Sunday, 17 July 2011

Sous-Jeff's Chilli Jam

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Multicultural Cuisine of... Italy

Since starting my food blog, I've also re-developed an affinity for the plethora of cooking shows on Foxtel. And, luckily for me, my wonderful husband is slowly starting to come to terms with this, and is actually watching bits and pieces of these shows with me!

With Sous-Jeff as a school teacher, he's been on holidays for the past 2 weeks, which means that he's been around for more than a few cooking shows, and getting quite bored with nothing to do but relax for 2 weeks. He's not much of a relaxer - like me, he likes to be on the go and have something to do all the time.

So, as fate would have it, a few days into his holidays, he plonked himself on the couch next to me over lunch one day, while I was watching an episode of David Rocco's Dolce Vita, featuring some homemade chilli jam. For those of you who don't know, Sous-Jeff is a complete chilli fiend. His eyes light up like a little kid on Christmas morning when ever he sees anything with the words "chilli," "hot," "spicy," or "warning" on it. Why you'd want to burn off all your tastebuds before eating is beyond me, but for some reason completely unbeknownst to me, he insists on making almost all of his food spicy. So, naturally, his ears pricked up when he saw this chilli jam segment. As I picked up the remote control to fast forward past this (I guess opposites do attract because I cannot handle anything spicier than pepper!), he grabbed the remote out of my hand, turned the volume up, and reached for a pen and some paper.

What ensued was a lot of pausing, rewinding, and "Why is he going so fast?! Add vinegar... well, how much? Jess, why won't he say how much? Is he going to give me the recipe?? How am I supposed to know how much vinegar to add?! And how long am I supposed to be cooking it for? This guy sucks! He only has a TV show because he's young and Italian and probably good looking... I could cook this!" And with that, he resolves to make his own chilli jam this school holidays!

With the ingredients purchased and the day off, I take up my post as jam supervisor and let Sous-Jeff do his thing. He retrieves his instructions, scrawled on a few post it notes, puts on his game face, and gets ready to cook. He's adapted the recipe to suit himself, and starts off by chopping up roughly 600g of red and yellow capsicums, and chopping and de-seeding around 40g of super hot red chillies.

After re-watching the segment of the show where the vinegar is added, it's decided that he adds approximately 5 large shot glasses of apple cider vinegar. There may in fact be more required, but Sous-Jeff saw him pour 5 shot glasses on the show, so that's what went in!

It all went into a big pot, and in the end, cooked for about half an hour.

Then, it all went into the blender...

...and blended into a frothy, orange goo!

Back into the pot, and in with around about 750g of sugar. The recipe called for a kilo, but Sous-Jeff decided that was wayyyy too much. It cooked on a low heat for around an hour all up, until it started to caramelise a little and turn a much richer red.

After the 40 minutes of prescribed cooking time, we decided it hadn't thickened up anywhere near enough, so we added 400g of diced tomatoes to help it along.

 After almost 2 hours in the kitchen, slaving over a hot stove, Sous-Jeff was a little upset that it hadn't turned out like he'd planned it to. He put it in a jar and left it for a few hours.

Upon returning, it had finally thickened up and was a really jammy consistency, glossy and shiny, and looking awfully red and dangerous. With a spoonful aimed as his mouth, I ask if he's sure he should try that much - "it's not THAT hot, look how much sugar I put in there!" With the spoonful down the hatch, a wide grin begins to form... followed by his eyes opening wide and his face turning bright pink. Ok, so it was a little spicier than he though it'd be, but he couldn't have been any happier with himself! By all accounts, when applied not so liberally, it was absolutely delicious, with a perfect balance between the sweetness of the sugar and tomato, and the spice of the chilli.

I couldn't have been any prouder of him; my husband, the big, tough, footy playing, VB drinking man that he is, in the kitchen, giving it a crack, and it worked out for him! With that, he may have found a new hobby, and I expect to have him shadowing me in the kitchen a lot more now :)

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