piri piri sauce

A Hot Piri Piri Sauce

This has been on my list for a long time; not a cooking sauce, or a milder sploshing sauce, like you might get at Nandos, but more like one of the small bottled hot sauces you get in Portugal, used in drops, slightly salty and with lots of lemon. Portuguese Macarico and Brazilian Quinta D’avo are examples of this type of sauce which carry the general tag of molho picante, which means, well, hot sauce. That name doesn’t carry much information, but at least it differentiates between those and cooking sauces.

piri piri sauce

Piri Piri Sauce

I experimented with some extra flavours, such as bay leaf and oregano, but the flavours I wanted to get were lemons, and the sharp heat of the piri piri, which has hints of sweetcorn when dried so in the end I left out the herbs. The saltiness has always been a characteristic I have noticed in these sauces too, so I used a bit extra there.

I am a big fan of piri piri as written before so I have a good supply of them. I have some from last year which were dried, and I powdered these so I could pack in as much piri piri as possible. This also helps a lot with the consistency. This has actually turned out to be a pretty hot sauce, lets say these piri piri are about 80-100,000 SHU, and in 40g of powder there are probably about 140 chillies, that with a dozen fresh ones means they average out at about 80 chillies per 140ml bottle. A lot hotter than making a sauce with 5 or 6 fresh habs per bottle.

piri piri for recipe

Sometimes when we are looking for a real citrus flavour there is a temptation to add more and more juice when a lot of the flavour is in the skin, so I have used a whole lemon in this. I think it is this that gives this sauce some individuality, it is evident even from the boiling mix that there is lots of herby lemon, even before you taste it.

Ingredients (makes just over two 140ml bottles)

  • 40g piri piri powder
  • 12 fresh piri piri
  • 100ml white wine vinegar
  • 200ml water
  • 1 whole lemon
  • 1 heaped teaspoon salt

I used a very high powered blender for this, it smashes up the seeds and deals with the lemon easily. You may need to boil more and filter the bits out if you don’t have a decent blender.

Wash and roughly chop the lemon and the fresh chillies. Add all the ingredients together in a blender and blend them until they are smooth.

Add to a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Simmer for 10 minutes stirring frequently.

If you think it isn’t smooth enough, blend it again, wash out the saucepan to remove bits then return it to the pan for a final heat, which helps remove the air bubbles and makes it easier to bottle. Add a little extra water if it is looking too thick at this stage.

Funnel it into sterilised bottles.

I have based the quantities in this recipe around using a single lemon, which conveniently fills about two 140ml bottles. If there is a little left over stick it in the fridge and use it in a milder cooking sauce within a couple of weeks.

This is a preserved sauce, salty with high acidity, and should last years in the bottle as long as the top doesn’t get too claggy.







Chilli cook-off

Slovenian Chilli Festival – Lepa Zoga Ljubljana

I have spent the last 6 days in Slovenia, mostly in the capital Ljubljana, but also a visit to a friends farm and vineyard plus a trip to the mountains. The main reason for my journey, however, was to visit a chilli festival to promote the Slovenian language translations of my books, the most recent of which has just been released.

Kuhajmo s Cilijem & Gojenje Cilijev

The guys from Ebesede publishers selling Kuhajmo s Cilijem & Gojenje Cilijev

European chilli festivals are becoming a habit, only two weeks previously I was in Brno, Czech Republic, for a festival which you can read about here. I must say that they were both a real pleasure, and this one in Ljubljana, whilst quite small was a really friendly and laid back day out.

I wasn’t sure what to expect of the chilli industry in Slovenia, I knew there were a few growers, and a few sauce makers, and that they are roughly following along the now established lines of… small greenhouse grower/start at farmer’s markets/get some bigger tunnels/make more sauce/grow hotter chillies/make an extract sauce/put chillies in other stuff… much as we have done in the UK. Rather surprisingly, the wholesale side of growing of fresh chillies & peppers, broadly covered by the word paprika in that part of the world, doesn’t happen much in Slovenia. Maybe this is because a little further south or east in Macedonia and Hungary, they traditionally grow huge amounts, and this is what supplies the shops and veg markets of Slovenia whilst the Slovenians themselves concentrate on crops such as grapes, more grapes, pumpkin, corn and buckwheat.


