Sunday 1 December 2013

Taste report Capsicum cardenasii a bipolar chilli?

Being busy with my care farm project "De Groeistek", I really don't have a load off time on my hands.
But it is Sunday off, so here's a write up!
Thanks to Chris Fowler, I got to taste the Capsicum cardenasii again.
This is one odd chilli sure it is a wild chilli, but this one is odd.
I now have tasted 3 different ones, that go from mild or non pungent, to pretty darn hot.
The tastes vary a lot too, from lovely and sweet to bitter as can be.

The first one I tasted was the Capsicum Cardenasii 904750136, all I can say is WOW, not hot but what a taste !!!!!
I tasted one cardenasii first. I tasted a second, and gave both kids one too. Fruit tones, sweet and a distinct liquorice taste.  That was one superb and stunning little berry with a taste like modern commercial chillies are totally lacking off. Both kids tasted the sweetness and the liquorice as well, and wanted more !
This tiny 5 mm berry has more taste than a “water grown” cayenne !
Last year I tasted one that was hot, but had great taste, with sweet wood tones and a lot of fruits.
This year however, it is bitter as can be, still has its wood tones, and almost no sweet.
The sharp bitter is its first taste, chicory like and has the taste of Garland Chrysantemum, tomato and still sweet wood be it faint.
It really makes me think of Garland Chrysanthemum, and that is not my favourite taste I have to say.

It looks lovely, and it is lovely, don't you think? Well. it is a chilli that will surprise you, as you will never know how it'll taste. Will it taste like apple next year?

Cheers Bart

Wednesday 20 November 2013

Chilli and the hippie feel

Or should the title read: I lost that loving feeling?

I stopped writing about chillies almost totally, some time ago, you must have noticed. Not for no reason no, but I got sick of it all loosing the hippie feel. After 4 of my articles about the-race-for-your-best-chilli-or-money, I got dragged through the mud, to say the least. In facebook discussions all the hard data was pulled up in doubt, and questioned. In discussions, I was quoted with comments as being a self-righteous sob or even a bigot as claims that my interpreting of the cold hard numbers were false.
Endless discussion about average heat in records, being average high, and not average mean.
Weird enough I was accused of gaining in some sort of financial way even though I am not in the chilli business, by spreading lies about real numbers that are not mine but from the official institutes like the chili pepper institute in New Mexico.
Smoke and mirrors, as the only ones contesting the cold hard numbers, were commercial growers.

Even though I am in the Netherlands, I started getting calls from the US, from growers telling me the “real” story mostly jabbing about why others should not have had the Guinness worldrecord for the hottest chilli. Point to another, for yourself not to be seen is not good I tell my kids. Divide and conquer, to win in the market?
Low and behold I thought it was an American thing hyping chillies and never getting a record, but a few weeks later a Finland grower started telling he had the next record winning chilli, without showing proof.
Not seen any since my last article about the race months ago.
But, maybe the fight in the market is shushed down for a good few weeks, as Ed Currie has got the new Guinness worldrecord for the hottest chilli with his Carolina Reaper. I would say congrats Ed for your endless work to get it through Guinness.

So I lost the love, for the chilli scene, nothing to do with hippies but just cold hard cash. And don’t tell me that is not true; I read an interview from one of the commercial growers, making about a million US dollars a year.
After getting more and more mails, telling yet another time a different story of what really happened, I got sick of it. I banned every commercial grower that tried to sell me shoe laces for leather belts. I don’t react on any accusation made to my address; I don’t give a rats arse anyway, as I so lost the love.

Sure, some of my old real friends tried to pull me back in the hippie side but every time I say anything about chillies, I start getting this rotting smell up my nose again. Buy this, buy that, we’re better than others and others are better than. . . .
I even have a chilli group on facebook, I started to avoid and when I did drop in, I saw loads of advertisement. No, no, it is just a taste test video naming a certain website a zillion times. . .
Right, and my name is Conny !
Well, first thing I did was toss out the overly pushing their seeds down your throat kind off sellers, then I started to interact a bit again.

