When I’m planting my vegetable and herb gardens I try as much as possible to companion plant. Not because I’m a particular expert when it comes to companion planting, or because I have any great skill at it, but mostly because I’m a bit space limited so only grow things we will use a lot of, and because the foods we like to eat tend to go well together. For example it just makes sense to grow my tomatoes beside my basil.
I also don’t like to use much in the way of chemicals when maintaining my garden – though I do confess to some dastardly weed killer when the naughty weeds get a bit out of control. For that reason I grow marigolds around my vegetables to help repel insects, and a very wise woman (yes you, Mum) once told me that the bugs seem to steer clear of chilli plants too. And so it was that when I put in my tomatoes and cucumbers in mid spring last year, I also planted three ‘Chilli Fire’ chilli plants amongst the seedlings. The cucumber and tomatoes took off and took over the garden and the wee chilli plants were largely forgotten (and smothered). But they hung in there, and since the other plants have been removed the chilli’s have, quite literally, been enjoying their time in the sun and are blessing us with masses of spicy fruit.
To say we’re overwhelmed with chilli’s would be an understatement. Every few days another half dozen or so are ready to pick. Fortunately the afore-mentioned wise woman also pointed out that chilli’s freeze exceptionally well. Wash them, pat them dry and pop them in a zip-lock bag in the freezer. Then simply grab one out whenever you need a bit of spice. There’s not even any need to defrost them first.
Problem is, I’ve already got two bags stuffed full of chilli’s in the freezer and can’t use them fast enough. And these ‘Chilli Fire’ chilli’s are just that – smoking hot – so when we do use them its fairly sparingly. So what to do with the latest harvest? Sweet chilli sauce, of course!
We use a lot of this great condiment – its great as a dip with just about any sort of nibbly food, but particularly mini spring rolls or samosa’s, and I like to mix sweet chilli sauce with a bit of mayonnaise to make a spicy mayo for chicken wraps and sometimes even hot chips.
Sweet chilli sauce is also a great way to add a bit of sweet spiciness to your cooking. I like to add a tablespoon or so to bolognese mince, or dash a bit in to my creamy mushrooms for breakfast. I will even mix a bit of this sweet, hot sauce with some melted butter and brush it over chicken wings before baking for an easy nod to buffalo wings.
Sweet chilli sauce is a brilliantly easy recipe to make, and the result is just as good, if not better than the bought stuff. The nice thing about making your own is you can decide how hot you want the sauce by removing the seeds from the chilli’s before cooking.
I possibly should have removed more seeds than I did because my sauce is fiery hot! This recipe yielded around 750ml of sauce and its going to take us quite a while to get through it one teaspoon at a time!
Serves: 750 ml
- 1 brown onion
- 3 cloves garlic
- ¾ cup water
- 50g fresh long red chilli's (approx 10-12 chilli's)
- 2 cups white sugar
- ⅓ cup white vinegar
- juice of 1 lime
- 1 tsp fish sauce
- Peel and roughly chop the onion and garlic and place in the bowl of a food processor. Pour on the water. Split and de-seed half the chilli's, add to the food processor. Roughly chop the rest of the chilli's and add to the food processor as well. Note: its always important when working with chilli's to wash your hands thoroughly after handling them.
- Process on high for 2-3 minutes until very finely chopped.
- Put the sugar, vinegar, lime juice and fish sauce into a medium sized sauce pan. Stir in the chilli mixture and stir over a medium heat until the sugar has dissolved.
- Turn the heat up and bring the sauce to a boil. Reduce the heat and let the sauce simmer for 45-50 minutes. To test if its ready, spoon a little sauce onto a clean plate and leave it to rest for 5 minutes. If the sauce becomes thick and sticks to your fingers when touched, its ready. Note: if you prefer a thicker sauce, leave it to simmer for another 10-15 minutes.
- Spoon the hot sauce into clean, dry jars and seal well. Carefully turn the jars upside down for 2 minutes, then turn back over the right way up. Set aside to cool.