Spicy baked sweet potato wedges with lime

finaldishcentredGoodbye January. I’m sorry you ever darkened our doors. Am I being a bit harsh? Perhaps, and to be honest it’s not January the month that bugs me – it’s all the endless drivel about New Year’s resolutions, ‘clean’ eating, and colonic irrigation that’s got me down. And don’t get me started about dry January…

If you must go monastic in your eating and drinking, then why not do it in July when you can sip your wheatgrass/goji berry/kale smoothie quietly outdoors in a wooded glen away from the rest of us? Meanwhile we’ll be grilling burgers and eating slightly dodgy coleslaw that should have been kept in the refrigerator just a bit longer and enjoying ourselves.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not anti-healthy eating, I’m just tired of it being the subject of every cookbook and dinner party. To be honest, I’m more of an all-things-in-immoderation-carpe-diem kind of guy. But if you’re one of those souls who is emerging from detox January, then may I help ease you back into the human race with my Spicy baked sweet potato wedges.

sweetpotatoingredientsYes, baked not fried folks. A hefty one pound sweet potato is tossed in a mere one tablespoon of oil then baked (not fried, did I mention that?) in the oven until oh-so tender. The secret – as in many things in life – is the spice. In this case, Los Chileros Abiquiu Steak Marinade.

sweetpotatoesinpanYes, I hear you voices of descent – steak marinade on sweet potatoes? What will they think of next? But here’s the deal: we call it steak marinade but it’s mighty fine on a whole host of things. The only thing it didn’t work with was when we mixed in a fruit salad but we’re confident that with a few tweaks we’ll have that recipe for you too. In the meantime, try these bad boys. I have a tray in the oven now and the aroma is maddening.

So bring on February – cheers!

Spicy Baked Sweet Potato Wedges with Lime

Serves 3-4

1 lb. sweet potatoes

½- ¾ Tbsp Abiquiu Steak Marinade

1 Tbsp olive or vegetable oil

1 lime, cut into wedges

Preheat oven to 325°F

Peel the sweet potato and slice into thick wedges. One large sweet potato should yield about sixteen fat wedges. Place the wedges on a baking sheet or in a roasting pan. Coat with the oil and then rub the spice mixture onto all sides of the wedges, ensuring they’re evenly coated.

Place the pan in the oven. Turn the wedges every fifteen minutes or so until they’re cooked through (a knife or skewer should insert easily). It should take about 45 minutes. Remove, place on a serving platter and serve with the lime wedges.

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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

 

Slow cooked lamb with chipotle, lime & honey

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Plated lamb

Turkey is a lot like house guests. The first day, you’re thrilled to see them and can’t believe it’s been so long since their last visit. Day two, you’re cordial. Day three, you offer to help them pack and call a taxi.

Don’t get me wrong – turkey at Thanksgiving is a treat, a tradition and literally the gift that keeps on giving. But that’s where the problem lies; at some point you get tired of leftovers. You’ve made turkey pie, tetrazzini, tacos and of course endless sandwiches. Eventually, you’re ready to see the back of turkey and can barely muster the energy to dump the carcass in a pot to make stock.

It’s exacerbated by the fact that many of us are going to whip up another bird in less than a month’s time. You do a frantic google search for ‘turkey leftover recipes’ and sigh deeply.

So what’s the answer? It’s time for something new. Pop the rest of the bird in the freezer and change culinary directions. At Los Chileros HQ, we fancy a slow cooked lamb shoulder with a spiky, zesty lime, honey, chipotle marinade. It’s the perfect way to wake up dulled taste buds and ideal for winter weather.

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You marinade the lamb overnight then cook it at high heat for about 20 minutes before turning the temperature right down and letting it go nice and slow until the meat falls off the bone. It’s even better if you eat it the next day when the flavors have really had a change to mingle and marry.

Eat it on its own, wrapped up in tortillas or on a bun – the choice is yours. It’s heaven with a bit of slaw and some dill pickles. It will make loads but invite some turkey-fatigued friends over or stash some in the freezer to have on hand at Christmas when you’re wishing the leftover turkey would scram. Go ahead and make it, you’ll thank me in a few week’s time.

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Slow cooked lamb shoulder with chipotle, lime & honey

If you can’t find lamb shoulder or don’t like it (heaven forbid), then you can opt for pork or beef – just go for a cut that likes it low and slow. The good news? These are usually cheaper too so you’ll get more taste and keep a bit of cash in your pocket, handy when you’ve got all those Christmas credit card bills to pay. But let’s not dwell on that thought…

Serves 8+

1 lamb shoulder, bone-in about 7lbs

2 Tbsp Los Chileros Chipotle rub & mix

Juice of 1 lime

1 Tbsp honey

Salt

Place the lamb in a roasting pan. Mix the marinade ingredients together and rub over the lamb. Refrigerate overnight if possible. The next day, remove the pan from the fridge and allow to come to room temperature. Preheat the oven to 400°F Generously sprinkle some sea salt on the lamb. Place the lamb in the hot oven for 20 minutes.

