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.

Caviar and blinis with a chile lime crème fraiche

Caviar serving shotThey’re gone. Close the door, draw the curtains and unplug the phone. Find a comfortable chair/couch/bed and collapse. You did it: you survived the holidays. Let’s admit it – it wasn’t always easy. Tensions flared. Family annoyed. Perhaps the odd bit of food burned (clever how you scraped that off and tossed it to the dog). But you did it. You’re still standing although a shadow of your former self.

Of course New Year’s looms ahead but that’s a different kettle of fish altogether.  New Year’s is all about possibilities and choices. Want to party like it’s 1999? Then by all means do so. Want to be a hermit? Feel free to wrap yourself in a goose down duvet and binge watch Nick and Nora Thin Man films.

Dress up to the nines or down to your favorite onesie. Okay, on second thought skip the onesie. It’s never a good sartorial choice unless you’re a baby sleeping in a bassinet.

But whatever you do, you’ll need sustenance. Here is where we can help at Chile Trail HQ. Forget the excesses of the Christmas season. Forget stuffing and potatoes and cranberries. Forget the pies and cakes and by all means forget that horrid mulled wine that the neighbors plied you with.

Caviar ingredientsNew Year’s is about fresh beginnings and bright new starts. It’s about things that wake up your taste buds and get you ready for the new year. Our recommendation? Blinis served with a dollop of chile crème with an even bigger dollop of caviar or salmon. If you can splurge for the good stuff then by all means do but to be honest, the jars of salmon roe you find at the grocery store will do nicely.

And might we suggest a sneaky glass of champagne or desert-dry martini to accompany? So cheers, here’s to you m’dear. May your 2017 be nice and spicy.

limeprepBlinis with caviar and chile crème

We make these with salmon roe but you could substitute smoked salmon instead or a combination of the two.

12 blinis

3 1/2 oz salmon roe caviar

1/2 cup crème fraiche

1/2 tsp New Mexico Green Chile Powder 

Chile pequin flakes to garnish

Zest and juice from half a lime

Place the blinis on a pan and warm is a low oven for a few minutes. While they’re heating up, place the crème fraiche in a bowl and add the New Mexico green chile powder, lime juice and zest.

Remove the blinis from the oven and place on a serving plate. Top with a dollop of crème fraiche and a spoonful of caviar. Garnish with a few chile flakes.

Caviar serving shot

 

Spicy Chicken Fingers with Salsa Santa Fe

fullsizerender-3It’s official. Autumn is here. Gone are the lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer. Heck, they’re barely a distant memory. Stretching before us are shorter days, longer nights and a definite nip in the air.

But that’s not bad – in the world of food, that’s pretty darn good. Now we can break out the slow cooker, select a sassy bottle of red (or two) and gather round the imitation-log-effect-gas-fire with friends and loved ones. On second thought, forget the friends and loved ones – snuggle up with your dog instead.

Autumn also means football and if ever a sport cried out for food, that’s the one. I mean, why were chip ‘n dip trays invented, if not for football? Don’t like football? Who cares? Turn down the sound and focus on the food instead. Plates full of cheesy nachos, bowls of salted nuts and a go bag of Tums for your guests.

fullsizerender-4 Of course at Chile HQ, we prefer to serve something more refined to our guests, game on or not. Something that whispers elegance, sophistication and drop-that-last-one-cuz-it’s-mine. Voila! Our Spicy Chicken Fingers. Now as anyone knows, chicken don’t have fingers. Thank heavens as the idea of chickens with ten digits and a pinky ring is simply too weird for words.

When we say fingers we mean strips. Basically they are slices of white chicken breast meat. Now you could slice these yourself and save a bit of money and feel smug and virtuous. Or you could whip a package already sliced off the shelves and get over it. Your choice. We’ve added a kick of green chile to a mix of cornmeal and flour. If you have the time (and you would, if you weren’t so busy slicing up those chicken breasts), then fry one up to sample. If it’s not spicy enough you can always add in a bit more chile. Too hot already? Nah, of course not.

We serve these up with our Salsa Santa Fe mix (Red & Green). Frighteningly easy to make and dazzling in its results. Close the curtains (it’s already dark outside anyway), throw another imaginary log onto the gas fire, give Fido a tickle behind the ear, and hunker down. Summer’s over but who cares. Bring Autumn on.

fullsizerender-2 Spicy Chicken Fingers with Salsa Santa Fe

Serves 2 hungry people or 3 who just ate lunch an hour or so ago

Salsa

1 ½ Tbsp Salsa Santa Fe mix (Red & Green)

1 green onion, finely chopped green part only

Juice of half a lemon

14 oz. can of crushed tomatoes

2 Tbsp cilantro, chopped

 

Spicy chicken

12 oz. Chicken breast strips

1 egg

1/3 cup all purpose flour

1/3 cup cornmeal

1 Tbsp New Mexico green chile powder

1 tsp sea salt

Olive or vegetable oil.

