Broccoli, sugar snap peas & green beans with a kefir green chile sauce


At the Chile Trail, you know we’re all about clean living. In fact, I wrote a book on it. Ok, maybe I didn’t actually write a book, but I thought about it. Very seriously, thought about it. And exercise? I live for it. Only last week, I parked the car in the driveway instead of the garage and walked all the way to the front door.

For a moment I knew what it was like to be an Olympic athlete.

So I don’t mess around when it comes to eating my vegetables. I’m all over them. Can’t get enough of them. Pile my plate full of them. Except for Brussel sprouts, but we all have our limits. Maybe at Christmas but that’s it. And Thanksgiving. But then I draw the line.

The key with veg is not to boil the living daylights out of them. They’re vegetables for heaven’s sake, not your sworn enemy. It’s a kitchen, not the Spanish inquisition. Treat them gently. Blanch them – fancy talk for cooking quickly in boiling water, or roast them or stir fry. But don’t do what my Granny did and boil them until they’re limp and grey. Nobody likes a grey vegetable. Not even me.

Note: Kefir is a fermented milk drink that is pretty easy to find in supermarkets or health food shop. If you can’t, you could substitute buttermilk.

Makes 4 servings

1 head of broccoli, florets only

4 oz sugar snap peas

4 oz green beans

1 cup/8 oz kefir

1-2 tsp green chile sauce

1 lime, zest only

Salt

To make the kefir green chile sauce, mix together the kefir, one teaspoon of the green chile sauce and the lime zest. Set aside and taste in 10 minutes. Add another teaspoon if you’d like some more heat and season with salt. Set aside until you’re ready to serve.

Bring a pot of water to the boil. Salt the water generously. Blanch the sugar snap peas until just cooked but still crispy. Remove them from the pan, place in a colander and rinse under very cold water. Repeat with the green beans and then finally the broccoli. Place on a plate lined with a dish towel or paper towel and gently pat them dry.

Place the vegetables on a serving platter, drizzle with the kefir green chile sauce and serve any extra sauce on the side.

 

 

 

Chile rubbed beef ribs

Do you want the good news or the bad news? Let’s go with the good news first, shall we? The shortest day of the year is done and dusted. That was on December 21st, in case you were stuck at the office Christmas party and didn’t notice. Spare a thought for Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland which has a whopping 4:07 hours of sunlight on the shortest day of the year. But I checked, and it rained there that day so the 4+ hours is probably a bit on the optimistic side.

The bad news? Winter isn’t done yet. Officially it’s not over until March 20th. It feels like Winter might be overstaying its welcome, don’t you think? What if we asked Spring to arrive sooner and ‘encouraged’ Winter to take a well deserved early retirement? And face it, just because the calendar says Spring doesn’t mean Winter won’t be holding on to us with his/her grubby little mittens.

Winter is sleet, snow tires, colds, flu, Christmas credit card bills and down coats so large they make you feel like the Michelin man. But – and there’s always a but – it’s also slow cooked food that simmers so long in the oven that it makes you want to weep when you take your first bite. This isn’t food for a Spring or Summer day – this is hearty, stick to your ribs, “I ain’t going out in that” weather food.

So buck up. Winter isn’t for wimps but these chile rubbed beef ribs are.

2-3 Servings

3 lbs beef ribs

1 clove garlic

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp ground ginger

¼ tsp Chile de Arbol powder (Cayenne pepper)

1 tsp Chile Chipotle powder

1 Tbsp brown sugar

Sea salt

Preheat oven to 250°F

Using a mortar and pestle, pound the garlic and cumin seeds together until the seeds are crushed and the garlic is a paste. (If you don’t have a mortar and pestle, you can finely chop the garlic and blitz the cumin seeds in a spice mill) Add in the ginger, chile de arbol, chipotle chile and brown sugar and mix.

Rub the marinade into the beef ribs, coating all the surfaces. Wrap each rib snugly in plastic wrap or place in a container with a cover. Refrigerate overnight. Remove from the refrigerator, unwrap and sprinkle each rib with some sea salt. Heat an oven proof pan on the stove to medium high heat. Sear each rib on all sides so it is nicely browned. Cover and place in a low oven or you can cook these in a slow cooker. Cook until the meat is tender and falling off the bone –at least three hours.

