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.

Green chile & lime crab with avocado & mango salad


Folks think that at the Chile Trail we’re all about the heat and the hotter the better. Sure, we like things spicy but I’m here to tell you that there is a kinder, gentler side to us too.

Because the truth is, chile doesn’t have to hit you like an 18-wheeler to be good. It doesn’t have to rip your taste buds out and dip them into a hot lava flow. It doesn’t – well, you get the idea, right? Au contraire, mon ami (that’s French btw, and roughly translates “on the contrary sweet lips”).

Chile can be subtle. Chile can be smooth. Chile can be a tease. And frankly, not every dish is up to a Scoville busting, mouth incinerating blast of heat. Take this dish of crab, avocado and mango. It has a hint of heat thanks to some mighty fine Green Chile Powder. A nice hit of lime and a bit of mayo and you’ve something that sings. A sassy little salad on the side of mango and avocado and you’ll hitting all the high notes.

Yes, it’s got chile. Yes, it’s got some heat. But it’s also got class written all over it. And at the Chile Trail we ain’t nothing if we ain’t classy.

Green chile & lime crab with avocado & mango salad

Limes vary tremendously with the amount of juice they give you so you’ll need to do a bit of tasting and testing but we figure around 1- 1 ½ should do you. And don’t scrimp on the mayo – use a nice quality one, it’s worth it.

Serves 3-4

1 lb white crab meat

zest of 1 lime

juice of 1- 1 ½ limes

2 Tbsp mayonnaise

1 tsp Green Chile Powder, or more to taste

1 avocado, chopped

1 mango, chopped

Salt

Lettuce leaves

Green Chile Caribe to garnish

In a medium-sized bowl, mix the mayonnaise, Green Chile Powder and half of the lime juice and half of the lime zest together. Add the crab meat and mix gently. Taste, season with salt and add more Green Chile Powder if desired. Place in the fridge covered until ready to serve.

Mix the chopped avocado and mango in a separate bowl, add the remaining lime juice and a generous sprinkle of sea salt.

Place some lettuce leaves on each plate. Divide the crab evenly between the plates along with some of the avocado and mango salad. Garnish with the remaining lime zest and a sprinkle of Green Chile Caribe.

 

 

 

Pork, black eyed peas & sweet potato stew


Pork, black eyed peas & sweet potato stew

Think comfort food and you think winter. I think comfort food and I think, “Congratulations on making it through another day.” I pull the car into the garage, kiss the driveway (unless it’s summer when it’s so hot my lips would stick to the asphalt) and thank heaven I’m home. I can barely get in the door fast enough, close the curtains and breath a heavy sigh of relief.

Because, let’s face it, between work stress, traffic stress, and emails that ping into your inbox faster than you can delete them, we’re frazzled. We tired, pooped, caput, finito, my friend. What we need is a bit of comfort…that and a winning lottery ticket.

So I like to have a pot of pork, black eyed peas and sweet potato stew ready to heat up. It tastes great the first day and ridiculously good the next. Any leftovers you can pop in the freezer for a rainy day. Of course, I’ve never had leftovers but it’s a thought. And as with all things in life, a dash/jot/avalanche of chile makes it all so much better.

It won’t do your taxes. It won’t deal with that obnoxious know-it-all at work. And no, it won’t walk the dog. But it will handle just about everything else. Honest.

Pork, black eyed peas & sweet potato stew.

Make this in a slow cooker or a real low oven, around 250°.

Serves 4

1 medium red onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

2 Tbsp. oil

1 lb. diced pork

2 Tbsp. Carne Adovada mix (or more to taste)

½ cups stock or water

1 can black eyed peas or other bean

2 small sweet potatoes (about 10oz total weight), peeled and diced

To garnish:

Lime wedges

Avocado slices

Cilantro

Heat a heavy oven proof casserole dish on the stove over medium heat. Sauté the onion in the oil until soft but not brown. Add the garlic and cook for another minute or two. Remove the onion and garlic to a bowl. Sauté the pork in batches, browning on each side. Add more oil if needed.

Return the onions & garlic back to the pan and add the Carne Adovada. Stir to coat. Add the stock or water until the pork is almost covered. Place in the oven (or you can use a slow cooker) and cook until the meat is tender – 2-3 hours. When the meat is almost done, add the black eyed peas and sweet potatoes and cook for another 15-20 minutes until the sweet potatoes are cooked through. Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding a bit more Carne Adovada  if desired. Serve with lime wedges, cilantro and slices of avocado.

Chile Almond Brittle

Sweet is good. Sweet & salty is better. Sweet, salty & spicy is a taste of heaven.

Everyone thinks that spicy is for savory not for sweet treats but man-oh-man are they wrong. A hit of chile is just the ticket for a dessert that makes you beg for seconds.

And whipping up something that hits the sweet, salty and spicy buttons in one go is easy-peasy. This chile almond brittle is a case in point. Melt some sugar to make a caramel and then jazz it up with some chile, almonds and a generous pinch of sea salt. Super simple but also super delicious.

Now that you’ve got your brittle, what to do with it? Well eat it while no one is watching, for one. Then when you’ve been caught red handed, mumble an excuse about needing to ‘test’ it for seasoning and pretend you hear their cell phone ringing.

This little ditty would be great on top of ice cream or chocolate mousse or – and here’s how we like at Chile HQ – on top of some COYO coconut milk yogurt. It’s creamy and rich and good for you too. And you know what health nuts we are at The Chile Trail. OK, maybe you didn’t, but body is a temple and all that jazz. We also used organic chile for the brittle – our own chile flakes. It’s big, it’s bold and man is it sweet.

Chile Almond Brittle

Folks have different ways of making a caramel and this is mine but if you prefer starting with a mixture of water and sugar, go for it. The important thing is to make sure it turns a deep, rich color – that’s when it’s got loads of toasted flavour. For added umph, toast the almonds before adding to the caramel.

½ cup granulated sugar

½ cup sliced almonds

½ tsp organic chile flakes

Generous pinch sea salt

Place the sugar in a small saucepan. Melt it over medium heat and cook until it becomes a rich nutty brown caramel. Remove and stir in the almonds, chile flakes and salt. Quickly pour onto a silicone baking mat and spread out. Let cool then break into shards.

Serve with COYO coconut milk yoghurt and enjoy.