1 lemon, cut into wedges

Set aside about half of the green onions and chopped cilantro to use as a garnish when you’re ready to serve the chicken. Place all of the rest of the salsa ingredients into a bowl and mix together thoroughly. Allow this to sit for about a half an hour before serving in order to allow the flavors to marry.

In a frying pan, heat a tablespoon or two of oil on medium high heat. While it’s heating, whisk the egg in a shallow bowl and add a pinch of salt. Mix the flour, cornmeal, green chile powder and sea salt in a separate bowl. Dip the chicken in the egg then the flour/cornmeal mixture. Place in the pan and fry until golden brown on one side then flip and cook on the other. Don’t crowd the pan – fry in batches if you need to and top up with additional oil as necessary. Place the cooked chicken on a serving platter and garnish the salsa and the chicken with the remaining green onions and cilantro. Serve with wedges of lemon.fullsizerender-5

Here’s a Quick Update from us!

You probably think that we lead an incredibly glamorous life…the private jets, the Michelin starred restaurants, the black–tie galas with A-list movie stars. Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating slightly but we do know our way around an airport lounge and a hotel mini bar.

But while we travel a lot spreading the chile love there’s nothing I love better than coming home. I unpack the Louis Vuitton steamer trunks (aka the Samonsite hard case), greet the faithful butler (aka the dogs) and survey my domain (aka the backyard).

4f9845ef-d574-49a2-92dd-27bbb16deb69-1

I’m a picture of domesticity. Don’t believe me? Well get this – I’m the proud own of chickens. Yes, you heard me right. Lots and lots of chickens. I’ve got Cochins, Frizzles, Polish, Barred Red Rock, Bare Neck, Silver Wing Phoenix as well as good ole farmyard chickens. Not to mention the odd runner duck or four.

c98501cf-391d-4dff-820e-1ed6e755d587

While other people bring flowers or wine to a party I bring a dozen eggs – no wonder folks invite me over so much. I get a good haul each day from my feathered friends so I’m a dab hand at whipping up some tasty eggy treats, like my El Diablo Deviled Eggs.

b2d9c76b-f680-4bff-b986-bd39eb374de6

You know I’m modest but I’ve got to say they’re good. Mighty good. It’s the Los Chileros chile – natch – that makes them so tasty. I use El Molido Hot but choose your poison and add more or less to taste. I think they improve from a visit to the fridge after you’ve made them.

Enjoy and don’t forget to invite me over to your next party. You know what I’ll be bringing.

El Diablo Devilled Eggs

Makes 12 Halves

6 hard cooked eggs

3 Tbsp Mayonnaise

2 tsp Dijon mustard

1 tsp Chile powder

Squeeze of lemon juice

Salt

Chives chopped (optional)

bc91b979-2d70-49ab-9751-9a6710599b9c

Shell the eggs. Halve them and remove the yolks. Set the yolks aside. Place the yolks in a bowl with the remaining ingredients. Mash with a fork till smooth. Taste and add salt if needed. Spoon the mixture into the whites or if you’re feeling fancy-smancy you can pipe it in using an icing bag. Dust with a bit of chile powder and chopped chives (if using). Refrigerate until ready to serve.

London Food Finds!

I don’t know about you but February makes me restless. Maybe it’s because winter has hung around longer than a dinner party guest you can’t get rid of, but suddenly I’ve got a hankering to pack up some sartorial splendor, dust off the ole passport and hit the road. If you’re feeling a bit of the same then we’ve got some inspiration from our foreign correspondent (aka friend) in London, Julia Platt Leonard. Here are some of her favorite foodie finds – perfect for a real or armchair trip.

London

When I moved to London 18 years ago, I got a lot of doleful looks. Sure there were positives –a place dripping with history, art to die for and how cute is the Queen with those corgis? But – and here was the rub – what about the food?

Let’s face it, England wasn’t known for its haute cuisine. It wasn’t known for any cuisine, come to think of it. But that’s all changed. Now it’s a smorgasbord of flavor (or flavour as we like to say) sensations and tasty treats. It is hands down the world’s top culinary destination. Picking some of my favorites was a toughie but here are a few that go in my ‘don’t miss’ column.

Honey & Co               Photo courtesy:Patricia Niven

Honey & Co.