Serve warm with mashed potatoes or creamy polenta. It’s even better – if that’s possible – the next day.

 

Venison chile stew with winter vegetables

Whoever created the endless Christmas soundtrack you hear every time you walk into a shop post-Halloween, has a lot to answer for. Bing, Frank, Nat and Co. must literally be rolling in their graves as the holiday season approaches. And spare a thought for the shop staff who are subjected to this torture every day. Surely the UN Human Rights Convention has something to say about this?

Yes, we know the weather outside is frightful. Yes, we know the fire is so delightful. So go ahead and snow already. And don’t even get me started on Frosty…

The only solution is to tune out and hunker down. Close the curtains and stoke the fire. Rustle up something hearty and warming to ease your way through a day that’s more dark than light. Find the advent calendar tucked in a box in the attic. Deck the halls – okay, forget that last one but you get what I mean.

It’s the perfect season for a stew laced with chile and winter vegetables. The great thing about this dish – and trust me, there is a long list – is that the longer it cooks, the better it tastes. I’ve used venison here but you could substitute beef or pork. The red wine creates a rich sauce that hugs the meat like a warm embrace.

Winter vegetables? Potatoes, carrots and turnips – baby ones if you can find them – are a natural but you could use parsnips, hard squashes or leeks too. This makes a big enough batch for a spot of pre-holiday entertaining or you can freeze the leftovers to tide you over during the long nights ahead.

Serve with a glass of red wine, a salad with a tart, mustardy dressing and silence. Sounds like heaven, doesn’t it?

Venison chile stew with winter vegetables

Serves 4-6

2 lbs. diced venison

1 red onion, diced

1 clove garlic, minced

½ cup flour, seasoned with salt & pepper

½ cup tomato puree

½ bottle red wine

1 Chile Mulato

1 Chile Negro

7oz baby turnips

10oz carrots (about 4 medium)

10oz small potatoes (about 15 or 16)

Olive oil

Salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 250º

Gently sauté the onion in olive oil in a deep, heavy, oven proof casserole dish until the onion is soft but not brown. Add the garlic and cook for an additional minute or two. Remove from the casserole and set aside. Dredge the venison in the flour and brown in olive oil in the casserole. Don’t overcrowd the pan – you’ll need to do this three or four batches depending on the size of the pan. When you’ve browned all the venison, deglaze the pan with some of the red wine, scrapping up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan.

Add back in the onions, garlic, and browned venison. Stir in the tomato puree and more wine until the meat is just covered. Add in the two dried chiles, cover and place in the oven and cook for 3 hours or more, until the venison is tender.

While the venison is cooking, prep the vegetables. Peel the carrots and slice on an angle into chunks. Scrub the potatoes and the turnips. Either steam or blanch the vegetables until just cooked through.

Take the casserole from the oven and remove the two dried chiles. Taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning. The chile should be warming but mellow but of course add in additional chile powder if you want more of a hit. The sauce should be thick and coat the meat. If not, strain out the meat and reduce the sauce on the stove top. Add in the vegetables and stir to coat with the red wine sauce and serve with any baby turnip leaves, chopped.

Chipotle roasted pumpkin with borlotti beans, green onions and avocado

Go ahead. Say it. I know you’re thinking it, so might as well. You think I’m a curmudgeon. A party pooper. A kill joy. See that wasn’t so difficult was it? And all because of one simple thing: I’ve had it up to here with Halloween.

I can hear the collective gasps. The shaking of heads. The pursing of lips and knowing glances. But if I’m the Ebenezer Scrooge of Halloween, then so be it. Halloween? No thanks.

What’s my problem? It’s simple. Halloween has gone way overboard and OTT. It used to be kids dressed up in homemade costumes. Bobbing for apples. Ghost stories and pillow cases to hold candy. It was simple, sweet and fun.

