking them.
Mix the brown crab and mayonnaise together with a whisk, getting it as smooth as possible – or you could use a mini food processor, if you wish – and add lemon to taste.
Mix the flour with enough cold water to form a thin but coatable batter and season lightly. Preheat about 8cm of oil to 160-180C in a large, thick-bottomed saucepan or electric deep-fat fryer. Carefully coat the stuffed chillies in flour, shaking off the excess, then dip them in the batter 6-8 at a time, depending on the size of your fryer.
Fry for a few minutes, turning them until they are golden. Remove from the hot fat with a slotted spoon and drain on some kitchen paper. Serve on a dish with the mayonnaise in a dipping pot.
West Country hotties
For this one, I've sourced the main ingredients from the south-west for a perfect West Country treat. When it comes to chocolate, Willie Harcourt-Cooze is your man: he now has all sorts of chocolate products under his belt – all produced in Somerset. His drops are ideal for making these fiery chocolate truffles. You may not be able to get access to Michael Michaud's chillies to dry (as I mentioned in my introduction) but ordinary dried chilli flakes will do.
700g Willie's Cacao Chef's Drops, Rio Caribe (reserve 250g for coating)
400ml double cream
200g unsalted, softened butter
100ml 3-year-old Somerset Cider Brandy
1-2tsp dried chilli flakes, chopped over with a knife
60g good-quality cocoa powder
Bring the cream to the boil, remove from the heat and gradually stir in 400g of the chocolate with a whisk until it has melted and the mixture is smooth; then stir in the butter, chillies and cider brandy. Transfer the mixture into a bowl and leave to cool in the fridge (for about 1-1 ½ hours) until firm enough to spoon into rough shapes.
Line a tray with clingfilm and spoon the mixture into roughly-shaped blobs on the clingfilm. You can make them as small or as large as you like. Leave to set in the fridge until firm and solid.
Melt the rest of the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of simmering water, stirring every so often. Remove from the heat and leave to cool for a few minutes. Sift the cocoa powder on to a tray and have a third, clean tray ready for the finished truffle.
Using a thin skewer or cocktail stick, dip them quickly into the melted chocolate, ensuring as much excess as possible drains off, then put them into the cocoa powder, shaking the tray so they become coated.
When you have about 10-12 coated, shake off the excess cocoa with your hands and transfer them to the clean tray. Store in the fridge in a container lined with kitchen paper until required, and bring them out of the fridge half an hour or so before serving. Don't keep them for more than a month – as if anyone could go that long without devouring them all.
Blackcurrant chilli jelly
Makes ¼ltr jar
There are still a fair few blackberries left in hedgerows in some parts of the country, but you could easily apply this to sloes or rose hips or blackcurrants. You can also get away with using frozen berries if necessary.
2-4 medium chillies, roughly chopped
450g caster sugar
Place the blackberries, chillies and sugar together in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan and gently bring to the boil, stirring continuously. Using a ladle, remove any scum that rises to the surface and discard.
Allow to simmer for 1 hour, then pass through a fine-meshed sieve. Pour into a mould and leave to set in a cool place. You should have enough to fill about a ¼ litre jar to use at your leisure.
This jelly goes really well with cheese, pâtés and terrines, or can even be used to glaze a roast.