Ten tables – that’s all you’ll find at this tiny restaurant tucked into a quiet street in Fitzrovia but my heavens they pack a punch. It’s a labor of love from Itamar Srulovich and Sarit Packer who hail from Jerusalem and serve up what they call Middle Eastern Soul Food. Both are fabulous chefs but you’ll more likely find Itamar upstairs welcoming customers (expect a hug from this gentle bear) and making sure that each order is perfect. The menu – like the restaurant – is small but perfectly formed. It changes with seasonal treats like poached quince salad with curd cheese; creamy hummous with warm cumin mushrooms & pita; and a killer cinnamon-spiked falafel. A mezze platter for the table to share is a no-brainer. And don’t forget dessert. You’ll see them perched in the windowsill wooing you to caloric destruction. But what a way to go. On a recent trip with two American friends we didn’t order a dessert but Itamar brought us over a luscious pumpkin cheesecake anyway – worried about sending us out into the cold without something sweet to sustain us.

20130929_Honey_&_Co9962_Patricia_Niven_Lemon_&_Saffron_Cake         Photo courtesy:Patricia Niven

25A Warren Street, London, W1T 5LZ (closest tube: Warren Street)

020 7388 6175

www.honeyandco.co.uk

Ben’s House

When you’ve put down your fork at Honey & Co., it’s only a short walk to Ben’s for a restorative coffee. While the barista is whipping up your flat white, take a peak at the shelves lining the walls of this chilled-out shop/cafe. Every product you see is made in London. You’ll find everything from wine, beer, cheese, jams, bread and even ceramics and homewares. As Ben proudly says, it’s all cured, created and crafted in London. It’s basically Ben’s love letter to London and folks come to hang out for a coffee during the day and a well-earned glass of wine or cocktail in the early evening with an entertaining chat with Ben thrown in at no extra charge.

photo-176

64 Grafton Way, London, W1T 5DP (closest tube Warren Street or Tottenham Court Road)

020 7388 0850

www.benshouse.london

Dishoom

Sometimes it’s the simplest things that make me salivate. So it is with the Bacon Naan roll at Dishoom. It starts with smoked streaky bacon from the Ginger Pig, one of England’s premier butchers. The bacon is dry-cured for five days with rock salt and demerara sugar (a coarse textured, raw sugar), then cold smoked over oak chips. The naan – an Indian flatbread – is baked in the tandoor oven then spread with cream cheese, chili tomato jam, herbs and of course that bacon. You can choose sausage instead or add an egg but the Bacon Naan is my favorite. It doesn’t hurt that it’s served by the nicest wait staff, in a setting that harkens back to old Irani cafes in Bombay (or so the website tells me). With several locations around London, it’s the perfect pick-me-up before or after a gruelling day of sightseeing.

Locations across London

BACON NAAN ROLL (1)

www.dishoom.com

Celia Brooks Gastrotours

If an insider’s view of London’s culinary hotspots is what you’re after, then American-born Celia Brooks is the answer. She runs gastrotours throughout the city including her South Kensington Gastrotour, Sweet Delicacies of London and her ever-popular Borough Market tour (she’s the only licensed guide in the market). Check out her new tours with food and health expert Bettina Cortezi.

 

Pavilion Celia 2

www.celiabrooks.com

07956 152 899

Some other favourites:

Best Martini: Duke’s Hotel. Choose gin or vodka but for heaven’s sake not an olive. Watch as the bartenders create your drink tableside, releasing a fine mist from the most gorgeous Amalfi lemons into your cocktail, then sit back and know that life is good. These are such lethal (but lovely) libations that there is a limit of two per customer. You’ve been warned.

2---dukes-martinis

 

 

 

www.dukeshotel.com

35 St James’s Place, London, SW1A 1NY

020 7491 4840

Best bar for Dining: A toss-up. Either Le Caprice or Palomar. The vibe is totally different Le Caprice is white napkin with tinkling ivories in the background while Palomar is ringside seating as the chefs whip up some amazing Middle Eastern food. You choice!

Caprice

www.le-caprice.co.uk

20 Arlington Street, London, SW1A 1RJ

020 7629 2239

palomar_restaurant_soho_london

 

 

www.thepalomar.co.uk

34 Rupert Street, London W1D 6DN

020 7439 8777

Want any more recommendations? Got any suggestions? Just send a note to those wile chile guys and I’ll get back to you. And see you in London!

 

A Cranberry Relish you’ll actually relish this Thanksgiving!

You want a Thanksgiving folks are going to remember? And no, I don’t mean like the time your sister-in-law announced she wanted a divorce just as you were serving the pumpkin pie.

