Fusion Hot Pepper Sauce

Each year I grow hot Italian chillies and as I harvest them I sun-dry them in batches for use throughout the year. Once dried they store in an airtight jar for a year or so. Just make sure when you pick some out that your fingers are dry, a tiny drop of water in the jar will spoil them. As my chillies in the orto are almost ready to harvest I decide to use up some of last years to make way for the new crop.

I’ve also been growing some Jamaican Scotch Bonnets, the plant is in its second year and after a not so good season last year, I took advice and potted it up to restrict the roots and it’s bearing lots of bright orange fruits this year. So using these two varieties I thought I’d create a Caribbean-Italian fusion hot pepper sauce.

The ingredients I used are:

8 sundried cayenne chillies, 5 fresh Scotch bonnets, 5 garlic cloves, 230 ml white vinegar, 2 teaspoons malt vinegar, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp sugar,  2 tsp red wine and a tsp of tomato puree.

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First boil a kettle and soak the dried chillies to rehydrate them. While they’re soaking trim the stalks off the Scotch bonnets and peel the garlic.

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Once the chillies are rehydrated take their stalks off and add everything into a blender and blitz until smooth. NB: The tomato puree is used purely to add colour to the sauce as the orange Scotch Bonnets have very little colour.

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Transfer to a pan and simmer the liquid until reduced by a third. OPEN A WINDOW and don’t stand over the steam and breathe it in as it’ll cause you to cough and can irritate the eyes.

Remove from the heat and using a jam funnel decant it hot into a sterilised jar and seal.

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The consistency of this sauce should be loose, very similar to Tabasco rather than a gloopy sauce. If you don’t want seeds in the sauce then it’s okay to sieve it. Like similar sauces the salt and the vinegar are excellent preserving agents so should keep in a dark cupboard for around 3 months and in a refrigerator for 6 months.

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So how was the taste test? It was hot but the sugar took away the harshness. I think it’s ideal for adding into stews, soups and sauces and good for drizzling over pasta dishes. I may even try a little on a pizza turning Margherita in la Diavoletta.

Spicy Salami Ragù

Ragù is a meat based sauce for pasta which is not to be confused with a sugo which is a more fluid sauce. In the north of Italy ragù is usually made with minced or ground meat while in the south they use more substantial pieces of meat, maybe whole sausages. But regardless of what meat you use, it has to be said that home made ragù beats anything you can buy in the shops.

As regular readers know I’m not keen on shop bought sauces for pasta and prefer to make my own as I always think It’s much tastier and you do away with all of those preservatives and colourings. Today I made one of my favourite home creations and now I’ll share this pasta sauce that I’ve made many times with you.

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This sauce I call spicy salami ragù was originally, just some left-overs. It started out when I opened the fridge and saw half a spicy salami and a courgette looking back at me. I grabbed them and devised this recipe. The ingredients are:

4 inches / 10 cms of spicy salami (similar to Chorizo)

a small courgette

4 gloves of garlic

250g tin of chopped tomatoes (or passata from my worth the work post.

Handful of fresh basil leaves

Chop the salami and courgette in to cubes, slice the garlic and you’re ready to go. I won’t post photos of chopped salami and courgette as I’m sure you can all imagine what they look like. Heat a dry frying pan and add the salami and let it cook and release it’s spicy oil for about 3 minutes then put it aside. Add a drizzle of olive oil to the pan and fry the courgette for another 3 minutes, then add the garlic and cook for a few minutes but don’t let it brown. Add the salami back into the pan and chuck in a pinch of freshly ground black pepper.  Splosh into the pan the tomato sauce/tinned tomatoes and let it simmer for a few minutes before adding the basil. (there’s no need to chop the basil). Take it off the heat and let it cool for a few minutes before pouring the mixture into a blender and switching it on to make a thick sauce.

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Put the pasta of your choice on to cook as per manufacturers directions and reheat the ragù and serve the whole lot in a bowl, cover with a liberal dousing of grated Parmesan and sit down and eat.

The sauce lasts for a week in the refrigerator or can be frozen for use at a later date, but to be honest it’s so quick and easy to make you’re better of having it fresh.

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This is a great way of getting some veggies into children that are stubborn eaters, instead of using a spicy salami, substitute it for 2 pre-cooked sausages.

Limoncello II

Back in 2014 I posted my (then) favourite recipe for making home made limoncello. As the years have passed I’ve been re-educated by an Italian lady who’s family know how to throw together a good lunch with them all cooking up a storm and providing fabulous food.

There’s a few subtle changes to the previous recipe but the most obvious difference is that this recipe takes just 7 days rather than the 40 days for the previous Teramo recipe I was given.

The ingredients are:

5 or 6 large Italian unwaxed lemons or 10 average sized supermarket ones

1 litre of alcohol 95% proof

750g granulated sugar

1.25 litres water

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If you use the small supermarket lemons you’ll need around 10, but the large pale lemons that they sell here are the best as they have more oil in the peel.

You’ll need a large container with a lid in which to make the limoncello and a knife or potato peeler. Once you have everything to hand it’s time to put it all together.

Take off the outer skin of the lemon; I find  using a potato peeler is most effective as you don’t get too much pith, as this will make the liquor bitter.

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You will only need the peel but there’s no need to waste the lemons, they’re still good for cooking or in a G&T or my top tip is juice them and freeze in trays for lemon ice cubes which are perfect on a hot day in your drink.

 

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Once you have all your lemons peeled, add the skins to your container and add the alcohol. Give it swirl around to make sure all the peel is in contact with the spirit, then screw on the lid and put it to one side for 7 days.

You’ll notice after an hour that the spirit has become pale yellow, this is the oil from the lemon peel being absorbed.

 

There’s no need to shake it or stir, but you will notice as the days pass the peel will lose all of its colour until 7 days later when it will be white.

After 7 days it’s time to make the sugar syrup, add just over a litre of cold water into a pan (I use around 1.25 litres), then pour in 750g of white granulated sugar and put a medium heat under it dissolve the sugar. Don’t be tempted to stir it as it’ll make the syrup stringy and will look unattractive in the bottle. When it’s all dissolved allow it to cool down completely. Do something else to take your mind off it, I’m writing this as mine cools and as usual the iPod is on shuffle and Happy People the classic track by jazz/funk combo Brass Construction has started to play.

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Once cooled drain the spirit, you notice that the lemon peel, now devoid of oil has turned white and is quite brittle.

Mix the sugar syrup and spirit and it’ll turn the more recognisable yellow colour that you’ll see in the shops. (I’ve only got coloured glass bottles so for the final image I’ve poured a little into a clear glass jar).

Decant into bottles and store in the fridge. I always keep a small bottle in the freezer to drink it completely chilled. Have fun making this and remember to drink responsibly. By responsibly I mean be sure to share it with friends.

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