British chillies have come in late this year. Our cold spring ensured that the plants took a while to wake up and flower, but now they’re in with a vengeance. So if you’re looking for something exciting to tantalise your tastebuds before the growing season ends, look no further than the brilliant David and Joy Michaud at Sea Spring Seeds.
David and Joy work on the cutting edge of seed and plant development from their small farm in southern Dorset, creating (among others) the super fiery Dorset Naga.
While the Naga might have put Sea Spring on the map, their work and their understanding of chillies offers the cook a massive range of piquancy and flavours across the chilli spectrum. New favourites include the very mild Apricot habanero, the punchier Trinity habanero — which packs all the fruit and half the heat of our old friend the Scotch Bonnet — and the aji amarillo-esque Lemon Drop. But it wasn’t until I attended one of their chilli-growing courses at the farm that I truly appreciated the skill and dedication that goes into new varietals.
Chillies, it turns out, cross-breed with alacrity. If you stick a load of different chillies in a greenhouse, they’ll get busy and hey presto, the seeds will be… different. So the trick is not just to capture the qualities you want in a chilli — the fruit of this, the heat of that, the juicy texture of the other — it’s to create a stable, replicable plant you can grow again and again. I find this work extraordinary. And, for a cook, it opens up a whole host of new flavours and opportunities.
In addition to the courses, they sell plants, plug plants (they do the germination for you), seeds and the chillies themselves. Check it out.
You can pre-order now or pop along to your favourite book seller from October 3rd.
… on 12th August. So, of course, I have to post a pic of beautiful Bo-That, with mahoot Tam and Tam’s daughter Apun (who gets to spend the summer holidays at the elephant camp—how cool is that?)
World Elephant Day is supported by the Elephant Reintroduction Foundation, a Thai charitable non-profit organisation. It’s one of Her Majesty Queen Sirikit’s Royal initiatives which manages three forest elephant sanctuaries. and they have so far returned over 90 formerly captive elephants to the wild. Most importantly, it’s not reliant on tourism to sustain itself so, even though it’s a managed habitat, in the sense that it’s cared for by rangers, it’s as close to a wild and free life as possible. Would it be right for Bo-That? Well, we just don’t know. There are questions that need to be asked. He has been in captivity for a very long time — I’ve know him since he was just five. Of course, if it were, I would miss him, but it’s something we’ll have to look into.
Many thanks to The Sunday Times Magazine for including my Thai-Talian Stuffed Pork Loin with Spicy Salsa Verde in their Sunday Lunches feature this week. It’s inspired by an exciting fusion you see all cropping up over Bangkok, where they love Italian food and cannot resist adding the occasional Thai-inspired touch to create something bold and a little bit different.
Posted in Recipes
Tagged Bangkok, Italian food, magazine, pork, recipe, recipes, salsa verde, stuffed pork loin, Thai food, Thai-talian, The Sunday Times, The Sunday Times Magazine
As ever, my sporadic periods of radio silence continue, for which apologies. I agreed to two book commissions with almost simultaneous deadlines and, as is ever the case, the work expanded to fill the time… which means the last few months have left very little time for anything other than cooking, writing, cooking again, rewriting, and all the usual dementedness. And, since the publishers have asked me not to talk about them… yet… I’ve been calling them Project X —
—and, frightfully originally, Project Y —
Can you guess what they are?
Many thanks to the lovely team at Chevalier’s Books in LA’s Larchmont Village for organising a lovely book signing last week, and to all those of you who came along.
I’m delighted to let you know that I will be appearing at the 9th Amazing Thailand Festival this August. The festival runs over the August Bank Holiday weekend (24th-26th), and is held at Secretts Farm in Surrey. And all proceeds go to the Mudita Trust, a fantastic charity which I’ve been a supporter for many years, and which works to help underprivileged and abused children in Thailand, with a special focus on ending child prostitution.
It’s a really fun day out — plenty of food, Thai dancing, crafts and all kinds of Thai culture. I look forward to seeing you there!
Back in the day, when I sold wine, I was frequently asked to recommend a dessert wine to go with chocolate puddings. It’s a tricky one. The more traditional sweet wines don’t really settle well with chocolate, so my answers were often packed with explanations and qualifications, and with a fervent hope that the asking punter would not be too disappointed. So it was with quite a large helping of delight that I tasted this rather glorious beast — the Alcyone Tannat dessert wine from Uruguay — at the Southbank Wine and Cheese Festival last weekend.
Tannat is an unusual French grape. Packed with tannins, as the name suggests, it is the principal grade of the Madiran AOC in the French Basque country. And, rather as Malbec left Cahors to colonise Argentina, it has become the national grape of Uruguay.
Here, the wine has been aromatised in an Italian manner — the importers are bit vague about this bit — and aged in French oak to produce a round, warmly sweet wine of great character. It has a delicious full figgy-cherry fruit supported by hints of chocolate and vanilla. And it feels gorgeous in the mouth, like a satisfying tongue-hug of honey designed to make you smile. It will make a perfect accompaniment to chocolate desserts, finally putting that particular recommendation quandary to rest, and it is unusual enough to provoke conversation and surprise. You can’t go wrong with that.
Alcyone Tannat is available online directly from Wines of Uruguay, priced at £19 a bottle.