Some Like It Hot

Image of chillies

My husband is firmly of the belief that almost any dish can be improved by the addition of chillies. Ideally lots of chillies.

As he’s the head gardener we have chillies available all year round – fresh, frozen, dried or made into sauces, marinades and jellies. One of our standbys is chilli jelly and this year for the first time we’ve made sweet chilli sauce.

Coming soon to Mrs Portly’s Kitchen will be the annual harissa-making extravaganza. Did I mention that we eat a lot of chillies?

Image of chillies hanging up to dry

I’d love to be able to tell you which varieties Him Outdoors has grown this year, but as we have collected most of the seeds from chillies we’ve either bought from the Aladdin’s Cave that is the Taj Stores in London’s Brick Lane (imaginatively known in our house as the Brick Lane Chilli) or gathered from friends, it’s a bit tricky.

There’s the Bruce Long and Bruce Round (they came from our friend Bruce; one is long and the other, yup, round), lemon chillies (bright yellow with a hint of lemon zest) from Karon; some heritage chillies from the United States bought by Jane and David from an Amish farmer which include the Donald Rumsfeld (David couldn’t remember the name so it’s the Unknown Unknown) and a mild fruity Egyptian one we got originally from a supermarket in Diss. Oh, the exoticism.

I tried a couple of sweet chilli sauce recipes before coming up with this one to share.

Sweet and sour and with a good kick of chilli heat, this knocks spots off commercially-bought versions.

Sweet Chilli Sauce

  • Servings: 2 small bottles
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Image of bottles of Sweet Chilli Sauce

Sweet and hot!

170g/6 oz fresh medium-hot red chillies

6 medium garlic cloves (about 10g), peeled

1 thumb-sized piece of fresh root ginger

Zest and juice of two limes

250 ml/8 3/4 fl oz rice wine vinegar

120 ml/4 1/4 fl oz white wine vinegar

100 ml/3 1/2 fl oz water

250 g/8 3/4 oz caster sugar

3 tbsp fish sauce

2 level tbsp cornflour/corn starch


Remove the stems from the chillies. Take a third of them, roughly chop them and put in a food processor, seeds included. NB: don’t rub your eyes – I’m still whimpering.

De-seed the remaining chillies, chop roughly and add to the food processor with the garlic, very finely chopped ginger and the white wine vinegar.

Image of ingredients in a food processor

Whizz the mixture until the chillies are blitzed to small pieces and you have a rough, runny paste. Decant into a large saucepan and add all the remaining ingredients except the cornflour.

Stir well and cook on a gentle heat until the sugar has dissolved. Simmer for 10 minutes. Add the cornflour, dissolved in a little water, and stir until the mixture is glossy and thickened.

Image of cooked sweet chilli sauce

Cook off the flour and thicken further for another 10 minutes.

Pot into hot, sterilised wide-necked bottles – otherwise you’ll be thumping it on the bottom just like ketchup. Makes two small bottles.

Chilli Jelly

  • Servings: makes 3-4 small jars
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The chilli jelly is something we make several times a year as we always seem to run out no matter how much we make.

A jar of it makes a handy present for chilli lovers – it’s good with roast meats like lamb or chicken, with cold cuts and with cheese.

Image of jars of chilli jelly


2 lb/900g crabapples or cooking apples or a mixture of the two

1 pint/600 ml water

Sugar (see method)

5 or 6 fresh or dried chillies

Image of chopped chillies


Wash the apples and remove any bruised parts but don’t peel or core them. Add to a large pan with the water and simmer gently until soft. Strain the fruit through a jelly bag or muslin.

Put the juice back into the cleaned pan and add the chopped or crumbled chillies, tied in a piece of muslin or a spice bag.

Image of chopped chillies and a spice bag

Chop or crumble the chillies and place in a spice bag or tie into a square of muslin

Cook gently, tasting often, until the chilli flavour is coming through clearly. No hard and fast rules here – it depends on the strength of your chillies and how hot you want the finished jelly to be.

But hold your nerve – once you add the sugar it’ll take the heat down a smidge.

Image of bag of chillies in pan of apple juice

Remove the bag of chillies and discard. Measure the resulting juice and for every 1 imperial pint/600 ml, weigh out 1lb/450g of sugar.

Put the juice and sugar back into the pan and stir over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved. Crank up the heat and boil until setting point is reached, skimming any scum off the top.

Tip: a small knob of butter added to the pan will help prevent scum forming. You’ll probably notice I forgot to follow my own advice.

Image of jelly being skimmed

Skim the jelly as it cooks

Pour into hot sterilised jars and seal.  It’s difficult to estimate the yield because it depends on how long you have to boil it before it reaches setting point.

A pound of sugar should give roughly a pound and a half of jelly.

Image of jars of chilli jelly

8 thoughts on “Some Like It Hot

  1. Hot, hot, hot! We’ve got lots of little crab apples hanging around but I’m not convinced they are up to much. Perhaps this could be a test for them. Gosh, even the photos look lethal…

    • Ours were about an inch long – we’ve also got a small crabapple with very tiny fruit and those I leave for the birds – but cooking apples work too.

      The jelly is only as hot as you want it to be. The sauce packs a bit more poke but it’s not super-hot. I did spend a lot of last night cursing that I’d rubbed my eyes though …

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  4. Making this today! I have seeded the chillies and cut them into quarters so hopefully can fish them out with tongs as I’m woefully short of muslin bags. Must also lay in several kilos of goat’s cheese to pair with the jelly.

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