Thursday, 27 December 2018

2018 Christmas Chilli


For the benefit of family members desperate to DIY my little jars of chilli, here it is; a simple, step by step 'how to' guide.

I started making this with my dad as a teenager in relatively small quantities. We would add loads of dried spices however over the years I have puritanically stripped it right back to just a small number of ingredients and it has become an addictive and versatile condiment. The look of joy when I pass a jar or two on to our (now grown up) kids makes it so worthwhile. So, for those who have the obsessive patience, this is a log of the batch made a month or so ago.

Fresh is best. We have a twice weekly market nearby in Witney, so when I need them, I go on a Thursday and order them for the Saturday. The fruit and veg traders make a early daily visit to the wholesalers at New Covent Garden in London. My instructions are simple. All I want is fresh. Straight off the plane, none of those boxes that may have been sitting around. Only fresh.

This box came from Bangladesh, and apparently (although they are unlikely to admit it), they are the preference of Indian restaurants around the country. Firm, verdant and intense.


- 1 box of fresh chillies (2.4 kg untrimmed weight)
- 400g garlic, (unpeeled weight)
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/3 cup white wine vinegar
- 1 heaped tablespoon of salt
- approx 1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil to finish


- Disposable latex gloves
- Food processor
- Large pot
- Jars with lids


Now the fun begins...

1. Don those essential gloves

2. Wash the chillies in a colander in batches

3. Trim the stalks off each chilli with a knife or scissors.

(Over the years I have honed the efficiency of this step down to a fine art: Three at a time with a knife. This batch of 660 chillies took me a robotic and therapeutic 30 minutes)

4. Peel and finely chop the garlic in the food processor and put in the pot

5. Chop the washed trimmed chillies in the food processor and put in the pot.

6. Add the oil, vinegar and salt, and mix thoroughly

By now it should look like this. Notice that I'm doing the cooking bit outside. The kitchen was barely habitable just from the processing of the raw ingredients. Had I added heat, we'd have had to move out.

7. Heat the chillies until just 'sweated'. They need to be hot and steaming but not fully cooked or soft.

8. Place the jars in a shallow bath of boiling water, spoon the hot chilli into the jars, add olive oil to cover the chilli, and when properly hot, remove the jars from the water bath and seal them.

(They will be very hot, so I use 2 or 3 tea towels to handle them with)

As the jars cool the lids should pop down if sealed properly. In the jars they will last for years. Once opened, add more olive oil to keep them moist and keep them in the fridge.

Here's the deal: You make them, you send me a jar or two.

Friday, 15 December 2017

Christmas Turkey in the Weber

The big day fast approaches. And for us it will be a very big day. The first time in many years that all of our kids will be home for Christmas.

The big bird has been ordered (a fifteen pounder), quality lumpwood charcoal soon to be delivered, and a guest bedroom almost ready to be christened.

It will be the usual, tried and tested recipe, with loads of leftovers for pies, lasagne and cold cuts. I really can't wait. The full method with photos can be found here.

The photo above is a little taster of the English winter countryside. We had some heavy snow a few days back, and I managed to capture some icicles, that lasted half a day at the most. So will Christmas be white or green this year? Either way works for me.

Sunday, 4 December 2016

Little Balls of Woodshavings Bound Together With Wax

Every good fire needs good tinder, and these bad boys do a proper job.

Back to basics, there are three elements to any good fire; tinder (small bits to get it going), kindling (bigger bits) and then finally the 'fuel'... the really big bits that will burn long and slow.

The outdoor cooking season is over so no outdoor fires for a while... but only just a couple of weeks ago we commissioned our indoor open fireplace in the old house we moved into in the spring. So what a perfect time to test these little things out. Not much to be said really, the pictures say it all.

Create an enclosure of 'fuel', place an 'Ignite' natural firelighter in the enclosure, put a match to it, and then build up a pile of kindling above it before laying down a few pieces of fuel over the now nicely developed flames.

What's not to like? No petro-chemicals, no weird smells, and they simply work.

Sunday, 2 October 2016

Cheese Toasties Over a Real Fire

Keep it simple I say. It was one of those late August evenings, nice enough to be outside, but cool enough to need a fire. I just felt like a cheese toastie. Then I mentioned it and not surprisingly there were no objections.

Making toast over an open fire is a bit of an art in itself, too hot and it will be a disaster, and not hot enough and you will just waste your time. It had to be embers, and in the later stage of their life.

From my arsenal of open fire cooking accessories, it then had to be the braai tool; risk management at its best. If the embers are too hot, just hold the tool higher and you can easily flip it to check the toastie's progress. The way the tool clamps together is also perfect.

