Monday, February 21, 2011

Heat in the backyard

In the past two years I've been lucky enough to travel to a couple of places where heat is an integral part of the cuisines on show, Bangkok in 2010 and Delhi-Agra-Jaipur-Mumbai in 2009.

Each country and indeed each region within each country weaves this into their dishes in differing ways, but in most cases the humble chile plays a main part. So this year in a visit to the garden centre I grabbed a few plants and some planter bags and got growing.

this one's a Thai version, Thai Dragon;

Cayenne, Jalapeno and Sweet Banana peppers round out the mix. The Jalapeno are back left, not showing much in the way of chiles as yet.
Thai Dragon, top in the blue bowl, the Cayenne in the green one, and no prizes for guessing the Sweet Banana peppers in the red bowl. The Jalapeno seem to be slowest to come through and are still at the 'just started' point, but I've started harvesting the others.

Checking on the internet I've discovered the following about what I've grown;

Thai Dragon: Scoville units 75,000 - 100,000 meaning 'very' hot, each plant can produce up to 200 chiles in a single season
Cayenne: Scoville units 30,000 - 50,000 meaning hot enough
Jalapeno: Scoville units 2,500 - 5,000, so warmish if you believe the scale and the
Sweet Banana: Scoville units negligible so downright cool

and here's a run down on the Scolville units as advised online

Scoville Units

15,000,000 Pure Capsaicin
5,300,000 Police-Grade Pepper Spray
2,000,000 Common Pepper Spray
855,000 Naga Jolokia
580,000 Red Savina™ Habanero
350,000 Habanero Pepper
325,000 Scotch Bonnet Pepper
200,000 Jamaican Hot Pepper
100,000 Thai Pepper
50,000 Cayenne Pepper
30,000 Manzano Pepper
23,000 Serrano Pepper
10,000 Chipotle Pepper
8,000 Jalapeno Pepper
5,000 Tabasco™ Sauce
2,500 Rocotilla Pepper
2,000 Ancho Pepper
2,000 Poblano Pepper
1,000 Coronado Pepper
500 Pepperoncini Pepper
500 Pimento
0 Sweet Bell Pepper

So based on this it now looks like I'll have a whole heap of very hot chiles available to me to use, looks like some trawling through the internet is ahead of me, any ideas, I'll happily take them.

cheers all

Missed my first blog of the year? the January one, yes I did miss writing it......

So I sat down in late December 2010 and said that one of my goals for 2011 was to be more efficient at adding new posts to this blog, at least one per month I comitted to, and here it is the 21st of February and I'm just starting the January post. How did that much time go by?

Well for starters, since we got back from Miami it's been a blur, Zoe jetted off almost straight away for her final training and then she was signed off by Cathy and so is now leading Advanced Courses, the Communication Course and is still the Operations Manager, which means that last weekend was the one she was home for out of the seven weekend prior to and following (three each side)

And last weekend we also had friends in from Brisbane (ex-Wellingtonians) so the foodie tour went into full swing. Apparently Brisbane is a bit of a foodie wasteland which seems strange to me but if anyone was going to find good food it would be Lydia. And she reports back that Yum Ch is poor there, the markets and stores well short of the Moore Wilson and open weekend markets we have.

So anyway, having established my reason why not and having bored you with "I'm so busy" heres an update.

While Zoe travels the kids and I often indulge in sticky chicken wings, not really a recipe, much more a mindset. (Zoe's not keen on this option as she doesn't like 'sweet sauces on meat')

It's always fairly simple, a tray or more of nibbles, wings or even small drumsticks marinated in a combination of sauces, herbs, spices and flavours (normally in a snaplock bag as that allows me to roll the chicken around and get everything coated completely) for several hours and then baked slowly in a medium heat oven or on the barbeque

(useful hint here - use a tinfoil baking dish, they are cheap and easy to use and you can just throw them away at the end)

The latest lot were a tray of nibbles ($15 the tray at AE Prestons in town), the marinade included, sokey BBQ sauce, a Jamaican chicken and honey baste), crushed garlic - about a tablespoon, Hoisin sauce (makes it quite sticky) a chilli sauce from the back of the fridge I re-found recently, lots of freshly ground black pepper and some Sambal Olek to punch it all up a bit.

Combine all of that (and the additions are endless, soy, oyster sauce, garlic and black bean, Char Siu, worcestershire, mustard - either as a powder or a made variety etc etc) with about 1/4 cup oil to prevent the chicken to stick to the pan too much and then pour the marinade over the chicken in the bag.

A couple of hours later, I poured all this into the big pan and placed in the oven, pre-heated to 180. Gave it all about 30 minutes, then mixed it through, getting the nibbles coated again.

Another 30 minutes and I then poured off the extra fat/oil that's released and lowered the heat to about 100 degrees and gave it all another 30 minutes.

One final mix and then let the chicken 'rest' in the turned off oven for 15 minutes and served up with with a simple green salad Bryn and I had dinner and leftovers for the next day.

As I've said above, the options are endless and I have never writen down a recipe for this as I dont always have the same sauces or herbs etc each time I make - but here are my basic rules;
1 - make sure there's a base sauce, normally a tomato or steak/bbq style
2 - some level of sweet sauce, Asian preferably, something that will add the 'sticky'
3 - something spicy, Rocket sauce, a chilli paste, this will blend down unless you overdo it, but should be a lingering sense on the mouth
4 - spices, garlic, ginger, pepper etc
5 - let it all sit blended then add to the chicken and let the mix sit for as long as you can
6 - the resting in the oven at the end allows the final glaze thicken slightly

and finally - eat with your fingers and have a wet napkin at hand, you should need it if it's all worked out well