I’m thinking food, people. You know the turkey, the stuffing, the mashed potatoes and gravy. I bet if you jotted down a list of favorite Thanksgiving foods, somewhere near the bottom, (just above Brussels sprouts) would be cranberries. Because try as you might, you never hear someone say is: “My Thanksgiving? It was great. You won’t believe the cranberries they whipped up.”

The problem is that cranberries are an afterthought, a balm to assuage our guilt at having consumed enough calories to feed a small island nation for a month. Kids hate them and adults push them around on their plates hoping they’ll go away.

But cranberries aren’t bad – they’re just boring. Or until now. Because at the Chile Trail we like nothing more than a challenge. So we’ve created a souped up cranberry recipe that will have you moving our fruity friend to the top of the list. And it’s simple. SIMPLE! And you can do it ahead of time.

No need to thank us. Just consider it an early Christmas present.

 

Chipotle Lime Cranberry Relish

This isn’t hot. The chipotle adds a nice, rich smoky flavour and the lime gives it a zippity-do-da flavour. If you want heat, add in a bit of chile powder to taste.

cranberry1

 

12 oz (about 2 ½ cups) raw cranberries, washed

1 cup sugar

¾-1 cup water (the cranberries should be covered but not swimming)

1 dried Chipotle chile

Zest of a lime

Squeeze of lime juice (optional)

 

cranberies in pan

 

Put the cranberries, sugar, water and Chipotle chile in a saucepan. Place on medium-high heat and give the mixture a stir. Bring slowly to a simmer, stirring occasionally or when the mood strikes you. The cranberries should plump up and soften but remain whole and the chile will soften. When it’s coming to the boil, remove from the heat and stir in the lime zest. Taste and add a squeeze or two of lime juice – it lifts the cranberries but don’t overdo it. Cover the pan and let it sit to cool. Place the relish in a container – you can keep the chile pod in the mixture – and store in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Make this a couple days in advance as it gives the flavors time to mingle and get to know each other.

last photoFinally Happy Thanksgiving everyone…Stay safe!

 

Summer’s Here at Last…Yeah!

Nothing beats a chicken. Not a cow, a lamb or a pig. Think I’m kidding? Exaggerating (who me?)? Well then, answer me one question: can a cow, lamb or pig lay an egg?

No.

I rest my case.

I mean, think about it. Chicken – roasted, poached, grilled, you name it – is pretty darn awesome. Slap on some Chile-spiked BBQ sauce and you’re cooking with gas. But then, like the lottery bonus ball, a chicken gives you eggs too. And now that we’ve finally realized eggs aren’t the dietary villain we thought they were, we can eat them with mad abandon. (To be honest I never stopped.)

And if you raise your own chickens like I do, you’ve got a fresh supply right on your doorstep. Yes, you heard me right. I have chickens. Now you’re probably saying to yourself, “Where does he find the time?” Let’s just say that while spreading the chile love is a full time job I do find time to care for my flock.

One of my favorite things to make with fresh eggs is mayonnaise. I can see you rolling your eyes. Who makes their own mayonnaise? Or more to the point, why? Because it tastes incredible – unlike any gunk you find in a jar. And it is so easy. Yes, easy.

The only trick is that you’ve got to drizzle the oil slowly – and I mean slowly – to get a rich emulsified sauce. Don’t pour it in with mad abandon like you’ve got some place to go. You need to be in a zen state of calm and at one with the oil. And this is not the time to whip out some expensive extra virgin olive oil from some fancy pants estate in Tuscany either. Put it away. Use a good quality vegetable oil instead.

And because chile is king, I’ve spiked the mayonnaise with  Chile and used lime juice instead of the traditional lemon juice.

What to do with this gorgeous beast? Well it’s summer you num-nut. Slather it on burgers. Slip some over barbecued salmon or as a dip for shrimp. Or create a massive crudité platter and dazzle your friends, neighbors and that kid from second grade who always picked on you. You’ve made a mayonnaise. You rule.

CHIPOTLE LIME MAYONNAISE

3 Egg yolks

1 Tbsp White wine vinegar

2 Limes, juice and zest

2-3 tsp Chipotle Chile Powder (Los Chileros)

1 tsp Salt

20 – 22 oz Vegetable Oil

Place all the ingredients except the vegetable oil in the bowl of a small food processor. Turn the food processor on and blend together. Keeping the motor running, add the vegetable oil very, very slowly until you have a thick, emulsified sauce. Taste and adjust the seasonings adding more Chipotle Chile and salt if needed. Refrigerate until ready to use.

chiletrail2