At the other hand, I am working my arse off trying to start up a care farm for challenged people, so I don’t have time to interact that much. “De Groeistek” (Eng= place where you can grow) will be a place where we grow heirloom foods, together with our participants giving them the support they need.

When friends got the news where I was working for, I got a load of support, overwhelming and heart warming. Loads of links were shared, and a lot of attention throughout the world. Friends started sending me special chillies, telling me to use the seeds at the farm and make some money from them. Catharina send me loads, Chris Fowler that makes excellent sauce send me a load, Ivor Davies told me he would sponsor the farm with seeds as well. I am starting to feel. . . .

You know, if I could learn to be hard and start promoting on the “I will shove those sees down your throat” kind of way I could really make a buck. I am allowed to put a 150 m3 greenhouse there, I could make more, maybe even. . .
I could make a million too, even with a care farm, if I only start promoting as. . . .

Noo, as I start feeling the love! And, I don’t want to bloody taint it!

Cheers Bart

Sunday 10 November 2013

Preparing for a dessert recipe.

Some time ago I was asked to write a different recipe with Sichuan flower pepper, the Spice the west forgot to steal. Now that, is not an easy I have to say.
To help me make it up I tried various brands of flower peppers. Getting back to the flower pepper from Jenny Song I tasted the richness and got some ideas.

It is hard to come up with a recipe if an ingredient or spice is that new, and most of all that rich in flavour. Sure, I made a great fish soup recipe with it, but I was looking for something totally different. So I called Jenny Song for a brain session, and that gave us some ideas. I came up with an idea to make a great dessert and a small fish dish. I won’t reveal all, but you will have to start prepping with me now, in order to make a great dish fit for an Emperor in 14 days.

You will need a good bottle of grape brandy or Weinbrand, ripened on French oak, such as the Majestät Weinbrand from Germany made by the Schwarzwälder Edelbranntweinbrennerei in Bimmerle. These are available in the Lidl, but I am sure another good grape brandy will do too.
Now poor a cup of brandy in a pot or bottle that you can seal, add 6 teaspoons of sugar and 6 teaspoons of flower pepper to it.
Close the bottle and leave it closed for 14 days at least, no peeking or smelling.
In the original bottle, add ¾ of a cup (120 grams) sugar and 1 table spoon of Sichuan flower pepper. Close this bottle again, and let it sit for 14 days at least.
What you will see the colour off the flower pepper faints, while it enriches the grape brandy.
What you will smell and taste is a fantastic Grand Marnier like liqueur but with the taste of mandarin orange and herbs. . .

More to come in 14 days.

Enjoy looking at it,

Cheers Bart

Thursday 23 May 2013

Nasi Kuning, food for the heart or medicine?

 In the old days I was always plagued with chicken-soup with rice, bone dry crackers and weak “taste to nothing” tea when I was sick. Or worse boiled rice, boiled with chicken broth that flown over the rice. Ow my, not going to bother you with it. Well you know, I have not been up to par, having colds and infections in my air ways and inflammations in the shoulders.

A friend in the UK when he learned I have been sick for months, pointed me out to the great medicinal value of Turmeric ( Kunjit, Yellow root, Kurkuma )
So I started searching for recipe’s that use Turmeric, and get the best benefits for health while eating something great. Now I stumbled on Nasi Kuning that originates from Indonesia and the Moluccas, a vibrant yellow rice dish that is eaten with celebrations and parties, which is great for health. The yellow stands for happiness and luck and resembles the colour gold. And for health, there is also Lemon-grass used in it, which is also used to help getting rid of a cough and nasal congestion. It is not as difficult as Nasi Goreng, but has amazing taste, creamy sweet with a zesty like citrus tone. Better than bland chicken-soup he.

