The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

Chilli Sherry revisited

A bottle of ouyr homemade chilli sherry

A bottle of ouyr homemade chilli sherry

When I was ten I was given my first glass of sherry. My mother and stepfather threw a drinks party.
“As you are now ten, you can come to the party,” my mother announced with a twinkle. She must have seen my apprehension and added brightly. “You can wear your best dress.”

This dress was dark blue velvet with a lace collar and cuffs. Worn so rarely, it never lost its starchiness.

The run up to the party was intense because my parents had never thrown a drinks party together. They decided to serve the drinks from a small three tiered table that belonged to my mother. A delicate and pretty antique, each inlaid layer a wreath of flowers. The bottles were on the top layer and the glasses on the two layers beneath. A mistake.

I spent ages in my bedroom prinking in front of the long mirror on the wardrobe and finally came slowly down the stairs. The noise from the party was loud. The conversations combined into a melodious roaring. I walked into the room, not knowing what to do. For reassurance I touched the table.

It gave a hefty wobble and seemingly in slow motion crashed to the ground. The silence was sliceable.

As I shot out I heard a chirrup, followed by another and within seconds everyone were happily talking very loudly to each other again. I cringed on the stairs and my mother brought out a small glass of sherry.
“You can’t run away. This is your drink.” She passed me a small glass of sherry. “Take a sip and come back with me now.” I didn’t dare refuse.

I cringed back and spoke to a family friend who seemed really interested in my best subject at school. Despite this kindness I have always loathed drinks parties.

Sherry is a different matter. At my mum’s it’s still the drink of the moment. Always dry and decanted. A great pre lunch toot.

Our chilli sherry is amazing. Years ago a friend encouraged me to make it. A cheap bottle of sherry and 3-4 hot chillies, infused for a month. The problem was I didn’t know what to do with it. My pal had said. “It’s great added to soup on a cold day.” The chilli sherry sat in our mini barn for a year before I dusted it off and put it on the tray beside the cooker. We began to experiment.

This quiet star has often added an edge to my recipes. Great for pepping up sauces (add at the end) and giving that indiscernible depth to a dish (add at the beginning). If you are on a tight budget, a supermarket bottle of dry Montilla infused with hot chillies could be a great addition to your sauce shelf as a little goes a long way. This evening, Danny added a half teaspoonful to the sauce for our sirloin steaks. Superb.

If you have a heavy cold or flu, half a liqueur glass just before you settle down to sleep will give you a clear head for hours.

Sometimes we make small bottles of chilli sherry to give away as Christmas presents. Mark your bottle(s) clearly to avoid surprises.


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  1. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Mel

    I’ve never heard of this. We always use fresh chillies in chilly sherry.

  2. Someone told me that to make chilli sherry sauce, the chillies must be dried first. Something to do with a health risk???? Does any one know if this is correct or not? I have always made it with fresh chillies and to date, not had a problem. But if this is correct, I would like to know……..

  3. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Kay,

    Danny is a chilli whimp too but he loves using this when he makes suaces.

    The idea for soaking prunes in chilli sherry is brilliant. Thanks so much for sharing. Your recipe sounds wonderful too – my mouth is watering as I write this!

  4. Kay Sexton

    I made this on 1 December and put it in the gravy on 25 December and it was brilliant! Mind you, we’re chilli wimps to be honest. Also very good for soaking prunes in before making devils on horseback – I used chilli-sherry soaked prunes and stuffed them with a pistachio and some ricotta cheese before wrapping each one in half a slice of organic bacon and oven cooking – they were very good.

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