The artisan side of chilli growing is thriving though, with the well established companies growing the full range of heats and flavours and manufacturing sauces to a highly professional standard. Slovenia has some fairly stringent rules when it comes to food manufacture. You can’t use your home kitchen if you are going to sell stuff. You must have a separate HACCP approved production facility, albeit a basic one. This creates a barrier to entry into the market that we don’t have in the UK where a quick sign off with the health inspector allows us to cook and sell low risk products in our own kitchens with less fuss. So while the number of companies that have taken the plunge is limited, they tend to hit the ground running because they have either made a significant investment, or they are farmers with existing facilities, usually from wine making. Products look good, they all seem to be machine labelled, they are properly blended to give good consistency and with an appealing range of flavours. Maybe the dedication towards creating a desirable flavour appeal has rolled over from the wine industry too.

Chilli cook-off

Chilli cook-off

Chilli companies have attended food markets in Slovenia for years, but I gather that this was the first dedicated chilli festival and it went down really well. It was held at a slightly off-the-wall sports bar/cafe called Lepa Zoga. This was exactly the right kind of place for it; informal, good beer, a great reputation locally for gourmet burgers and hotdogs, and used to organising sports and music events. The venue incorporates the courtyard of something that reminded me of an American style balconied motel, which I think was some kind of barracks at some time or another.

Lepa Zoga cili fest

Lepa Zoga cili fest

Lepa Zoga loved it, and so did the 500 or so visitors. Unusually things kicked off early, at 9am, with stalls and a chilli cook-off which was judged around midday. This was great as it meant there was not as much competition for peoples time and it attracted not only the real chilli lovers, but lots of casual interest too. It should have finished at noon, but everyone was happy to carry n till about 4pm, and I’m sure there were a few who stayed into the evening.

Another unusual thing was that they didn’t have a chilli eating competition, I’m not a fan of them, although I don’t tire of watching the antics. Without one, this festival took on a more relaxed atmosphere; no anticipation of any macho show of strength, and no peak in expectation either. So often at a chilli festival the eating contest is the highlight, and after that everyone trips off home much like an English pub abruptly shutting its doors at 11pm, where this one casually continued on to reach a natural conclusion, as is traditional in Ljubljana cafes.

There was also a competition for the best sauce, which was won by CiliPipp, the most established grower and sauce maker, seed supplier etc. They have been going for 7 years, and for a while enjoyed all the TV and radio publicity that goes along with being a pioneer, until the competition came along; Tomaz Pipp’s story sounded very familiar to me. Gorki Chili is another established company, and I also met a few others selling chilli chocolate cakes, bread, and most interestingly a really successful and active cooperative group cili.si that not only make sauces but pool their surplus fresh ones to sell for charity.

Cili.si at Lepa Zoga cili fest

Cili.si at Lepa Zoga cili fest

Ljubljana itself is a bit of a secret destination, recent pedestrianisation of the centre now shows the city at its best, and it is quite stunning.



It is only 2 hours and a few quid away from Luton or Stanstead with cheap airlines, and what you get is Venice without the horrible pigeons and the 8 euro coffee. There is no hassle from street vendors and you don’t have to go to the back streets to eat where the locals do, they eat by the river with lovely views of the castle and all the beautiful bridges and buildings because nobody, and no restaurant will rip you off in Ljubljana. Outside of the city is a mecca for mountain walking, climbing, cycling or just enjoying the great outdoors. This is one of those countries where you can ski in the morning and nip down to the beach for a sunbathe in the afternoon. It won’t stay secret for long so get in quick, in fact there is another chilli festival this weekend.

Gojenje Cilijev - Slovenian Translation

Gojenje Cilijev – Growing Chillies in Slovenia


I know that since the Slovenian translation of Growing Chillies – Gojenje Cilijev came out in April I have an increasing number of blog readers from Slovena. Although you have a translation of my book I am afraid that wasn’t down to me, the kind people at Ebesede did this, so I can’t help by translating all the content here into Slovenian, but I hope you can understand most of it if you need to!

I will be visiting Ljublijana from 18-21st September 2015 to coincide with the release of Kuhajmo S Cilijem – Which will be released around this time.


You can come along and get signed books at the Cili Festival, https://www.facebook.com/CiliFestival this will be held at Lepi Žogi, Ljublijana on Saturday 19th September 2015. There is going to be a chilli cooking competition and a hot sauce competition too.




