Hot Sauce: A Love Story

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In the days when I was young and free, hair flying, skin taut, I went to America on a ‘road trip’ with the person I presently live and procreate with. We were there for three months and we put on a stone each. We would pick up colossal pizzas and a side order of cheese-filled breadsticks with marinara sauce to eat as a ‘starter’ in the car on the way back to the hotel. If you had looked in through that steamed up car window you would have seen two fat bastards smeared in marinara sauce, engaged in a grotesque orgy of pleasure.

We also developed an unreasonable addiction to Taco Bell. Mass produced tacos and burritos smothered in cheese and soured cream. The only question that needs asking about this is: why haven’t we got it here? We eat all the bin food the Americans care to throw at us yet not this, it’s a tragedy.

Anyway, in Taco Bell they had these little sachets of hot sauce that you could sprinkle onto your rubbery burrito. And so began a love story for me. I like hot sauces. Sometimes I stare at the bottles and feel a tearful gratitude towards the companies that make them. I am a hot sauce marketing manager’s wet dream. Here are some of my favourites…

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From left to right:

Sriracha Hot Chilli Sauce: Named after the coastal city of Si Racha in Thailand, it’s an amazingly versatile sauce because it is spicy, salty and sweet. I don’t know how I managed to live my life before I discovered it, I was just blundering around in the darkness. Fantastic with Thai food obviously, but great squeezed over any Chinese dishes, it really makes a stir fry. I sometimes just fry up a sachet of ready-cooked rice with soy sauce and squeeze Sriracha over it. It’s a beautiful Thai-style ketchup.

Linghams Chilli Sauce: A sweet sauce nice in stir fries and as a dip. Kids like this one.

Nando’s Peri Peri Hot: Obviously goes well with chicken. Griddle chicken, shove in a pitta or bun and cover in this. Save yourself the 350 quid they charge for one piece of chicken at a Nandos restaurant. Also lush swirled in mayonnaise as a dip and in a prawn sandwich.

Cholula Original: The nearest to my original Taco Bell inspiration. Goes well with tacos, burritos, fajitas, enchiladas, chilli. Or have it as a chaser with your cornflakes.

Encona Jamaican Hot Pepper Sauce: I stumbled across this last week. Just looking at the slim, tiny bottle made me feel weak at the knees. I have so far used it mixed with mayonnaise on top of a cheesy jacket potato.

Franks Red Hot Original and Wings (Buffalo): My current favourite, I have it on everything within reason. Great on burgers, chicken, falafels. Or soak a piece of bread in Franks then eat; the perfect hors d’oeuvre.

Tabasco Habanero: More of a mouth-searing devil syrup than a hot sauce. It could melt plastic. Great in chilli, with sausages and steak. The person I live with likes it in Bolognese, which is wrong in my opinion.

You can buy all of the above from the table sauces aisle in the bigger supermarkets. So if you are not running out the door with a tenner flapping in your hand right now, I can’t help you.

I know there are other hot sauces out there. I am on a quest to find and taste them all so any suggestions welcome. Please feed my addiction.

Baked smoked haddock, prawn and spinach risotto

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My experience of cooking risotto has not been good. The problem is that I have the attention span of a child and, regardless of how Nigella says she finds it soothing to stand stirring for 25 minutes, I get bored and wander off. And it hurts my back, and knees and neck, because even though I am barely middle-aged, I have the body of a ninety-year-old woman.

Yet, I love risotto, so it’s a monstrous, life-altering situation. Then I came across a recipe (BBC Food) that broke all the rules and allowed you to bake the risotto in the oven for 20 minutes, after a bit of initial stirring.

I am aware that there is a lot of haddock-snobbery out there, we should all be buying undyed and from a fishmongers. I buy the fake orangey smoked haddock from Lidl, it tastes the same to me but then I am probably quite a low rent sort of person.

Serves 4 (good for lunch/leftovers the next day)    Prep: 20 mins   Cooking time: 20-25 mins       

Ingredients

1 large leek, sliced

1 tbsp of butter

300g of Arborio rice

375g of smoked haddock, skinned and chopped into large chunks.

100g of raw or cooked prawns, defrosted. I used Tesco Finest Jumbo King Prawns.

600ml of stock (I used chicken)

250ml of milk

2 tbsp of crème fraiche

A couple of handfuls of spinach, washed

Parmesan (or other hard cheese) and black pepper to serve.

Method

  1. Heat the oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6. In an ovenproof pan, fry the leeks in the butter until soft. Do not brown.
  2. Add the rice and stir until translucent.
  3. Add the milk and the stock and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring continuously.
  4. Place the chunks of smoked haddock on the top, stir lightly, and cover with a lid (you could use foil if you don’t have a lid).
  5. Oven bake for 15 minutes until the rice and fish are cooked.
  6. Remove from the oven and fold in the prawns, then return to the oven for five more minutes.
  7. Make sure the prawns are cooked through (they should be completely pink if you used raw) and fold in the spinach leaves and crème fraiche.
  8. Return to the oven for a few more minutes until the spinach has wilted. Serve with Parmesan and black pepper.

Cod, chorizo and butter bean stew, crusty bread

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I had an exciting light bulb moment last night. What would cod and chorizo taste like together? I marvelled at my own ingenuity and had a fleeting image of my new avant-garde cookery show. Then I googled it and realised that there are no original thoughts or deeds left in the world, including mine. There were 482,000 results for cod and chorizo. The internet clearly exists for the sole purpose of rubbing your face in your own mediocrity.

Once I had returned to my natural bovine state, I cooked this lovely stew based on a recipe from BBC Good Food. I find BBC Food sometimes wear a hair shirt when it comes to spices so I have beefed it up a bit.

Serves 2       Prep: 15 mins    Cooking time: 20 mins

Ingredients

Half a red onion (or white if you don’t have red), finely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed.
50g of chorizo, chopped. I used Dulano chorizo ring from Lidl.
2 chunky, skinless cod fillets
1 tsp of paprika
1 tsp dried or fresh rosemary.
1 tsp dried chilli flakes
Pinch of salt and pepper.
1 tin of butter beans, drained and rinsed. If you don’t have butter beans any will do. Cannellini or kidney beans would be a good substitute.
1 carton of passata. Aldi do nice-sized cartons for a meal for two.
Oil for cooking
Squeeze of lemon
Bread, to serve.

Method

1. In a frying pan with a lid, fry the onion and garlic in a slosh of oil until done (but not crisp). Remove to a plate.
2. Add the chorizo to the pan and fry until crispy. Return the onions and garlic back to the pan and add the rosemary, paprika and chilli flakes. Stir for a minute.
3. Add the passata and beans and simmer for 5 minutes.
4. Place the cod fillets on top of the sauce and cover with a lid, if you have one big enough.
5. Simmer for 6-8 minutes until the fish is cooked through.
6. Once the cod is done add a squeeze of lemon then remove the fillets to a plate. Ladle the stew into two bowls and place the cod on top. Serve with bread to mop up.