Chipotles En Adobo – a store cupboard essential

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If there is ONE new thing you do this year I urge, beg and plead you to try making your own ‘chipotles en adobe’, homemade chipotle sauce to you and me. If you like chutneys, relishes and jellies, and chilli of course, then this is culinary nirvana. OK, you probably think that I am going a little over the top here, but seriously you will thank me once you have made some pots of this sauce. It’s addictive and tastes seriously good, so much so that it is not unheard of for me to have it with my breakfast (whether it be french toast/fried egg toastie/grilled tomatoes/bacon buttie – basically it goes with anything, well maybe not cereal!) and then again at lunch time by placing a little dollop of it in my sandwich.

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Chipotles chillies, originate from Mexico and are in fact a smoked and dried jalapeno chilli. They are not like their spicier cousins, such as the serrano or the chile de arbol, instead they have wonderful smokey notes that give warmth and a little spicy kick that beckons you back for more.  They are sold dried or in an adobo (sauce).

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Now I can just hear you all saying ‘where on earth can I get hold of those types of chillies’? Yes it does take a little bit of forward planning, but as I don’t have a farmers market next door or a store that holds them near by, I get mine online from a range of Mexican grocers including Mex Grocer. It takes literally a few minutes to log on and order and hey presto within a couple of days you have your beautiful dried chipotles chillies. I imagine if you live in the US they are likely to be even easier to source as I know that Mexican food and products are far more commonplace than they are here in the UK.

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Making the sauce is incredible straightforward and the sweet smells coming from the cooking pot are wonderful.
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The sauce itself lasts for months so it’s great to have a private hoard in the store cupboard for personal consumption, although I will probably give a couple of my pots away to those I deem worthy of such culinary pleasures – basically family and friends who I know like chillies.

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My life has been made so much easier since I invested in my kilner wide neck funnel (see photo above). I know it will get a lot of use with all the chutneys and jams I make over the course of a year.

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Chipotles En Adobo

adapted from Thomasina Miers’s recipe in Mexican Food Made Simple

Makes 6 jars

200g chipotle chillies

1 white onion, chopped

1 bulb of garlic, peeled and chopped

3 tbsp fresh oregano

2 tbsp fresh thyme leaves

2 bay leaves

1 tsp cumin seeds, crushed

4 tbsp olive oil

350ml white wine vinegar

50ml balsamic vinegar

1 tbsp black treacle

3 tsp tomato puree

6 tbsp demerara sugar

2 tbsp sea salt

1. Cut the storks off the tops of all the chillies and then place them in a colander and wash in cold water.

2. Transfer to a large pan and cover with water and simmer gently for around half an hour, by which time the chillies will be soft. Strain the water and place six of them into a blender along with the onion, garlic, herbs, cumin and 200ml of water. Blend until smooth.

3. Heat up a large pan (my Le Creuset pot is perfect for this) with the olive oil and when it is very hot add the blended chilli paste and stir continuously for a couple of minutes before adding the tomato puree, sugar, salt, vinegars, black treacle, along with 100ml of water. Turn the heat down and simmer for a few minutes before adding the remaining chillies.

4. Simmer gently for a further 15 minutes, stirring throughout.

5. Transfer the sauce to a blender (or use a hand blender) and blend once again until you have a smooth sauce.

6. Place into your steralised jars and store in a dark, cool place.

This amount makes 6 small kilner jars, as shown in the photos. Whilst it lasts for months, I can bet that it won’t last too long once you have tried it as you’ll be putting it in and on everything.

Best of luck, a little bit of effort will reward you royally.


Middle Eastern Okra and Tomato Stew, with a twist

I used to live close to the Edgware Road in London, which is the Middle Eastern part of town, well as Middle Eastern as it can be in London. It has a fairly chilled atmosphere with people spilling out of the cafes onto the pavements smoking their apple tobacco from their hookahs, when the weather permit and the sun shines.

There are two things however that I really miss most about the Edgware Road.

1) Mandalay Burmese restaurant, which as the name states is not Middle Eastern but a Burmese restaurant run by the affable and learned Burmese brothers Dwight and Gary. The restaurant serves good, honest, home cooked Burmese food (cooked by Dwight and Gary’s female relatives). It tastes divine and the whole experience is very memorable. They have a little library up at the front with a few Burmese books, which you can peruse at your leisure whilst waiting for your dining companion to arrive. Whilst it won’t win awards for decor, it wins hands down on charm and substance. You need to book as it is often packed to the rafters.

2) Green Valley Lebanese mini market, which Mr B and I always referred to as ‘Valley of the Kings’ for some reason. It has a wonderful deli selling a huge array of salads, hot bread, stews, cheeses and a butcher selling good quality halal meat, as well as cuts you may not see at your typical English butcher – sheeps’ tongues anyone? In addition, it also sells a vast array of fresh produce and the best baklava in town, which they put together on platters for you. Basically they stock every interesting food product imaginable and this place is like a tardis in the amount of food that it holds. We would make weekly weekend trips to stock up on goodies.

I was back there the other day buying some baklava (it’s worth the trip trust me), when I decided to buy a few little savoury edibles from the deli counter to munch in the car on the way home. Whilst making my selection my eyes rested for a while on the delicious looking okra and tomato stew. Whilst it isn’t so easy to transport and eat in the car, I decided to make some of my own when I got home and add my own little twist to the dish – butter beans. I do love my lentils and pulses and couldn’t resist adding them to the dish – for true purists amongst you simply skip the bit about adding butter beans.

The dish tastes great warm or at room temperature with Middle Eastern flat bread. It takes no time to make and am sure can convert even those who are a little reluctant about eating okra (or lady’s fingers as it is also known).

Middle Eastern Okra, Tomato and Butter Bean Stew

2 onions, chopped

3 garlic cloves,  roughly chopped

400 g of frozen okra (or fresh if you have it to hand)

1 tin of tomatoes, blended

splash of olive oil

1 tin of butter beans (they tend to be around 240g)

half a lemon, juice only

2 tsp of ground coriander

1 tbsp tomato puree

salt and pepper, to season

1. Add a splash of olive oil to a deep pan and when it is hot add the chopped onion and garlic and stir a little until they soften and becomes translucent. This should take around 6 minutes.

2. Whilst the onions and garlic are softening, blend a tin of tomatoes with a hand blender until smooth. Before adding the blended tomatoes, add the ground coriander and seasoning and stir into the onions and garlic.

3. Add the blended tomatoes to the pan along with the tomato puree and lemon juice. Stir thoroughly and let simmer for a few minutes.

4.  Add the butter beans and frozen okra and add a little boiling water so that the okra is fully submerged. Leave to gently simmer for 25 30 minutes, stiring gently, occasionally.

5. Taste and add more seasoning as required and serve with warm Middle Eastern flat bread. It could also be served with cous cous or steamed rice.