Etna Sauce

Yesterday I made three jars of what I lovingly call Etna Sauce. It’s a chilli sauce that’s sweet like Thai chilli sauce but as hot as the lava from Mount Etna. Because it’s so hot I only make it in small batches because not many people like the intense heat – I do.

I posted an image on Instagram and Facebook and Alexandra asked me for the recipe, so here it is:

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Ingredients: 400 ml white wine vinegar. 650 g white granulated sugar. 60 g dried chillies. 150 g red pepper (de-seeded) 120 g fresh red chilli (de-seeded) I use the small hot red chillies rather than the larger sweeter ones. I also think it’s the addition of the dried chilli that gives the sauce it’s intense heat, but if you can handle it do feel free to add an extra 10g of them. (If you can’t get fresh chilli use 160 g of dried ones).

Put the vinegar and sugar into a large saucepan over a medium heat and let the sugar dissolve. Meanwhile add the chillies to a blender/processor and blitz until fine. Once the sugar has dissolved add the chilli and pepper mixture to the saucepan and bring to the boil. Let the liquid boil for 12 minutes then turn it off and take off the heat and let it stand for 25 minutes.

Sterilise your jars in hot water and let them air dry before filling with the sauce.

The sauce has a consistency between jam and sauce and can be spread on cheese sandwiches, bacon or sausages and goes great if warmed in a pan to make it more liquid and added to chicken or ribs.

For my apple and chilli jam click here NB: most people who’ve tried this say it’s a tad hot so reduce the chilli down to 150g.

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Plans And Plants

I love this time of year, there’s so much to look forward to, sunshine, days at the beach and a riot of colour in the garden. Being in Italy means I can start off my seed sowing earlier than if I was in the UK, but first I like to be organised and have a plan: some would say it’s OCD, but whatever, it works for me.

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The best time is when I have sorted the seeds and decided what I’ll be growing and at the end of January out of storage comes the electric propagator. Seeds trays are washed and disinfected and two trays of compost are popped in to warm overnight.

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Not everything works here in Italy though, some plants just don’t thrive in the summer heat, but it’s fun trying different ones. Despite being native to Sicily, Sweet Peas have failed every year for me and this year is my last attempt, so I started them off in November so they’ll be bigger and stronger when they go outside: I have some outside already in a pot which I can bring in if we get a forecast of snow.

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Space is limited in the propagator and with marble windowsills that can be too cold for seeds once they’ve been removed. I had to come up with a way to keep the seeds insulated. So I started to save polystyrene food trays and I drop the young seedling into these to keep them warmer. I’ve found it works really well and promotes good root growth.

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I also enjoy the preparation that seed sowing and gardening brings, above is one of my sunflower trays. I scrounged the polystyrene trays from the local butcher and the growing pods are toilet rolls cut in half. This system keeps the roots contained and can be planted direct into the ground once the plants are large enough. It helps when you’re planning on sowing 70+ sunflowers.

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Finally, the joy of pricking out. Above is a tray of 15 Coreopsis, I only want six plants for the garden so this means there’ll be nine left over to donate to friends. I’ll no doubt during the summer be sharing photographs of the garden with my readers here. Until then, happy gardening everyone.