I'm not successful when I try and grow chilli plants from seed. Everything starts off well, and I give my surplus plantlets away to friends. A few weeks later, when my plants are beginning to look peaky, I spot the giveaways flourishing in their gardens. It's maddening. Last year one friend even complained that she had a glut!
So I supply the neighbourhood but am forced to cheat with chilli plants at home. By mid July, when it's clear that all hope is lost, I drive to a good garden centre. If I'm lucky, I'll find a large chilli plant, covered with flowers for under a fiver. I put it in my greenhouse and it thrives. On the garden tour no one as yet has admired my chilli plant, so for the past three years I haven't had to lie.
We consume a lot of chillies. And using our own, albeit adopted, gives me enormous pleasure. When we go away to southern Europe I search for chillies to bring home so that there is a tiny piece of that place in our larder. Sunnier climates produce great chillies.
We harvest our chillies before the first frosts and string them up on long lengths of cotton to dry. Using a darning needle, tether the chillies through their stalks along the thread, making sure that they are spaced out well and do not touch. We hang them across a window for several weeks until they are completely dry and store them in air tight jars in a cool dry place. We always keep a few fresh chillies back to make chilli sherry.
Chilli sherry is a great way of pepping up sauces, stir fries and soup. Sometimes we use a tiny dash of chilli sherry in a salad dressing or a casserole. A few of the little Como peppers are going straight into a bottle of dry sherry this evening.
If you are handling chillies be careful to wash your hands thoroughly afterwards. Oliver, a friend of ours, forgot to do this and went for a pee with painful consequences.
|Best Chilli Sherry recipe||
- 1x75 ml bottle of dry sherry (medium price range)
- 4 hot fresh chilli peppers (we've used dried ones in the past. They work but not quite as well)
- Pour yourself a glass of sherry to drink whilst you prepare this potent recipe.
- Wash the peppers well and put into the sherry. Reseal bottle.
- Leave to seep for at least a month before using.
- Label clearly and keep away from the drinks tray.
- Sometimes if I have a bad cold I take a small glass before bed as it clears the head in seconds.
Tips and tricks:
The longer you seep the chillies the stronger the flavour.
We have a vintage bottle of chilli sherry complete with chillis (three years old). A tiny sip clears the nose like lightening when you have a cold.
On the health front, chillies can be beneficial if eaten in moderation. They have antioxidant and anti inflammatory properties and are even supposed to improve the quality of your sleep.
If you can find some pretty bottles, chilli sherry makes a good and original Christmas present.
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