Chillibrani Chilli Festival – Brno, Czech Republic

I thought it might be interesting to tell people about a recent visit I made to the Czech Republic and to their ‘Chillibrani’ Chilli Festival (Chillibrani means ‘chilli harvest’). I was invited by my publisher there as my Growing Chillies book has recently been translated into Czech, and we went along to the festival to have a look, deliver a talk and sign some books. If ever you find yourself in that part of the world, or fancy an easy and interesting weekend away this is well worth considering.

Jak Pestovat Chilli Booth

Jak Pestovat Chilli Booth

For those that have visited chillifestivals in the UK, nothing at Chillibrani will come as much of a surprise, but it is still a very worthwhile and rewarding festival. Many of the same traditions are seen there, lots of sauce makers offering tastings, various growing companies offering seeds, growing equipment, some fresh chillies for sale, music, beer, food and or course a chilli eating contest.

Chillibrani, Brno 2015

Chillibrani, Brno 2015

The festival was in the city of Brno, a couple of hours south of Prague; a very pleasant, cultured and laid back place. The Czechs are a little newer to the idea of chilli festivals than us. The popularity of growing chillies hasn’t quite reached the level that we have in the UK, but they are following the same timeline in the way it is developing, just a year or two behind us. I think because of that, this and one or two other chilli festivals (this one is in its second year) are enjoying patronage from all the various chilli businesses in Czech, as well as lots of visitors, while in the UK festivals have become so frequent that they are often somewhat under-attended with an incomplete set of exhibitors, and with some festivals looking a little empty because of it or not surviving at all. Not so in Czech, this festival had 4000 visitors, around 50 exhibitors, two stages, lots of interesting talks and demos along with a huge and vociferously supported chilli eating contest. The visitors were a real mix of people, not just hardened chilli heads, but also a lot of people who saw it as a good way of spending an afternoon in the sunshine eating and drinking.

Apart from chillies, there was plenty of good food, Indian, Czech, excellent burgers, cooked meats and plenty of beer. The beer there, needless to say, is fantastic; a few different brewery outlets offered a range of pilsner, lager, weissbier, and a couple of ales and stouts. All of these for sale for less than £1 for a half litre (don’t all rush at once, Brits have a reputation to shed in Czech Republic as far as anti-social beer drinking goes!).

The main difference I observed was in the chilli eating contest. There is a fundamental difference here which I think the Czech people need to learn, or maybe not, as it was quite entertaining. In the UK, and I think the USA too, the rules pretty much forbid the eating or drinking of anything other than the chillies put in front of you so that if you reach for yogurt/bread/water/beer or whatever, you are disqualified. In Czech, the competitors are given an equal amount of bread each, and I think 3 bottles of water. They can use this as they please until they run out, and only if they reach for yogurt are they disqualified. This makes for a very protracted event, with most of the competitors still completely happy up to round 6 or 8, which is well into the hotter habs and the super hot ones. With a lot of ceremony, winding up of the audience, interviews with competitors etc. between each round this shenanigans carried on for two hours and still there were a handful left of the 50 that started, all awaiting round 11, the 6.5 mil SHU extract sauce. At two hours I think competitors faces and digestive tracts were so numb that nothing could sort the men from the boys, or even the young girl, that remained in the line-up. So there was a round 12 and 13, each with increasing amounts of extract sauce, 30ml, 45ml, and each spoon with some roughly chopped Carolina Reaper or similar thrown in to give them something to chew on. At two hours and 10 minutes I think it was more about competitive bladder control than chilli eating and a few dropped out. Finally what separated the two remaining competitors was that one ran out of bread and water so with nothing to cleanse his palate he was off, leaving last year’s runner up the victor.

If you fancy a trip to Brno, it has a lovely city center with trams, cobbled streets, lovely architecture and a friendly selection of cafes and bars. If you go there don’t miss ‘the bones’ an ossuary under the main drag which holds the bones of 50,000 bodies exhumed from graves in the middle ages to save space in what was a walled city and stowed away in crypts, only to be sealed, lost, then rediscovered about 20 years ago.

Brno Czech Republic

Brno, Czech Republic

The chilli festival has a website http://www.chillibrani.cz/ This year (2015) it took place on Saturday 5th September and I think next year will be around that time too.

Sliced Cajun Belle Pepper

Cajun Belle

One of the varieties I have grown for the first time this year is Cajun Belle. I wanted a frying pepper, something that I could stuff or chop fairly freely into my cooking that gave a bit of heat, but also acted as a substitute for heat free bell peppers.

