The Great Chilli Experiment…
I didn’t do anything for Bonfire Night. This is because:
a) every freaking night in Mexico City is Bonfire Night
b) I was in Cancun for a week
One of the joys of working as a teacher is October half term. It’s like a bonus holiday to make sure you make it to December without losing your mind. For me, it’s a great opportunity to leave everything I know behind for a week and indulge myself. The key word here is myself – no YM, no friends, nobody at all. When you work in a profession that is all about talking the last thing you want to do on your holidays is talk. Sounds weird? Well, try speaking to 20 people an hour, every hour for 8 hours a day 5 days a week. I bet this little experiment is enough to turn you mental. So, the conclusion is I really need a break from being around people. And I need to get out of this crazy city.
I do have a certain bit of guilt when I go off by myself. Poor YM gets the mandatory 6 days a year and nothing more. But I don’t feel guilty enough to wait around for him so I make sure that I appease my guilty conscience in other ways. The fridge has been stocked with his favourite foods, the burrito takeout menu is close to hand and I always go during the week when he’s working. This year I booked an all inclusive week in Cancun. I got a good price and it’s not somewhere I would necessarily ever go with YM so he wouldn’t feel too left out. Unfortunately I managed to time my holiday to coincide with the back-end of a hurricane. The first couple of days of my Caribbean getaway were spent shivering in inappropriate beachwear whilst looking glumly at the pool through a curtain of torrential rain.
However, by the middle of the week the weather had settled down and my blissfully solitary routine of eat a lot, sleep a lot and swim a lot was beginning to take effect on my stress levels. In fact, I read 8 novels, had 3 course meals 3 times a day and watched wonderfully girlie movies sans the usual male whining every night! How awesome (and totally boring to read about unless it’s about happens to you -hah!). Cancun itself isn’t really my cup of tea. Mexicans are outnumbered by Americans, all the prices are in US dollars (and if you earn in pesos – you can’t really afford anything anyway) and the Zona Hotelera is a sterile, soulless strip of high rise hotels and adverts for crappy nightclubs and Vegas-type shows. A great excuse to go no further than the beach! Not that you need to – the beach is awesome and the colour of the ocean? Well, I assure you – it’s NOT photoshopped!
Coming back from holiday is always depressing. Especially when you know that the return to work is imminent and you have to start being sociable again. I wasn’t really ready for it and this resulted in a few harsh words to poor YM. He just wanted someone to talk to after being left alone for a week so I decided to kill two birds with one stone. I would show my affection for him by making him some chilli sauce and I would remind myself of the white sands and pina coladas by the pool I had just left behind by making it West Indian style. This also meant that I got to spend Sunday afternoon in the kitchen….close enough to make affirmative noises and far enough away that I wasn’t inundated by the mundane witterings of a man that has only had other techie folk and the burrito guy to talk to all week.
To say that YM has a chilli addiction would be an understatement. A more accurate portrayal would be saying that YM and chillies have formed some unnatural symbiotic relationship and if he doesn’t consume a certain amount of chilli heat per day he will explode (or turn into a girl). His ability to eat chillies is so impressive that even the chilli-loving Mexicans have expressed their astonishment. As a result, he is always goaded him into trying progressively hotter and hotter types of chill, and he never fails to impress. I like being associated with him when we go out for dinner. It’s like being out with a rockstar. A chilli-eating rockstar that everyone wants to get a picture with.
So YM, here is my tribute to your acceptance of my constant vacationing and memories of the Caribbean:
Roast Chilli Island Sauce (I made up the name – I know it’s a bit rubbish)
You will need:
- 400g of chillies (Scotch Bonnet chilies are the best – I just used whatever was mouldering at the bottom of the vegetable drawer)
- 100g of brown sugar
- 50g of salt
- A bulb of garlic
- A tablespoon of mustard powder
- 2 teaspoons of mustard powder
- 2 teaspoons of cumin powder
- 500ml of white vinegar
Pop the chilli tray into the oven and wait until the chillies turn black and the garlic goes soft and squishy.
Depending on how good your oven is this could take anywhere from 40min – 1 hour. Don’t worry if the chillies look like paper and you can shatter them when you take them out – this is normal!
In a separate bowl, weigh out 100g of brown sugar.
Add 50g of salt and 2 teaspoons of cumin powder. Follow with 2 teaspoons of mustard powder.
Add 2 teaspoons of ground turmeric.
Whack your chillies into a pan. Make sure it’s not a non-stick pan.
Now, squeeze out the roasted garlic from the cloves and into the pan. It’s like squeezing a tube of toothpaste and oddly satisfying (a bit like squeezing pus out of a spot).
Add your brown sugar mix to the pan. Now, at this point, my camera died and I had no spare batteries in the flat to replace them. So you will just have to try follow my written instructions!
Finally, add 500ml of vingear to the pan and give everything a really good stir.
Bring the mixture to the boil and boil vigorously for at least 10 min.
After boiling, transfer your mixture into a blender and give everything a really good whizzing until all the chillies are no longer visible and the mixture is totally smooth.
Pour into a sterilised bottle and refrigerate when cool. This sauce will last unpoened for up to 3 months and its sweet smoky salty flavour really does mellow with age.
Use your Roast Chilli Island Sauce to bring some sunshine (and fire!) to your meals.
Eat whilst looking at this picture…