But today? Today it’s a competitive sport. Costumes are more tricked out than outfits on the Paris runway. No more pillow cases (heaven forbid) – now we’re talking about the equivalent of a Gucci handbag to hold candy. And don’t get me started on the lights, the gigantic tombstones and spiders that decorate front yards. It makes the Macy’s Day parade look like a small town country fair.

I could almost stomach it until the time a kid stuck his hand in the bowl of candy and grabbed a whopping handful and wouldn’t let go. His parents smiled proudly. So this year, I’m closing the curtains, turning off the lights and hunkering down until it’s all over.

The only pumpkin at my place will be this chipotle roasted pumpkin with borlotti beans. I’ll serve it with a sassy glass of red (or two) and wait until the kids are gone, Halloween is over and it’s safe to go outside. Halloween? Bah humbug.

Chipotle roasted pumpkin with borlotti beans, green onions & avocado

Serves 4

Don’t use the pumpkin you’d use for carving. Instead, look for a small pumpkin like the ‘Uchiki Kuri’, also known as the Winter, Onion, Hokkaido or Potimarron squash. It has a gorgeous yellowy-orange flesh with a lovely sweetness. If you can’t find that, then try a silvery-blue-skinned ‘Crown Prince’ or even a butternut squash.

Preheat oven to 425°

1 small pumpkin, about 1 ½ lbs

½ – 1 tsp Chipotle rub & mix

½ tsp Chimayo blend chile powder

2 Tbsp olive or vegetable oil

10 oz borlotti or other beans, cooked

½ avocado, peeled and diced

Small bunch of cilantro, chopped

2 green onions, chopped

Chile pequin

Salt

Slice the pumpkin into wedges – you don’t need to peel it. Toss with the oil and Chipotle rub & mix, the Chimayo red chile powder and a generous sprinkle of salt. Roast in the hot oven until you can insert a knife easily into the flesh of the pumpkin. If it’s getting a bit too brown, turn the heat down to 350°.

Arrange the pumpkin and beans on a platter. Garnish with the avocado, cilantro or parsley and the green onions and a generous sprinkle of Chile pequin.

Spaghetti with anchovies, garlic, chile & broccoli rabe

It’s called the Sunday Night Blues but let’s call if SNB for short as it’s, 1) shorter and, 2) sounds far more scientific. You don’t need a Nobel prize winning scientist or some fancy doctor to diagnose this one. The symptoms are all too apparent. Basically, it’s an overwhelming sense of doom. Yep, a feeling that life as you know it is pretty much kaput thanks to the eminent arrival of your least favourite day and mine, Monday.

Now, the smarty pants out there will tell you there are lots of things you can do to combat SNB, like pretending that Saturday is Sunday so Sunday becomes Saturday. Yep, I think it’s a pretty dumb idea too. Because, let’s be honest, if you do that you don’t get rid of SNB, you just end up with two days of SNB rather than one.

Or you can go outside and surround yourself with nature and get lots of fresh air and remind yourself how lucky you are to be alive. That lasts for about 10 minutes until the rain starts and you realize how short the days are and get really depressed.

Or you can do like I do. Don’t fight it. Feel sorry for yourself. Lament the passing weekend like you do your youthful good looks. Wallow. Sigh a lot. Stare out the window and sigh some more. And when you’re done being a killjoy then head into the kitchen and get cooking.

And yes, I know that food won’t ‘cure’ SNB but it sure as heck won’t hurt. Which would you rather be? Miserable and hungry or miserable with a bowl of pasta in front of you? Duh. Next question. This recipe is simple and satisfying. It doesn’t pretend it can make the world a better place or eradicate SNB. It’s more like a hug, a reminder that another weekend will come in approximately 120 hours, more or less.

Spaghetti with anchovies, garlic, chile & broccoli rabe

This makes enough for one hungry curmudgeon. If anyone can stand being around you, feel free to double the quantities.

