Pink grapefruit, avocado & feta salad with a chile vinaigrette

Do remind me what you give for a first anniversary? Ah yes, of course paper – the ultimate romantic gift. To keep it practical, why not give a roll of paper towels or an old newspaper? The ‘modern’ option is a clock. Wow. Nothing says ‘I love you’ like a clock.

Why all this chat about first anniversary gifts? Because reader, next month is the anniversary of the announcement of Mike Smith’s ‘discovery’. Yes, Mike Smith from Denbighshire in England. You remember Mike, don’t you?

You don’t? Oh dear…Well let me refresh your memory. Mike from Denbighshire created the hottest chile ever recorded. It’s all coming back to you now, isn’t it?

Mike wasn’t out to create something super hot – he was after a pretty plant for his Chelsea Flower Show display. But his ‘Dragon’s Breath’ chile scores 2.48 million on the Scoville heat index – beating the Carolina Reaper, that clocks in at a cool – pardon the pun – 2.2 million.

Scientist figure that Dragon’s Breath is so hot that if you ate one you could go into anaphylactic shock. I’m going to trust them on this one. Here’s the thing – more heat isn’t always better. At the Chile Trail we’re all about heat but we’re also all about the food. If it’s too hot and you can’t taste anything then what’s the point?

Take this cute as a bug salad we whipped up. It’s got mild chile molido in the dressing and a sprinkle of chile pequin on top. Is it hot? Yes. Can you make it hotter? Darn straight you can – just add some more or use our hot chile molido instead. But it’s not so hot that you lose the flavor of the pink grapefruit, avocado and feta cheese. So congrats Mike from Denbighshire. We’ll be sending over a congratulatory paper plate to celebrate.

But the Dragon’s Breath chile? We’ll pass, but thanks anyway.

Serves 3-4 as a side salad

4 large handfuls of lettuce, washed

1 pink grapefruit

3 oz feta cheese, crumbled

½ avocado, sliced thinly

3 Tbsp lime juice

½ tsp mild chile molido

4+ Tbsp vegetable oil

chile pequin, to garnish

To segment the grapefruit, take a thin slice off the top and bottom, so the grapefruit can sit on a chopping board. Take a sharp knife and slice off the skin and white pith by cutting along the curve of the grapefruit. Next, make v-shaped cuts to release the grapefruit segments. When you’re cutting the segments out, hold over a bowl so you can capture any juice.

To make the dressing, mix the lime juice, chile molido and vegetable oil together, along with any grapefruit juice. Taste, add salt and a bit more oil if the dressing is too sour.

Arrange the lettuce leaves on a platter. Top with the grapefruit segments, feta cheese and avocado. Garnish generously with the chile pequin and drizzle the dressing over the salad. Serve any extra vinaigrette on the side.

 

 

 

 

Chile lime drizzle cake

There are may things we fear in life at Chile HQ: running out of box sets on a long weekend; unexpected visits from the in-laws; and any mail addressed from the IRS. But one thing we don’t fear is scurvy – that disease that was the plight of pirates and sailors in days of yore (I’ve always wanted to say ‘days of yore’ and now I have). Swollen gums, loose teeth, bulging eyes – hardly going to win any beauty contests.

Of course we now know what they didn’t. Scurvy is caused by a lack of Vitamin C, that cheery guy found in citrus fruit. It’s the reason we tend to drink a lot of margaritas early in the morning. Of course we tend to drink them early in the afternoon and evening as well, but that’s another story.

This time of year, we all hanker for an extra blast of the ole Vitmain C, don’t we? It’s cold, dark and even if our teeth aren’t falling out it feels like everything else is falling apart.

Of course, drinking on an empty stomach is a no-no, so we whipped up this Chile lime drizzle cake. It’s just the ticket to put a smile on your face and a spring in your step. It uses both New Mexico green chile powder as well as green chile Caribe for that one-two chile punch that we know you love. It won’t bring world peace but it’s pretty darn close, and that’s as much as you can ask for, right?

Chile lime drizzle cake

7oz sugar

3 ½oz vegetable oil

zest of two limes

2oz lime juice

1-1 ½ Tbsp New Mexico green chile powder

6oz COYO Natural, milk yogurt alternative

2 large eggs, beaten

1 ½ tsp salt

1 Tbsp baking powder

10 ½oz all purpose flour

Drizzle glaze

2oz lime juice

2oz sugar

New Mexico green chile caribe

Preheat oven to 175°

One 2lb loaf pan (9 x 5 inches) or 3 mini loaf pans (6 x 3 ½)

For the cake, mix together the sugar, oil, lime zest, lime juice and green chile powder in a bowl. In a separate bowl, mix together the COYO and the eggs. In a medium sized bowl, sift together the salt, baking powder, and all purpose flour. Pour half the sugar & oil mixture into the dry ingredients, and fold in gently. Repeat with half the COYO & egg mixture. Then finish off by folding in the rest of the sugar & oil mixture and lastly the Coyo and egg.

Grease the loaf tin(s) with butter and dust with flour.

Pour the batter into the prepared tin(s) and bake in the oven until a skewer inserted in the middle of the loaf comes out clean. Approximately 50 minutes for a large tin and 30 minutes for the mini tins.

Remove the pan(s) and place on a cooling rack and let sit for five minutes. Meanwhile, make the glaze by combining the lime juice and sugar in a small saucepan. Heat over medium heat until the sugar is melted and the glaze warm. Alternatively, you can heat the sugar and juice in a bowl in the microwave for about 50 seconds.

Remove the cake(s) from the pan(s). Take a wooden or metal skewer and make holes in the cake(s). Drizzle the glaze and sprinkle with some chile caribe. Top slices with a dollop of COYO if you desire.

 

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.