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PUBLISHED: 09:21 25 January 2011 | UPDATED: 20:32 20 February 2013

The hot list

The hot list

Ruth French shows some surprisingly simple and quick ways to transform post-festive food

Ruth French shows some surprisingly simple and quick ways to transform post-festive food

We all love to keep it traditional over the festive period but you can have too much of a good thing, so the moment you get bored with turkey and mayo or when the new year celebrations are done, get out the spices to enliven ordinary leftovers or create something special.
Anythings possible with a few combinations of pastes, powders or glugs. Not sure what spices go together? Try and think of the places from which specific foods originate. South America will bring together chilli, beef and beans whilst the Pacific Islands or Far East may conjure images of fish and coconut with say tamarind and warmer spices such as ginger.
And what of the uninspiring, very English leftovers of mashed potatoes and peas in the fridge that you really ought to do something with?
Simply fry a coarsely-chopped onion with a clove (or three) of garlic, add some garam masala powder to taste (or mixed spice with cayenne pepper) and stir in a handful of fresh, chopped coriander. Combine with the peas and mash and season with salt. Now cut a saucer-sized circle of any pastry, bought or made, and make a slit to the centre. Turn one edge inwards to make a cone and fill with the mixture. Deep-fry until golden and you have a quick and easy home-made samosa that is Anglo-Indian food heaven. Serve with salad and a yoghurt dip.
Want to bring sunny climes into the winter kitchen but with local produce? Brown some quality bangers (I used Jimmys Farm sausages flavoured with chilli from Mendleshams The Chilli Company) and set aside.
Fry onions, garlic and three mixed peppers in olive oil until soft and add a teaspoonful of smoked paprika a miraculous, secret ingredient that will transform many a dish.
Now combine the mixture and add some olives, tinned tomatoes and tomato puree. Return the sausages thickly-sliced and just cover with a mix of half stock, half wine. Bring to the boil, season and throw in the oven for 40 minutes. Back to the smoked paprikaits what gives chorizo its Spanish/Mexican-style taste and colour. I buy mine from Suffolk Food Hall or the continental section of quality supermarkets.
Want to ring the changes with Bolognese-style sauces, chilli con carne, and even the ubiquitous garlic bread?
Well lets start with the bread. If youre fed up with shop bought versions or dont relish the thought of garlic breath then give my very own fennel bread alternative a try and remember that you read it here first!

I nervously sampled the famous Naga which is reputed to be the hottest in the world

Take two teaspoonfuls of fennel seed and grind or whiz to a gritty powder. Add a little salt and combine with softened butter. Chop some fresh parsley and add to the mix. Spread on crusty bread in the usual way and bake or grill.
My version contains all the satisfying umami taste-bud qualities of garlic bread and more and I promise that youll come to love it and even want it in preference! Its good with Tarts Spaghetti (a gutsy Italian sauce made with onions, garlic, tomatoes, chillies, olives, anchovies and capers) or my Chilli Con Carne, Cincinnati-Style (see recipe) made with any beans, shavings of left-over cold beef and assorted fresh chillies.
Talking of which, if you really want to turn up the heat and generate interest in new year cooking, then familiarise yourself with the interesting and versatile capsicum family and do what I did by visiting The Chilli Company.
I made a long overdue visit to Denise and Adrian Nuttalls chilli farm, home to their thriving Suffolk business venture in Mendlesham. Its here that this inspirational couple grow, sell and process every chilli under the hot sun. Denise proudly showed me many of the exciting varieties.
Throughout the summer months and on into the autumn they nurture the plants whilst in the winter the fruits are frozen and sold from the freezer.
I learned of the Chipotle which is in fact a smoked and dried jalapeno. I nervously sampled the famous Naga which is reputed to be the hottest in the world and I delighted in the versatile beauty of the round Cherry Bomb which can be stuffed with cheese and spices. Every colour, shape, size and intensity is here.
The Nuttalls also have an on-site farm and coffee shop selling a range of their own chilli products alongside associated food and gift items. Theyve also secured the sale of a range of their dips and sauces with regional Asda stores and are selling a version to Londons Fortnum and Mason store.
Theyve cleverly found inspired ways to link up with celebrated local products too as with the sausages l used for dish above. On the day I visited, Adrian emerged from the kitchen to meet me with a still steaming batch of Raspberry and Chilli relish, which I can reveal will be on the market soon. The pair also plan to host cookery demonstrations in the coming year so if you want to be further inspired then pay them a visit and ask for details.

The Chilli Company (UK) Ltd
Tel: 01449 766 677


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