Chilli and Spice and All Things Nice!

We fancied a bit of Spice this Christmas and so for our recent festive themed supperclub we turned to Thomasina Miers’ ‘Chilli Notes’ – a lovely homage to everyone’s favourite capsicum. Using this book as our guide for a menu, we cooked up treats that showcased not just chilli heat but the fruity aromatics too.

First up was a very unusual sounding cocktail – one that we couldn’t resist having a go at when we spied it on the pages of the recipe book. This was a cucumber and jalepeno margarita. If you have a blender then I do recommend you give this a go. The veg and chilli is blitzed with apple juice, mint, lime juice and sugar syrup and produces a vividly green concoction that has sourness from the citrus, sweetness from the apple and unmistakably spiked with cucumber and chilli heat. Very moreish indeed. We brought ours to life with a splash of grenadine – it was Christmas after all!

Susie’s canapes were a mix of some of our favourite things to eat, to start was a fragrant pork laab (or laab moo for those in the know). served at room temperature, this salad consists of pork mince, chillies, lemongrass and lots of herby aromatics. Next up were little corn and chorizo fritters, very moreish and rich with paprika. These were served with a good dollop of cooling guacamole. Finally were some little spicy prawn tacos. The prawns, pan fried in chipotle and lime, were encased in a soft tortilla and and served with avocado.

Next up was a pre-starter of beetroot, parsnip, ginger and horseradish soup, sweet, spicy and zesty, this had a lovely festive colour and fresh, powerful flavour. The chilli element was provided courtesy of the punchy chili de arbol. However it was quite subtle when up against the horseradish and ginger. For starters I served up a luxurious twice baked soufflé, well Thomi’s take on one! This soufflé was flavoured with fennel and Yorkshire blue cheese, with a crust of hazelnut, paprika and cayenne. Thomisina favours goats cheese in her soufflé but I know this is  not everybody’s cup of tea, so I chose my favourite local cheese. On first bake these rose fantastically, and were then baked for a second time covered in cream and parmesan. They came out lovely, golden, light and pillowy. To accompany the soufflés was a fun little salad of shaved fennel, rocket, avocado and corn – all bound together with an interesting dressing of charred habanero and toasted cumin. Theses strong flavours aimed to counteract the creamy richness of the soufflé.

We’ve been obsessed with serving a pie for mains for ages now and Christmas seemed the perfect opportunity. I cooked up a filling of beef shin, prune, rosemary and pasilla chilli. This was sweet, rich and tasty – the chilli almost imparting an aromatic tea-like quality. Susie spent three hours building the pie cases out of her homemade hot water crust pastry. She’s vowed never to do this again – but she’ll get faster with a bit more practice! They looked so beautiful I will probably want to serve pies at every supperclub – sorry Susie! The pies were accompanied by sweet potato mash (with a difference) and green beans with pumpkin seed pesto. The mash had tons of intriguing layered flavour – the sweetness counter balanced by savoury notes from soy sauce and beurre noisette. Sweetness was enhanced with maple syrup, and of course some heat from chilli flakes. Do try this intriguing side, but only eat in small quantities!

Our classic sorbet was a smooth and tangy lime version with fresh habanero running through it. We’ve done a spicy sorbet before and guests are always amazed by the bizarre mix of icy cold and chilli heat. To take it to the next level I topped each scoop with some homemade tamarind curd. This had the beautiful custardyness of a curd but with intense sourness of tamarind – almost mind blowingly tasty! I have loads left so will find a purpose for it this Christmas – perhaps in the base of a really sweet frangipane tart?

Dessert was a macadamia, chilli caramel and chocolate tart. Salted caramel is infused with chilli flakes to create a warming, salty, sweet concoction and this is topped with toasted macadamias. the whole lot is blanketed in dark chocolate ganache and all encased in crisp shortcrust pastry. Served with a scoop of cooling homemade vanilla ice cream, this is was a decadent pud indeed.

Finally, just as guests were at point of exploding our final little offering was little pepper biscuits as a petit four for coffees. Not technically a Thomasina recipe but seemed to suit our Christmas theme better. These came in the form of pretty little stars, topped with some  more tamarind curd, a caramelised pumpkin seed and dusted with icing sugar – very Christmassy!

This was probably one of our most enjoyable events that we’ve hosted in a long time. Guests were a very enthusiastic, friendly and chatty group, which is always nice. The recipes, on the whole, could be prepared well in advance meaning that stressful last minute cooking was avoided. If we had one criticism it’s that the book is not very well written. This is a huge shame as we absolutely love Thomasina. However the steps in the recipes have been simplified so much that entire steps get missed out or you’re left with ingredients that are listed and are then not used. We used our common sense where we could, but I guess if you are a novice chef who follows a recipe word for word then this might be bit scary! Having said that everything we cooked was super tasty and worked. We followed the recipes as faithfully as we could without too much tweaking, which is a good sign as we usually completely mess around with them! So that’s it for this year, we’re back in the new year with some cleansing, veggie dishes courtesy of the lovely Ottolenghi. Hope you’ve had a lovely Christmas and have a wonderful New Year everyone!

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