Turn the oven down to 225°F. Take the lamb out of the oven, cover the roasting pan with a lid or with aluminium foil – you want to make sure you’re keeping the moisture locked inside. Return to the oven and cook at the low temperature for 3-4 hours then check the lamb – it should be falling off the bone – if not cook longer.

When the lamb is done, take it out of the pan and place on a cutting board and cover with aluminium foil. Strain the cooking juices from the pan into a measuring cup or container and place it in the fridge. This will encourage the fat to rise to the top and solidify. Remove the fat and discard then return the juices to the pan. Shred the meat and put it in the pan with the juices. Give a toss to make sure all the meat is coated. Return to the oven to warm before serving with flat bread, rolls, over couscous or rice.

Roasted butternut squash with a chile, lime yogurt sauce

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Halloween – like youth – is wasted on the young. We send out a bunch of adrenalin-fuelled kids to terrorize the neighbours with thinly veiled threats of ‘trick or treat’. Meanwhile, their older hormonally-challenged siblings pelt eggs and strew toilet paper on the homes and yards of long-suffering teachers.

The young ones arrive back home with enough candy to feed a small island state and proceed to eat themselves into a sugar frenzy that ends in tears and tantrums. You get little Susy into bed (finally) just as the phone rings to alert you that her older brother is down at the station, caught red-handed with half a dozen eggs and a can of shaving cream.

Sometime around midnight you collapse into an armchair, clutching a large whiskey like it’s a life jacket on a sinking ship.

Wouldn’t the world be a better place if we left the kids at home and the adults went out instead? Forget the trick or treating, I’m thinking glam Halloween parties instead. Imagine costumes, but nothing made of rayon or other ghastly fabrics –Swarovski crystals and vintage Dior will do nicely, I think. Music – of course – but ‘70’s disco or classic Motown. Food – natch – will be a more refined offering and candy will be nothing less than 70% dark chocolate.

No eggs, no shaving cream, no toilet paper except in the bathrooms (Diptyque scented candles shimmering seductively, please). This is a kinder, gentler Halloween where order is restored and kids are where they should be – at home doing a rather lengthy and laborious project on the Louisiana Purchase with a babysitter who resembles Mary Poppins in look and attitude.

It’s an idea, right?

Roasted butternut squash with a chile, lime yogurt sauce   

img_0873This recipe looks long but only because I’ve given rather lengthy instructions on cutting up the butternut squash. The basic idea is that you want the squash pieces roughly the same size so they’re done at the same time. I peel butternut squash but you don’t need to – the outer skin is edible or you can remove after cooking. The choice is yours.

Serves 4

1 butternut squash, roughly 2 lbs

2 Tbsp olive oil

Salt

½ tsp Ancho chile powder

Sauce

4 Tbsp CO YO coconut milk yogurt

Zest and juice of one lime

1/2 tsp New Mexico green chile powder

1 tsp honey

Garnish

1 Tbsp pumpkin seeds, lightly toasted

1 tsp New Mexico green chile caribe flakes

Preheat oven to 425°F

I peel my butternut squash as I think it looks nicer but by all means leave the outer skin on if you like. Regardless, slice off a bit from the top and bottom to remove any stem and tail. Then slice the butternut squash into two pieces. Make the cut at the end of the slender neck, right before it bulges out into the round bottom section.

Take the tall ‘neck’ portion and cut it in half creating two short columns the same size. Take one of these and slice it down the middle. Cut one half into four wedges. Repeat with the other half and then again with the other column. You’ll end up with sixteen wedges that are about the same size.

Now take the round bottom section. Slice it down the middle so you have two bowl-shaped pieces. Scoop out the seeds and remove any fibrous bits. Slice each half into six wedges, for a total of twelve wedges.

img_0875Place all the squash onto a baking sheet and toss with the olive oil and a generous sprinkle of sea salt.

Roast the vegetables for about 30 minutes or so until they’re nicely browned on the outside. If a knife slips in the squash easily, it’s cooked. Give the vegetables a turn every ten minutes or so to ensure they brown evenly. For the last turn, sprinkle with the Ancho chile powder and give a toss.

While the squash is cooking, make the sauce. In a bowl, mix together the yogurt, lime juice, Green chile powder and honey. Give a good stir and add salt to season.
img_0878Place the roasted butternut squash on a serving platter. Drizzle with the sauce and sprinkle with the pumpkin seeds, Green chile caribe and the grated lime zest. Serve hot or at room temperature with any remaining sauce on the side.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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)

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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.

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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.

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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

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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!