What you need is:

300 gram Pandang rice or Basmati rice
Lemon-grass ( Sereh ) 1 stalk, 3-4 leaves or rather petioles from it 6 inch long
5 mm of Galangal root ( use Ginger if you really can't get Galangal )
2-4 cm of Turmeric root ( Kunjit, yellowroot )
1 chicken stock cube
2 tea spoons of concentrated coconut cream ( Santan ) or a tin of coconut cream or milk
2 Salam leaves, Daun salaam, or Indonesian bay leaf, or 1/2 a bay leaf.
ground pepper as that enhances the medicinal properties for Kurkuma

With this rice you put in the herbs if possible fresh and take all out when it is ready. If you have to use powder you can leave it, but hey it is best to get it fresh, and it will not cost you a lot.

Take 3-4 layers (petioles) of lemongrass and give them a good bash without breaking.
Take 5 mm of skinned galangal root in 2-3 slices.
Take 2-4 cm of Turmeric and grate it on a fine grater.
Everything gets a nice yellow colour, including the hands.
Put all in a pan with 2 chicken stock cubes, 2 teaspoons of coconut butter ( concentrated coconut crème ) or a small tin of coconut cream.
300 grams pandang rice and 2 Salam leaves.
If you can’t get salam leaves you can use ½ a bay leaf.

Add water until it is 25 mm above the rice, and get it to a modest boil. When boiling, lower the heat after 10 minutes to a slow simmer, and leave it for another 10-15 minutes.
Times can differ if you have other rice, so check the package of the rice.
The rice is ready when it is lovely soft and creamy, and just a bit sticky.
Take the herbs out when ready, and form nice bowls just simply using a cup or a small kitchen bowl.

Here you have the result, presented with stir fried vegetables and Satéh Ajam ( Chicken Satay )

Enjoy !

Yours sincerely,

Bart J. Meijer

Wednesday 3 April 2013

Taste report: Praetermissum CAP 1144

We all know chili species like the annuum, chinense and baccatum.
But there is much more!
The International Board for Plant Genetic Resources (nowadays part of Bioversity International ) has named more than 20 different wild capsicum species, including the Capsicum Praetermissum we are tasting today.
This wild chili has its origin at the west-coast of south America (Chili, Peru).
The backside of the leaves are a bit hairy but not so much as you've been used of a Pubescens style chilli.

Fruits of the Cap 1144

I sow my Praetermissum Cap 1144 for about a year ago. It took a while before it germinated and was not a very big grower. When summer has ended it still didn't grow to be a huge plant.  
I've seen pictures of big Cap 1144 plants but mine remained rather small.

Cap 144 seedling

In the winter it started to flower.
And wow what a beautiful flowers it got! Even when you don't like eating chillies this is a plant you want in your house just to look at!

Cap 1144 flower

After the flowers the berries came and took a few months to ripen.
Now the berries are ripe they fall of the stamp easily. just a little push and there they go.

The fruits of the cap 1144 are very small, thin peel and containing 3 to 10 seeds and some moist.
There is no clear placenta like seen in many cultivated hot peppers.

 2 Euro coin to see the size

Now to the taste:
First impression was a kind of bitter what reminded me of the taste of Pseudocapsicum, a toxic plant grown for its good looks. Yes I did try it before I knew it was toxic, but the bitter taste told me quick enough not to try anymore.

After the bitter a nice bell pepper like sweet, without the sour you find in lots of commercial bell peppers.
A gently, but continuous burn makes it a pleasant chilli to eat.
When the burn is over and the bell pepper taste disappears, a dried tomato like taste takes over.
This dried tomato stays very long, making you to want to eat another chilli.

Nice one to spice up your classical tomato and meatloaf pasta's and also would do good as a taste-maker on potato chips.  But you'll have to do a lot of work cleaning so many little fruits, I wonder if anyone would really use them.

Pseudocapsicum, do not eat them!

But be warned!  Bart ones at a dried Praetermissum CAP 1144 and that was a real bugger!