4 ½ ounces spaghetti

2 Tbsp olive oil

1 small clove of garlic, finely minced

2 anchovy fillets in oil

½ tsp Chile pequin

2 ounces broccoli rabe or regular broccoli, chopped

Handful of parsley, chopped

Parmesan cheese, grated

Bring a pot of water to boil. Generously salt it and add the pasta. Cook according to the package directions until al dente (with a bit of bite and definitely not mushy).

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil and gently sauté the garlic, anchovy fillets and chile flakes. Mash the anchovy fillets with the back of your spoon – they will melt into the olive oil. This will only take a minute or two – don’t go check your Instagram account or the garlic will burn.

When the pasta is done, scoop it out of the pot with some of the water clinging to it and place it in the pan with the anchovy, garlic and chile. Pop the broccoli rabe into the pasta pot for a minute just to cook a bit, then add it to the frying pan with the pasta in it as well.

Toss to coat the pasta until any excess water is absorbed. Taste and add salt if needed and more chile flakes if you so desire. Stir in the parsley, place in a bowl and garnish with parmesan.

Enjoy, or as much as you can on a Sunday night.

Texas Hold-Em Chili

Photo by David Munns

At the Chile Trail we love nothing more than something hot and sassy. And trust us, you don’t get any hotter or sassier than Kay Plunkett-Hogge’s cookbook Heat. The title says it all because this baby is one page turning love letter to that hunk-a-hunk of burning love, the chile pepper.

Plunkett-Hogge is British but born and raised in Thailand where they know a thing or two about chile. She’s lived in London, Los Angeles, Bangkok and New York and travelled the world so she’s tickled her taste buds with more than her fair share of chile. Sure she loves the heat (don’t we all) but she also loves the way chile plays well in the culinary sandbox with other ingredients to create a dish that sings. Heat has it all from subtle to scorching and nothing escapes the KPH radar including some mighty fine desserts.

Photo by JP Masclet

Choosing a recipe from Heat to share with you lovely Chile Trailians, was as difficult as choosing a favorite chile and you know how tough that is. But in the end we settled on Texas Hold’em Chili because it’s hot and sassy and you know how we love that combo. We’ll let KPH tell you the story behind this one…

 Texas Hold’Em Chili

The Kellys were Texans through and through, who just happened to live next door to us … in Bangkok. They introduced me to America’s south-west and to Mexico when I was just 12, jump-starting my love for the food of the New World. A good 35 years later, it’s an affair that shows no sign of abating. So this chili is inspired by those early Texan experiences and by Texas Hold ’Em, the so-called Cadillac of poker, wherein each player is dealt two cards, followed by five shared community cards. Where the player makes their hand from seven cards, we make this chili from seven chiles. Note that there are no beans or tomatoes here. It’s Texan. Deal with it. Note too that you need a cut of meat with some fat and connective tissue that will stand up to the slow cooking, such as chuck or shin.

SERVES 6–8

1.5kg (3 ½ lb) stewing beef, cut into 3cm (1 ½ in) dice

3 tbsp vegetable oil

3 guajillo chiles

2 pasilla chiles

2 cascabel chiles

4 chiles de árbol

2 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce and 2 tbsp of their sauce

1 large onion, peeled and chopped

4 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped 1 jalepeño, seeded and chopped

1 serrano chile, seeded and chopped

2 tsp each of ground cumin, chilli powder and dried Mexican oregano (or regular oregano will do)

1 tsp ground cinnamon

200ml (7fl oz) beer

800ml (1 ½ pints) beef stock

2 tbsp cocoa powder or grated dark chocolate

1–3 tbsp cornmeal or masa

salt and freshly ground black pepper

chopped coriander, sliced avocado and sliced jalepeño, to serve (optional)

Season the meat with salt and pepper. Heat a large, non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon of the vegetable oil and brown the meat thoroughly in batches until it’s a deep brown on all sides. You will need to add a second tablespoon of vegetable oil about halfway through. Then set aside in a casserole with a tight-fitting lid.

De-stem and seed the guajillo, pasilla, cascabel and chile de árbol chiles. Toast them in a dry frying pan over a medium heat for about 5 minutes, until fragrant. Remove from the pan and soak them for 20–30 minutes in enough warm water to cover. Then drain and put in a blender with the chipotles, adobo sauce and 4 tablespoons of their soaking water. Blitz into a paste and set aside.

