Three chile chutney

I can feel the collective eye rolling and lip muttering, all the way across ye old world wide web. Chutney? Really? A southwestern chutney? Have they lost their marbles?

Well, perhaps, but that’s a whole different conversation.

Before you start grumbling that we’ve gone all hoity-toity at Chile Trail HQ, let me stop you. A chutney is simply fruit and/or vegetables with spices, vinegar and sugar. That’s it. And that’s exactly what this is: three different chiles, red peppers, tomatoes, vinegar and sugar. Oh and some fresh ginger.

In this festive season, we like to think of the chiles as the three kings of this recipe. We’ve got chipotle, habanero and ancho. Chipotle comes in like a smoking powerhouse, all puffed up and pumped. Habanero slides in with citrus notes, lulls you into a false sense of security, then hits you with a hot smack on the lips. Ancho sighs and tsk’s tsk’s at the show-offs, marvelling at its own self-restraint.

This chutney is sweet and sour and jammy and hot and if you don’t like it then our friendship is over. This makes three small jars if you feel like spreading the Christmas cheer or one large one if you’d like to hang out alone, content with a loaf of bread, some goat’s cheese and your own southwestern chutney.

Chutney. There. I said it.

1 whole Ancho chile

1 whole Chipotle chile

1 whole Habanero chile

1” knob of ginger, peeled and chopped

3-4 cloves of garlic, chopped

3 long red peppers, about 12 oz., deseeded and chopped

14oz. can of crushed tomatoes

6 oz. sherry vinegar

12 oz./1 ½ cups sugar

Put the three chiles in a small bowl and cover with hot, almost boiling water. Set aside for 10-15 minutes until they are soft and pliable. Remove the stems and seeds and roughly chop.

Place the chopped ginger, garlic, red peppers, crushed tomatoes, chile peppers and sherry vinegar in a blender. Blitz on high speed until pureed.

Pour the puree into a saucepan, add the sugar and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 40-45 minutes until reduced and jammy. Some scum may form on the surface. Don’t panic — just skim that off. Pour into sterilized glass jars and seal.

 

 

 

Slow cooker ham and chile lentil soup

This is a warning. I’m not in a good mood. And no, it has nothing to do with politics, the upcoming ‘big football game’ or even January which I’m sure has lingered longer than it’s allowed by law. Nope, I’m ticked off at people who talk about cooking ‘cheats’ – short cuts to make cooking 1) faster, 2) easier, or just 3) better.

Folks, this isn’t cheating. Cheating was when you copied answers from another kid’s history test in 5th grade. (Cheated was how you felt when you still got a C.) It’s not cooking. Because bottom line, if it tastes good when you tuck in, then it’s good cooking.

Cascabel chiles get their name from the rattling sound they make.

We’ve got enough guilt floating around in the world as it is. If I needed more, I’d call my Mother. So this recipe isn’t a cheat, it’s just tasty. Normally, at Chile HQ, we’d sweat the onions, then add in the celery and carrots – taking our time to extract every morsel of sweet loveliness.

But here, we’re letting the slow cooker do the work for us. A lot of time makes this a super rich dish but all you have to do is a bit of chopping, and you can do that, can’t you? This is a January soup and if you’re clever you’ll freeze the leftovers and have it in February. Because let’s be honest, February may be short but it sure feels long.

Serves 4

1 cup brown lentils, rinsed

2 stalks celery, diced

2 carrots, diced

1 red onion, diced

1 cascabel chile, stem removed

1 tsp chipotle powder (or more to taste)

1 cup cooked ham, chopped into chunks

1-14.5 oz can diced tomatoes

32oz vegetable or chicken stock

Place the lentils, celery, carrots and onion in the slow cooker. Pour in the stock, add the cascabel chile and chipotle chile powder. Cover and cook on low for 5-6 hours, until the lentils are almost cooked. Add the ham and the canned tomatoes, taste and add more chipotle chile powder and salt, if needed. Cook for another hour and serve warm. Note: Don’t worry about removing the casabel from the finished dish– it will have lovingly melted into the soup.

Sun-dried tomato, walnut and chipotle chile paste

Congratulations. You did it. You survived Thanksgiving and aunt Vera’s creamed onions. You sat through endless bowl games and bowls of food. No one died of food poisoning and no blood was spilt over the scrabble board. All in all, I’d call that a success.

Now you’ve only got Christmas and New Year’s before you can crawl off into your man/woman/person cave and hibernate until Spring. Imagine all those seconds of stuffing and turkey and gravy providing you with the perfect padding to keep you going until the daffodils are in bloom. Go ahead, eat that extra slice of pie because you’re going to need it.

Oh, if only we were more bears. Wouldn’t hibernation be a great solution for short days and long nights? But alas, you’ve got the day job. And the kids and the bowling team (whose idea was that?). So snap out of it. At best, you can sneak in some mini weekend hibernations – aka naps. Close the doors, ignore your phone and be a solitary curmudgeon for half an hour.

Of course you must keep your strength up, so whip up a batch of sun-dried tomato, walnut and chipotle chile paste. Slather it on a slice of bread or spoon it onto a baked potato. Heck, eat it out of the jar as far as we’re concerned. Before you know it, spring will be here. You’ll search for your sunglasses and put the snow shovel away. You’ll stretch, smile and realize there’s suddenly more than 2 hours of daylight. You’ll look in the mirror and your smile will fade, as you ask yourself why you ate those last five slices of pie.

Sun-dried tomato, walnut & chipotle chile paste

3 oz sun-dried tomatoes

2 oz walnuts (or other nut)

1 lemon, finely zested

1 whole chipotle chile

½ clove garlic.