For me, the fundamental ingredients are cheese and chilli. Ham and or tomato comes next on the list, but there is no point in overloading the poor things.

This was easy and fun, but it did cool down a bit waiting for the embers to die down enough. The moment the toasties were on our plates, a pile of wood went in the brazier so we could enjoy our toasties in the warmth of the fire.

Warming the plates

Friday, 23 September 2016

Simply Cooking Outdoors

A fairly dramatic lifestyle change has taken place, we have moved, after 15 years, and into what began as a 400 year old rural cottage in Oxfordshire. Call us brave, but then we knew what we were getting ourselves into. The house will be worked on eternally but for now, it's livable, we have a garden and I even have my own woodpile and a new chainsaw that I bought for myself for my birthday.

The transition was not far off hell, but the the saving grace was that is was summer and mostly we cooked and ate outside out of necessity. Firefoodie heaven as compensation.

In the past four months I've cut down three trees, cooked countless meals on an open fire, entertained plenty and spent hours and hours on the tools. It won't end, but it sure is fun.

Originally named Stone Place, we renamed the house Ammonite Cottage, after some delightful fossils that were built into the first walls all those years ago. Found locally, treasured, and now there for all to enjoy. There is even a well in the kitchen.

So a few photos of food, house and garden, just to keep this poor little blog alive.

The remnants of a conifer, seasoning for the winter fires

Breakfast with Sue and Geoff Wier

Our first garden party for neighbours and friends

Our Welsh pony neighbours, loving the apples we collect from the ground

Cheese toasties in the braai tool

Snoopy keeping warm under the fire

Lolly nesting in the drop sheets
and the ammonite fossil, two halves split from one stone

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Leg of Lamb Garden Rotisserie


Now this isn't the first time I've used my rotisserie since I reported over 3 years ago that the original batteries had delivered 13 meals with 45 hours of motor use. The damn things are STILL going. I've lost count, all I know is that yesterday I was convinced that it was the end. Four hours of rotation with a 3 kilo pay load wasn't enough to take them out. They've been in there since May 2009 (see original post here).

The occasion was a dinner party for ten. The date was set months ago, a sign of how difficult it was to get us all together at the same time. After much deliberation over the main food event, I decided on lamb leg, lean and tender and pretty hard to get wrong. The night before I prepared a marinade of olive oil, garlic, salt and herbs and dropped it off to my local butcher together with the steel spit on Saturday morning. I collected it later in the day, the butterflied legs all nicely rubbed with the marinade and neatly rolled and tied around the spit.

The lamb was kicked off with a hot start, and then cooked away gently for about four hours with occasional sprinklings of charcoal to keep the embers going.

I served it with a warm tomato and mint salsa, roasted sweet potatoes and butternut squash, char-grilled vegetables and grilled asparagus wrapped in prosciutto.

The gas barbie all prepped up for the side dishes
A classic prawn cocktail was served with grilled ciabatta as a starter, and a home made pavlova for dessert. It was a great night with good friends and finished off around the fire pit in the garden.

Friday, 2 January 2015

2015 New Year Chilli

2014 was a poor year for this little blog.. not a single post. Shame on you firefoodie. Bizarrely however, the sites visitor numbers remain on the up and up thanks to lots of interest from readers Oz and the US. Strange really, as this content is all coming from a market town in Oxfordshire, UK. So, I have resolved that 2015 is the year to return. There, I've said it, so no going back now. I have some ideas about rearranging the 100 or so posts into a more accessible resource.

Yesterday (New Years Day) was spent preserving some 3,000 or so green chillies, so plenty of time to reflect, contemplate and formulate plans. So on reflection, 2014 was not a year without fire and food, quite the opposite. I got a new Weber (finally!) from my lovely wife as an anniversary present last Christmas and a fabulous gas barbeque for my last birthday. Our brazier got plenty of attention also.

The last two Christmases have featured turkey roasted in the outdoor Weber, and plenty of summer meals were cooked over the brazier. The photo below was snapped with my Blackberry this Christmas, a lovely 7kg bird, and we are still getting through the leftovers.

So back to the chilli, the labels above are on there way to me from my reprographics supplier as I write, so a lovely stash of little gifts will be created. The only problem is that there are only 30 jars, so back to the market for more chillies it seems.

If any comes your way, just scroll down to the post below for plenty of information and ideas about its use. The only thing to add, is that I had hidden a jar from my family and we opened it last week after two years and it was if it had been prepared yesterday.

Happy New Year!
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