Cajun Belle Peppers

Cajun Belle Peppers

I sampled a few the other day, but today I did the first big pick off of 3 plants. I didn’t pick all of them, only the red ones and a few green. I’d say that currently there is an average of 25 full grown pods on each plant. That is pretty prolific as I’m going to get at least the same again before the year is out. Generally they are 6-8 cm long and 4 cm across so these are really heavy croppers. They look just like mini sweet peppers but quite thin walled and heat-wise they are probably about 3-4000 SHU.

The plants are generally upright and only about 60cm tall, so they are heavily laden with fruit by the time of the first pick and some of the stems need separate support.

Cajun Belle Green

Cajun Belle Green

So my verdict is these are a real winner if this is the type of chilli you want.

  • Quick and easy germination
  • heavy cropper
  • Seed to fruit (green) in 17 weeks (in average greenhouse conditions)
  • Tasty and with a bit of heat
  • Thin walled so the can be easily stuffed

The seeds came from Nicky’s Nursery I would dispute some of the stats on the description there, 61 days to fruit from seed is a bit of a tall order for any chilli. From ‘planting out’ as they say in the USA, maybe, but from seed, I don’t think so, that would have meant picking at the beginning of May for me, which I have never done with any chilli or pepper plant. That said, Cajun Belle is really prolific and I would definitely recommend them, and I will be growing them again next year.

Cajun Belle Chilli Open

Cajun Belle Chilli Open

Salsa Macha

Salsa Macha – Filling, Indulgent and not too Healthy

Salsa Macha Web

Salsa Macha

It is cold outside, Friday night is only hours away, and we need to kick it off with something a bit filling, satisfying and indulgent.

I can’t think of a recipe with such a fatty list of ingredients, (although I’ve seen a lot worse on the ingredients list of dips picked off the supermarket shelves), and worse still it is easy to polish off an awful lot of this stuff in a very short space of time. But hey-ho, this is an extremely versatile cooking sauce, dip or marinade; akin to satay sauce, but with a spicy and smoky taste. Traditionally it is heavy on chipotles, but I find that using a large proportion of the widely available chipotle morita is too overpoweringly smoky and gives it a burnt flavour. So I usually use less of them, or milder home-smoked chillies, as well as guajillo powder.


150g crunchy peanut butter

3 chipotle moritas (probably more if you have smoked the chillies yourself and they are less intense)

4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped.

100ml olive oil

2 tbsp brown sugar

2 tbsp sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar

2 tsp guajillo chilli powder

1 tsp sesame oil


This is almost a cheat’s recipe, as it uses peanut butter to dispense with the need to blend nuts into the sauce, but this doesn’t seem to affect the flavour and it makes the recipe so simple I am more likely to use it.

Soak the chipotles in a small amount of hot water for about 20 minutes, then take them from the water and chop them finely. Or you can grind them into a powder if you have a spice or coffee grinder.

In a small saucepan mix all the ingredients together and bring to the boil, simmer it for a minute or two whilst stirring constantly. Transfer to a bowl and leave to cool, as it cools the sauce will thicken.

This is a rich and tasty dip when served with corn chips or pitta breads. It is also a great thing to pour over barbecued meat, as you would chicken satay, but to my mind the extra smoked chilli gives it the edge.

Mango & Chilli Hot Sauce

Mango & Habanero Sauce

I’m embarking on my 3rd batch of this sauce since the summer, it has definitely become the sauce of choice in our household.

This fruity recipe will make what most people would consider to be a hot West Indian or Belize-style sauce. Some aficionados will think it is a little weak though, so there is no harm in adding more chillies, even doubling or tripling the number of chillies used without changing the quantities of the other ingredients.