4 oz olive oil

Place the chipotle chile in a small bowl and cover with almost boiling water. Allow it to sit and hydrate for 10-15 minutes. When it’s softened, remove it from the water, slice it open and remove the seeds. Coarsely chop.

Toast the nuts in a frying pan or in the oven until lightly golden. Watch them like a hawk though, as they’ll quickly burn if you’re not alert.

Coarsely chop the sun-dried tomatoes and walnuts. Place them in the small bowl of a food processor or mini blender. Add the lemon zest, garlic, chopped chipotle chile and about 1/3 of the oil. Blitz. Stop and stir and then add the remaining oil so you have a thick, spoonable paste.

Store in a jar and cover with olive oil.

 

 

Corn on the cob with basil butter, parmesan cheese and chipotle chile

Basil is growing like a weed in the palatial gardens of Los Chileros Manor. Our head gardener can barely keep up with it, but of course, the rest of the staff chip in to help. Needs must.

What? You don’t believe we have a head gardener let alone a staff of hundreds? Perhaps we exaggerate just a tad…But the point is that basil is going great guns, so water it, snip it, and get cooking. We like to look ahead to those basil-less days of Autumn and winter and make some pesto (freezes like a dream) and basil butter.

Basil butter couldn’t be simpler to make and it too freezes like a pro. It’s just the thing to pull out of the freezer on a cold winter’s day. Defrost, then spread on a crusty baguette and you’ll feel like you’re in the south of France, without the hassle of airport security.

But don’t freeze it all because summer isn’t gone yet. It’s perfect slathered on an ear of corn, then topped with some grated parmesan cheese and a healthy sprinkle of chipotle chile powder. Couldn’t be easier and everyone will think you’re a Michelin starred chef. Well, maybe not that crab apple of a neighbor but you’re never going to please her, are you?

 Corn on the cob with basil butter, parmesan cheese and chipotle chile

1 stick unsalted butter, cut into chunks

heaping cup of basil leaves

salt

Corn

To garnish:

Parmesan cheese

Chipotle chile powder

In the small bowl of food processor, place the basil leaves and butter. Blitz until the basil is chopped and nicely mixed with the butter. Taste and add salt as needed. Place in a bowl and keep refrigerated until ready to use.

Boil or microwave your corn. Microwaving is super easy – simply place an unshucked ear in the microwave and cook for 3 minutes. To serve, peel the corn, spread on some of the basil butter, sprinkle with the grated parmesan cheese and a healthy sprinkle of the chipotle chile powder.

Chile rubbed chicken thighs with double chile barbecue sauce

It’s here. It’s time. No excuses. Feel the burn. Yep, it’s barbecue season. The thought of lighting up the barbecue fills people with either 1) joy or 2) abject fear. Now don’t get me wrong – the joyful folk aren’t necessarily the best at the grill. They may like the stuff of a bbq – the smoke, the super-sized tongs, the apron which says something marginally inappropriate on it, the requisite adult beverage.

But these same souls may be the ones who get started telling a story only to find that their T-bone (which cost more than a mid-sized car) has turned to ash. The abject fear folk either shy away from barbecuing altogether (they tend to stay inside and microwave during the summer months) or they feel the fear and do it anyway.

Sometimes, these are the best at the barbecue. They approach it with reverence, with respect and with a healthy dose of fear. Because, let’s face it folks, you’re cooking with fire. Literally. If you feel a tad cautious then hats off to you. You’re cooking food over flames and if you think about it that’s got more than a hint of danger to it.

So for both you joyful and fearful folk we salute you. Get yourselves sorted before you light up and you’ll be one, two, maybe three steps ahead of the game. For this recipe, we marinated chicken thighs with Chipotle rub & mix but our Firecracker rub or Jamaican jerk mix would be ace too. For the barbecue sauce, we’ve used two dried chiles – a chipotle and a cascabel. As they say double the pleasure, double the fun. Enjoy!

Serves 2

Chicken

4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs

juice of 1 lime

1 Tbsp vegetable oil

1 Tbsp chipotle rub & mix

Barbecue sauce

½ red onion, diced

1 clove garlic, minced

1 Tbsp vegetable oil

1 dried Chile Cascabel

1 dried Chile Chipotle

Juice of 1 lime

1-2 Tbsp cider vinegar

8oz ketchup

Brown sugar (optional)

If using wooden skewers, place in a bowl and cover with water so they won’t burn on the barbecue.

Cut the chicken thighs into cubes. Mix together the lime juice, oil and Chipotle rub & mix in a bowl. Add the cubed chicken and stir to coat. Refrigerate for several hours.

To make the barbecue sauce, place the two chillies in a bowl and cover with hot but not boiling water. Allow to sit for 15 minutes or so until they are rehydrated and soft. While they’re rehydrating, heat up the vegetable oil in a small saucepan. Add the onion, cover and cook over medium-low heat until soft but not brown. Add the garlic and cook for another minute.

Take the chillies out of the water, deseed them and remove the stem. Place the chillies in the saucepan with the onion and garlic, add the ketchup, lime juice and one tablespoon of the cider vinegar. Cook over medium heat for 10-15 minutes. Taste and add more vinegar if it needs more sharpness. You can add a pinch of brown sugar as well if the ketchup isn’t very sweet.

Remove from the heat and either remove the chillies or if you like more heat, puree the whole mixture.

Skewer the chicken, and place them on a hot grill. Spoon some of the barbecue sauce into a separate bowl. Turn the chicken and brush with the barbecue sauce. Wait for a few minutes then turn again and brush the other side. Remove from the grill when cooked through and a nice golden brown and serve with the rest of the barbecue 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.

 

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.