Today is Cinco de Mayo (the fifth of May) when Mexicans commemorate their victory over the French army at the Battle of Puebla in 1862. Since Mexicans are renowned for their passion for chillies, I thought I’d use this national celebration as a tenuous link for my latest ‘Thumbs Up For’ round-up – my family’s favourite chilli sauces.
Any regular reader of this blog will know that I have a bit of a thing for anything hot and spicy, and most of my family share that obsession. My husband and oldest daughter are probably even more obsessed with chilli that I am, while my youngest daughter does all she can to avoid the hot stuff. What she doesn’t realise though is that there’s a touch of spice in most of our dishes, so she already has a fairly high tolerance compared to most eight-year-olds!
As well as hot spice in our cooking, there’s generally hot sauce on the table as a condiment – along with ketchup for the little one – and there are generally around five bottles of chilli sauce on the go in the fridge at any one time. Wherever we go, we seem to pick up another bottle to try out, and our first mission at any food festival is to track down the chilli stall to investigate their wares.
So here’s a quick round-up of some our favourite chilli sauces…
(1) The Upton Cheyney Chilli Company: mango, lime and red habanero sauce
The Upton Cheyney Chilli Company is based on a farm just up the road from us, on the edge of the Cotswolds overlooking Bristol and Bath, where they hold their annual chilli festival. So they know a thing or two about chillies. I love this sauce – it’s not blow-your-brains hot, but has a splendid wake-up-your-tastebuds kick combined with a sweet, fruity tang. It’s really good with cheese on toast. £4.50 for 140ml. Buy online at uptonchilli.co.uk.
(2) Huy Fong: sriracha hot sauce
This spicy sauce, also known as the rooster sauce, has become our everyday staple in our house, served with everything from stir fries to cooked breakfasts. Made from sun ripened chillies, it has a rich, sweet warmth with a lovely hint of garlic. £3.00 for 435ml. Available from supermarkets and oriental specialists.
(3) Cool Chile Co: Mexican marinades
Cool Chile started back in the 90s, importing the best dried chillies to the UK from Mexico. 20 years on and they’re still importing those wonderful chillies, herbs and spices, as well as making their own delicious sauces and marinades, hot chocolates and corn tortillas. I can’t rave enough about these three marinades – they are superbly tasty, packing the most fantastic spicy punch, and make cooking Mexican dishes complete child’s play.
There’s the feisty Mexican Buffalo Sauce made from Mexican de árbol chillies, which you simply pour over chicken wings for the best buffalo wings you’ve ever tasted. Then there’s the versatile Mexican Mojo de Ajo, slow cooked garlic in oil with Mexican chillies, which you can use as a sauce, marinade or dressing. I’ve tried it stirred into mayonnaise for a gorgeous take on aiolo, and as a marinade for beef fajitas. And if you’d like to pep up your lamb, I can heartily recommend the Mexican Adobo Marinade, made from ancho chillies, garlic and spices and ideal as a marinade for meat and fish before barbecuing or grilling. It has a deep rich flavour without being too intensely hot. Buy them individually for £2.85 online or as a set of three for £7.50 at coolchile.co.uk.
4. Encona: Mexican and Peruvian sauces
Encona has been making West Indian hot pepper sauces since the 1970s, and more recently has introduced flavours from around the world to its range. I particularly like their Peruvian amarillo chilli sauce with roast onion and garlic, when I’m looking for a softly sweet chilli sauce, and for a more smoky flavour the Mexican smokey jalapeno sauce really does the job – perfect in a bacon sarnie. From £1.50 for 142ml. Available from most supermarkets.
5. Lingham’s chilli sauce
Lingham’s is my all-time favourite chilli sauce to eat with scrambled eggs for breakfast. I posted a photo of this once on Instagram and my aunty in America told me this is how my great-grandfather in Malaysia use to eat his eggs too, so it must be in the genes! A perfect hint of sweet chilli to wake up your tastebuds in the morning. £1.50 for 100ml. Available from most supermarkets.
6. The Wiltshire Chilli Farm: Fatalii
We discovered Fatalii chilli sauce from Wiltshire Chilli Farm at the Bath Chilli Festival last year. Made from the super hot fatalii chilli, whose name says it all really, this is not a chilli sauce to be messed with. Best served in moderation when you’re really in the mood for some fire in your belly and on your tongue. But it’s not just about the heat, this is a really tasty sauce too and just gorgeous with sausages. £4.00 for 140ml. Available online at justchillies.co.uk, and at markets and food festivals.
I’m always on the hunt for new chilli sauces to try. I’d love to hear your recommendations!
Disclosure: we were supplied with complimentary samples of Cool Chile Co, Encona and Lingham’s sauces for review purposes. As always all views expressed are mine – and my family’s.