Thursday, 28 November 2013

Wham, bam, it's MY chilli jam

In my opinion, chilli jam is the true child of the food blogging world. Before the explosion of blogging, I’d never really known about it, seen it in restaurants nor wanted to eat it. Now, I can’t get enough of it, and I’m constantly trying to find excuses to dollop lashings of this sticky sweet condiment onto, well, anything. Reading about all these different kinds of wondrous combinations from some of my favourite blogs and sites such as boozy bacon jam, chilli and red onion jam and even a very aptly named smutty sweet chilli tomato jam (let’s face it, chilli jam is the smuttiest and most sinful of all jams) inspired me. Adding my Asian chilli jam to the line-up of jars in the fridge, I seemed to have accumulated a Benetton ad-worthy array of different ethnic chilli jams. They all pass my scrupulous test of what makes a good chilli jam, which is…

“Does it work on a cheese toastie?”

You may laugh, but I promise it’s the best standard of measure I’ve come up with. Sure, the beauty of chilli jam means it’s versatile enough to eat with things like fishcakes, calamari, steak sauce, salad dressing…I even use mine as a marinade for meats and fish. But I swear, the true verification of a chilli jam CHEESE ON TOAST.

The reason why it’s called what it’s called is there is something about everyone’s own recipes which turns them into a possessive Gollum-esque toddler. It’s hard to part with your secret recipe or one that has been passed down. One of my friends Mary is case in point. When her Aunt wouldn’t give her the recipe for her chilli jam, Mary would really ration out and make her jar last until her next visit. She hid the jam on the highest shelf, and could tell, by the gram, if anyone had the audacity to sneak a spoonful. This ultimately made the jam more desirable and fun to pinch (sorry Mary). 

It’s peculiar that there are some recipes you wouldn’t dream of giving away, and can only be passed down through generations, as a cherished heirloom. The power of food and the protection of a perfect formula is incredible. Not to say mine isn’t a secret worth keeping, but I hope you make it and treasure the wonders of what this jam is all about. 
There are elements in this jam which really make subtle hints of Asian influence such as the zingy tamarind tang and the smoky warm chilli kick that heats your mouth right at the end of a mouthful, however the star of the show has to be palm sugar. A darker and more butterscotch-muscovado flavour, it really carries the jam to that sticky lava like texture you’re looking for. You can get this in Asian supermarkets and health food shops, however some bigger supermarkets will have this sugar in the oriental section – joy!

During the cooking it starts to look a little on the questionable side in terms of colour...I promise this is an ugly duckling sort of phase – have faith that it’ll pass. Don’t skip out on the tamarind paste, it’s the final layer of flavour which transforms the whole concoction into that complex, dark and rich delight. I like to use red onion and shallots. Mainly because when I was originally devising the recipe (by this point I was on chilli jam no.5) I got sick of peeling so many shallots, that I thought red onion might be a good way around my laziness of chopping shallots. A mix between the two works a treat. 

3 large red onions
4 echalion shallots
4 tablespoons of oil
1 clove of crushed garlic
1 inch of grated ginger
7 dried red chillies (available in Asian supermarkets)
1 teaspoon of shrimp paste (available in larger supermarkets in the oriental section)
135g of palm sugar (approx. 2 'blocks'). Alternatively you can use a 50:50 mix of muscovado and light brown sugar
3 tablespoons of light brown sugar
2 tablespoons of dark soy sauce
2 tablespoons of tamarind paste

Roughly chop the onions and shallots – they don’t need to be too fine as they’ll be blitzed in a food processor. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a pan and cook these for 7-8 minutes on a medium/high heat, adding the crushed garlic and ginger a few minutes into this process. Whizz quickly in a food processor.
On a low/medium heat, with residual oil from the pan, gently fry the chilli and shrimp paste for 1-2 minutes, just to release the flavours out – make sure not to heat this too high, or you’ll be breathing in a lot of spice!
Along with 2 tablespoons of oil, add the chillies  to the processor and blitz again until you have a sloppy texture. Return the mix into a pot with the palm and brown sugar on a low heat. Melt the sugar down and frequently stir to avoid it sticking to the bottom.
Heat this for 45 minutes to 1 hour, and add tamarind paste and soy sauce to the jam once it gets to the consistency you would like. Pour into sterilised jars and see how long you can go without making that cheese on toast.


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    1. Thanks Sakk-Chob - will definitely submit these in.