Thursday 28 March 2013

Cold spring, hot coffee

It's a cold spring in holland, to cold, can't do any work in the garden because the soil is still frozen.
To get a bit warmer myself I made a nice cup of coffee, and as you can imagine on this blog, with chillies!

But first the coffee.
To get you a good brew, you need good coffee. I found good coffee at Konvent.
Konvent is a small coffee-roasting factory ran by people who have disabilities what makes it hard for them to find a regular job.

For me the perfect coffee is a mix of enough caffeine and still a nice soft taste.
To get that perfect brew you need a mix of differend varities, a strong one (most times Robusta) for the caffeine kick and a mild one (most times Arabica) for a nice taste.
This time i choose for the "Guatamala"(strong) and "Santos Brazil"(tastefull)

The "Santos Brazil" even came with a 30% discount!

Next stap is grinding the coffee, for this i have a old grinder from the eighties.

But not before:....yes, you allready guessed, we add some chilli!!!
Many times I used the Aribibi Gusano because it has a nice vanillie like aroma that suits perfect.
But this time I choose for a chilli with a bit less taste so i can really taste the different sorts of coffee.

 Bishops hat

Together they go in the grinder, but.... oh no... The cover of my grinder is lost! .....
Happily some, happy looking, old muck fits right on top!

Not having some nice shiny, metalmade (and expensive!)  coffeemachine i used this old piece of plastic bought at the local second hand shop.

Aaaaaaaaaahhhh HOT coffee!...don't mind anymore spring is late this year...


Tuesday 12 March 2013

There’s dried chilli and there are dried chillies.

Some time ago I had the chance to try some dried chillies from Chinaspice in the UK. These are the chaps that send me the Szechuan flower pepper and gave me a load of information about the Chengdu cuisine.
Jenny Song wrote an excellent book on the Szechuan cuisine by the way.

Anyway, I have been tasting more than a load of dried chillies and the taste varies a lot! And I am still working myself through a mountain of them and really, what a difference. Now I want to take your time for a bit, to tell you about the differences I have found.
I learned anybody can mess up the best chilli, but hardly anybody can make a good chilli taste great after it is dried. And the secret is in the time. Now sure, we all are busy and I would love to have 40 hours in a day or more, but for some things you need to take time. And drying chillies does.

Now I had them in the oven, dehydrator and what not. And it didn’t take long to learn that if I am in a hurry, and dry them at higher temperatures the taste goes bad. You always get this almost “just about not burned” taste where the sugars go beyond caramelising. . . Brr
So lower at the temp is better, also in a dehydrator, still there is something missing.
Then I air dried them on strings, like they do in France, well hellooooo! That was the taste I was looking for and wanted. And I was sure to have tasted it before, it was in air dried wild chillies I got from Bolivia, and from Mexican chillies. I got the same taste now and then in Chinese chillies you can buy here, but that is a bit of hit and miss. Some are great, most are not. Sorry for the ramble, but do try to dry on a string some time, you will be amazed. The difference is about as big as pork meat and naturally cured Prosciutto. . .

Now, today I had the honour to taste the “Facing Heaven Fingers” or rather the choatian qixiang jiao. These type of chillies go by various names, also “facing heaven 7 stars” and “seven sisters” they are sold as rather hot chillies. In the way the plant is growing, they look similar to the Rawit from Indonesia and the Cheongyang Gochu from Korea.

I think they are as hot as those too, around 50.000-70.000 SHU. The taste has a bit of citrus and fruit. Due to really being naturally dried, or cured almost, you get a bit of a liquorice taste. It is not prominent nor faint but present.
The heat is frontal, you know what you get, and it leaves a bit of a sweet taste. On the way down, it heats the mouth and throat in a pleasant way. But what strikes me most is the sweet aftertaste it has.
This chilli is used in, what I read in Jenny’s cookbook as most commonly used in Sichuan for hotpot. Now I think I am going to use this in a hotpot too, or a Carbonade flamande, hmm choices choices. I think I will keep it to only using 2, hmm, or 3?

Yours sincerely

Bart J. Meijer