200g mango
100g grated carrot (preferably small or
baby carrots)
100g white onion, chopped
50g white sugar
5 x orange or yellow habanero or scotch
bonnet chillies
150ml water
200ml cider vinegar
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1cm cube fresh ginger, chopped
½ tsp salt

Use baby carrots if you can get hold of them, or at least small ones that aren’t woody and tough. If you are using fresh mango, remove the flesh and chop it into pieces. One large mango should do, but buy two just in case, you can eat the leftovers. You can alternatively use a tin of mango pieces; if you do so, use the stuff tinned in juice rather than syrup, a
400g tin should give you just over 200g of flesh with a few pieces left as a snack.
Chop the onion, garlic, ginger and chillies and grate the carrot. Add to a pan with the salt, water, mango pieces, vinegar and sugar. Bring to the boil and simmer with the lid on for about 30 minutes. Keep an eye on it, don’t let the mixture boil dry or thicken beyond a watery slush, add a little more water if need be.
The mango should break down quite quickly, and eventually the onion will soften too. Transfer to a blender and blend this
mixture to a smooth thick creamy liquid. Alternatively use a stick blender to do this in the saucepan. Don’t be shy, you are after a perfectly smooth finish and you can’t blend it too much; the more you do it the less likely the sauce is to separate into solid and liquid. If you use a separate blender, rinse your saucepan while it is empty, you will be returning the mixture to boil again so you need to make sure that stray lumps don’t mess up your smoothness. You may find there are some persistent stringy mango threads too, so remove these using a fork, they probably won’t break down much further and will only clog up your bottles.
If the liquid looks too thick, you can add a little extra water during the final simmer. You then need to bottle it in sterilized bottles, clean them, boil them in water for 10 minutes, then drain them. There are lots more tips and instructions on bottling and sterilization in my ‘Cooking Chillies’ Book, together with other hot sauce recipes.

Mango & Chilli Hot Sauce

Green Chilli and Green Bean Salad

Green Chilli and Green Bean Salad

Another recipe from ‘Cooking Chillies’ book. I made this probably for the last time in a while as I have picked what are probably the last of the dwarf beans from my greenhouse until the spring. There are still some green chillies to pick too, but the ones i used today were pre-skinned and came out of the freezer.

The thick flesh of the chillies, the filling beans and the avocado together with a mouth-watering dressing make this not just a side salad, but a hearty meal that stands on its own merits. Serve it while the beans and chillies are still slightly warm from steaming for the best flavours.

250g fresh dwarf French beans

3 large green chillies (New Mexico, Anaheim or Romano peppers)

1 avocado

1 large beef tomato, chopped

50g parmesan cheese, grated or crumbled

2 spring onions, finely chopped

1 small jalapeno chilli, finely chopped

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 tbsp white wine vinegar

1 tbsp fresh coriander, chopped

Juice of ½ a lime

1 tsp dried oregano

½ tsp salt

Grill the green chillies and remove the skins, stems and the seeds inside.

Prepare the dressing in a small bowl using the vinegar, oil, coriander, oregano and salt. Add the finely chopped spring onions and jalapeno.

Steam the beans until they start to go limp, normally around 4-6 minutes depending on how big they are. Cut the chillies into strips and just at the point the beans are starting to bend easily add the pepper strips and steam for another minute. Be careful not to steam the beans to the point where they start to lose their dark green colour and go pale. Transfer the beans and chilli strips to a serving bowl and leave to cool for a few minutes while you chop the avocado and tomato.

When the beans and chilli strips have stopped steaming, but while still slightly warm, stir in the parmesan, followed by the avocado, tomato and dressing.

Green Chilli and Green Bean Salad

Green Chilli and Green Bean Salad

Spicy squash chilli soup

Spicy Squash Soup

Spicy squash chilli soup

Spicy Squash Soup

This is one of the most regular things I cook so I thought I’d share the recipe. Spicy, warming, smooth and creamy; a warming and filling winter soup, the ancho powder gives a great depth of flavour without making this too hot.


1 large or two small butternut squash (about 1kg
of flesh)
150g white onion, chopped
500ml water
200ml double cream
100g carrots, grated
25g salted butter
1 clove of garlic, chopped
10g ancho powder
1 vegetable stock cube
1 tbsp olive oil
½ tsp cumin powder
½ tsp salt


In a large saucepan, soften the onions, garlic and carrot in the butter and oil. Cut the flesh of the squash into small cubes and when
the onions have softened, add the squash, water, stock cube, ancho powder, cumin and salt.

Bring to the boil and simmer for about 30 minutes. Transfer to a blender and blend until smooth, alternatively use a stick blender

directly into the pan.

Transfer back into the pan if need be, add the cream and bring back to a simmer before serving.

You can find this one alongside lots of other delicious things in my new book, ‘Cooking Chillies – Recipes and Ideas to Make the most of a Chilli Harvest.’