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Patchwork recipes: Hot 'n' spicy

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Posted on September 2, 2010 | Blog Category:
By Barbara Ganley



NOTE: Do take care when handling hot peppers, especially cutting and deseeding them. Wash your hands carefully after working with them or wear rubber gloves. Avoid touching your eyes after handling them!


Hot Chile Oil
Adapted from “River Cottage Preserves Handbook”
Makes 2 cups

  • One and three quarters cups olive oil (some cooks prefer to use a neutral oil, such as grapeseed or corn)
  • Handful of fresh hot chiles, split open (how many and what kind are up to you — experiment!)
  • One teaspoon black peppercorns (sometimes I use red)
  • A pint canning jar, sterilized and dried.

Pack the chiles and peppercorns into the jar. Heat the olive oil (you won’t use quite all of it, but it’s good to have enough—I use the leftover bit in that day’s cooking) to 104 degrees and pour over the peppers. Let it infuse for a couple of weeks, then strain and rebottle.


 

Chili Powder

You will have to play around with the kinds of chiles and the balance between them and the garlic powder, cumin and oregano until you come up with your own pleasing version that suits the dish.

  • Mix of dried chiles — I usually use ancho, New Mexican and Thai with a pasilla thrown in for good measure.
  • Cumin seeds
  • Dried oregano
  • Garlic powder (pinch)

Toast the chiles and cumin in a skillet over medium heat, shaking the pan to make sure they don’t burn. Once they become fragrant and a bit brown, add the oregano and garlic powder. Cook for just a few moments then cool and grind in a spice grinder (or coffee grinder). If you don’t need a fine powder, use a mortar and pestle for the grinding.


 

Harissa

Hot chili paste used in North African cuisine; I use it in sautéed greens, couscous, chicken marinades, on sandwiches, atop pizza…

Note: North African sources seem to use no or few tomatoes in their recipes; American and British recipes include the tempering sweetness of tomatoes. All use both caraway and coriander seeds. I mix it up a bit here. For excellent traditional harissa recipes, see Claudia Roden’s “The New Book of Middle Eastern Food” and Paula Wolffert’s “The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen” (she has a terrific Tunisian one with rose petals and cinnamon).

Makes about a half cup

  • 2 ounces fresh hot chiles (You can also make it with dried chiles toasted and rehydrated in hot water. Play around with the flavors and heat of your chiles.
  • 2 sundried tomatoes packed in olive oil
  • 2 large cloves garlic (or to taste)
  • 2 fat shallots
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon caraway seeds
  • one half teaspoon coarse salt
  • Olive oil
  • Lemon juice

De-stem the chiles and remove all or some of the seeds and membrane if you are concerned about the heat (most of the heat resides in the seeds). Mince by hand or food processor. Mince the tomatoes and the shallots.

In a mortar and pestle, grind the caraway and coriander and salt to a coarse powder (you can also use powdered spices though they won’t carry the same heady perfume). Add the garlic and mash, then the chiles, tomatoes and shallots, working until they all come together into a paste. You can also use a food processor after hand-grinding the spices.

Taste and add a splash or two of lemon juice or oil from your sundried tomatoes or extra olive oil to bind the flavors and thin if the paste is too thick. Place in a small pot on the stove, bring to a simmer and cook 10-15 minutes. Pack into a sterilized jar, leaving an inch of headroom. Cover completely with olive oil. Seal and store in the refrigerator or freeze.

 

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