Begone Fiendish Frosts

UK frosts are a damnable thing…dominating our lives for weeks on end, with never the same frost twice. Omnipresent during the darker months. No way a chilli plant is growing out there…not a snowball’s chance in Hell.

In early Spring, just when the birds are a-nesting, Jack Frost STILL manages to sneak up on you at the most unexpected times. You assume he’s gone, but then, BOO, there he is again! In the air, on the ground, feathered across the windows, wiping out blossom and melting soft new growth left, right and centre. He’s a real pain in the backside.

Luckily things start to change: the mercury creeping up the thermometer gives us a glimpse of light at the end of the tunnel. This cold WILL NOT last forever, we CAN do this.

Some nights are mild, then back to cool, then a few nights are colder. Watch out for the occasional late season sub zero arctic blaster though. No predictability leaves us doing the dance of a thousand plants, in and out we go. In the hope to harden off but not kill off.

Suddenly, ta-dah, there are no more frosts and all is forgotten (and forgiven). We go forward to salad days.

In our corner of Hampshire, the second week of May is scheduled as the last frost this year- pah, as if it is that easy to predict! Still, it does seem the worst is over and we can finally get on with the task of growing some chillies. And growing they are….

All plants are in the greenhouse or outside. Feeding and watering when the leaves look droopy. A twice daily check for aphids and an invitation to a ladybird or two over for dinner if any ‘phids are found.

Buds aplenty, some flowers are open, a few chillies have set and most plants look pretty happy with life.

Long may it last.

Tangy Prawn and Coconut Curry

It’s a bank holiday weekend and we are cooking on an Aga. Life is pretty good. So, what to cook? OK, how about something with chilli? Sure thing!

It’s Aga time!

Gather and prepare the ingredients before you start as the cooking of this dish is fast and furious. Make your chilli and spice selection. Will it be chilli powder, fresh chilli, chilli paste, chilli flakes, chilli sauce, homemade spice mix, fermented chilli paste. In the ingredient list below is our choice. Go with whatever flavours suit your mood, palette and heat tolerance. The choice is all yours!

Choose wisely.
  • sunflower oil
  • 2 red onions, sliced
  • a spoonful of gochujang (such an amazing, yummy product, adding depth and umami to dishes like this)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, sliced
  • a thumb of ginger, peeled and grated
  • a chilli of your choice, sliced
  • small handful of garam masala (we ground our own for this recipe with coriander seed, cumin, fennel seed, white peppercorn, lots of cardamon, cloves and cinnamon)
  • a finger of fresh turmeric, finely grated
  • 4 tomatoes, chopped roughly
  • 2 tsp of runny honey
  • a handful of desiccated cocount
  • a can of coconut milk
  • bunch of coriander, chopped
  • a whole lot of prawns (100 g per person)
  • green pepper, sliced
  • pak choi, leaves and stems chopped
  • a lime for squeezing

Now you’re ready to cook up one tasty prawn dish.

  • Heat a wide pan, big enough to fit the entire dish in it. We opted for a 30cm almond Le Creuset shallow casserole, needs must and all that.
  • Add the sunflower oil and onion. Fry until the onions start to take on a little colour.
  • Add ginger, garlic, chilli and turmeric. Fry for 30 seconds. Don’t let the garlic burn now. That’s why we tend to slice garlic, not crush. Less chance of burning.
  • Add garam masala, gochujang, honey and tomatoes. Allow it all to smoosh together.
  • Now for the coconut. Chuck in the dessicated stuff and let it absorb the liquid from the tomatoes. Then give the can of coconut milk a good shake and tip it in. You might need to scrap the more solid part out if the can is cold.
  • Let the sauce come up to a bubble and thicken slightly.
  • Thrown in the peppers, pan choi stalks and the prawns.
  • When the prawns are pink, stir the pan choi leaves in and serve.
  • Add a squeeze of lime and a sprinkle of coriander leaves.
Ready to be served on a bed of spicy noodles. Just squeeze on some lime and garnish with coriander sprinkles.