Add the final tablespoon of vegetable oil to the non-stick pan, turn down the heat, and add the onion. Cook until just soft, then add the garlic, jalepeño and serrano chiles. Cook for another 3 minutes or so, until they are soft and really fragrant, then add the cumin, chilli powder, oregano and cinnamon. Stir together thoroughly, then add the beer. Bring up to a simmer, stirring gently to lift any residues from the frying pan, then pour everything into the casserole over the meat. Now add the stock, cocoa and chile paste, and season with salt and pepper. Bring the chili to a very low simmer, then cover and leave to cook for about an hour, stirring occasionally. Then partially remove the lid and cook for a further 30–45 minutes, or until the meat is tender.

Now turn up the heat a little and add the cornmeal or masa, a tablespoon at a time, stirring well after each addition, and cook it in until the whole chili has a silky, rich texture. Note that cornmeal will give a texture to your sauce, while the masa will simply thicken it. I prefer the cornmeal, but it’s a matter of personal taste.

Serve garnished with chopped coriander, sliced avocado and slices of jalepeño, if you like.

Photo by David Munns

 

 

Green chile & cheese stuffed burgers with chipotle ketchup


At the Chile Trail HQ we love nothing more than a morning of mindless surfing on the big Kahuna that is the worldwide web. Sure we say that we’re ‘working’, doing ‘research’ or ‘updating the website’. But let’s be honest, we’re shopping on eBay. Why, just the other day we nabbed a copy of Granny’s Beverly Hillbillies Cookbook. It was a rare, hard-to-find copy of this out-of-print classic. Out of print? Yes, we were shocked too.

But we digress…while surfing, we came across a statistic that we eat 50 billion hamburgers a year. I don’t mean ‘we’ as in we at the Chile Trail. Our number is significant but not quite that large. The folks that figured this out based it on 3 burgers per week per person. Hopefully they excluded the under 1-year olds who last time I checked aren’t quite ready for a Happy Meal.

It may sound like a lot but think about it – we LOVE burgers in this country. Heck, we’ve given them May and made it National Burger Month. Think about it – beer, chicken and pasta only get a day each but with burgers we’re doing a ticker tape parade for these guys for a whole month. And May has 31 days in it too…

Burgers are beautiful all year round but they come into their own during the summer when we stoke up the BBQ. Nothing screams summer more than a burger, unless you count the burn you got because you forgot to put on sunscreen. At the Chile Trail, we love a classic burger but we’re never happy to let well enough alone. So we make a stuffed burger with cheese and some Los Chileros green chile. Slather on a bit of chipotle-spiked ketchup and you’re celebrating burgers, no matter what month it is.

Green chile & cheese stuffed burgers with chipotle ketchup.

We’ve given amounts per burger so ramp it up based on numbers. A burger press is mighty handy to make pro-looking burgers, but not essential. The ketchup is enough for 3 or 4 burgers, so increase the quantities if you’re feeding crowds. We like to add some grilled red onions but add any garnish that suits your fancy.

6.5 oz hamburger meat per burger (or more if you’re really hungry)

2 strips of Los Chileros New Mexico whole green chile

2 slices of cheese – we like brie because we’re fancy but choose your favorite

Salt

Chipotle Ketchup

1/3 cup ketchup

½ tsp Los Chileros chipotle rub & mix

Splash of apple cider vinegar

To make the chipotle ketchup, mix the ketchup with the chipotle rub and splash of apple cider vinegar. Taste and add more chile if you like. Set aside until ready to serve.

To make the burgers, place the green chile strips in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Let sit for a few minutes until rehydrated and pliable. Drain. If using a burger press, put half the meat in the bottom of the press. Top with the chile and cheese and seal with the other half of the meat.

Stoke up the barbecue or a griddle pan on the stove. Add a sprinkle of salt to your burger then cook to your liking. Serve on a bun or au naturel with a heavy hit of the chipotle ketchup.