One of the things I have found gastronomically annoying about having children – and there's been more than a few – has been the absence of chillies in our diet. I was never a huge chilli eater, and during pregnancy and breastfeeding I couldn't stomach them at all. But when I was ready to introduce a little heat back into my diet, I realised my kids couldn't tolerate the things. Damn.
Other friends facing the same dilemma came up with different solutions. Mark chops a chilli and puts it on a saucer at the dining table, then sprinkles it on his dinner, but that's too raw for me. Naomi often prepares two or even three variations on a meal (one spicy); but I'm way too lazy. Marty gets a lot of takeaway, but our household has so many food intolerances and fussinesses that takeaway usually feels too hard for us. I resigned myself to the idea that I wasn't going to be eating many chillies for a long, long time.
Then earlier this year I spotted a most excellent chilli and garlic condiment. I had tried variations on this theme, and none were quite what I was looking for, but this was fantastic! I blobbed it on my lunchtime scrambled eggs while my four year old had hers plain; I dumped it in my leftover minestrone; I stirred it through pasta sauce to give it a lift; I scraped a little on quesadillas to cut through the cheese.
Within days I had finished the jar; and I faced a dilemma. While I was willing to buy it once and give it a go, this sauce came from Calabria. I didn't really want to keep purchasing an expensive product which had travelled over land and sea; the cost! the air miles! But then I was given a bag of home grown chillies. I got to wondering just how hard it was to make a chilli and garlic condiment; with a bag of free chillies, I had no excuse not to give it a go. So I whizzed up the chillies with garlic and covered them with olive oil; I did another batch with parsley and garlic, and it's great stuff. The condiment takes no time to make, keeps in the fridge for weeks, has a zillion uses, and if it's made with chillies from the garden and a local olive oil, requires no air miles at all.
While it feels a little late to be writing about chillies from the garden – it's almost winter – I notice three neighbours have ripe chillies in their front yards this week. I take this as a sign that they are still in season, and so with no further ado, I offer you… chilli condiment.
Chilli and Parsley Condiment
- 6 fresh long red chillies
How you make this depends on your tolerance for heat. For everyday food, I prefer things warm, not blazingly hot. Therefore, I top the chillies, slit them open, and scrape out the seeds and membranes. If you prefer numb lips and the back of your head blown off, leave the seeds and membranes intact.
Throw the chillies, parsley, garlic and a hefty pinch of salt into a food processor and pulse-chop until you have a rough sauce. The parsley should still be in tiny squares; the chillies in teeny-tiny dice; and it should all be studded with little lumps of garlic.
Scrape it into a very clean glass jar, and cover with olive oil. Gently ease out any air bubbles with a flexible knife or a small spatula; add more olive oil if necessary to cover the surface.
Screw on the lid, pop it in the fridge, and you're ready to jazz up absolutely anything. Well, maybe not breakfast cereal.
Version two: Omit the parsley, and up the garlic to 6 cloves. It has more heat, and is also very good!
(Backyard: chillies, parsley. Local: garlic, olive oil. Northern Victoria: salt.)