This afternoon I decided to take my abundant chilli plant in hand, and instead of picking one or two for a recipe here and there, snipped off all of the ripe and ready red ones that I could see – 42 in total! They are clearly enjoying being in the ground instead of in a pot on my window ledge!
I was initially torn between drying them and roasting them for oil, but decided to dry and crush this crop, as I only have one shelf in the fridge for me and it’s currently hoarding several different types of cheese, so space is tight. The cupboard, however, is quite empty – as usual!
I’ve never dried chillies before – so winging it, I snipped the green stalks off, and rolled each one between thumb and forefinger to pop the seeds out, or as many as I could coax out! I popped them into a nearby glass – as I am sure I will find a use for them, perhaps even trying to grow some more chilli plants!
When de-headed and de-seeded, I put them on a crisper tray (It’s amazing what kitchen equipment other people have got, I found it in a cupboard and had to Google ‘baking tray with holes in’ to see what it was. I have never claimed to know everything!) and left them in the sun for a few hours to start to dry out.
When it became apparent that that would be a very long process, unsuited to even the hottest of English days, at 5pm this evening I brought them in, and popped them in a 180C oven for 20 minutes to crisp. The smaller ones took less time – when they crumble easily in your hand, they are good to go.
I took them out of the oven, popped them into a trusty teacup, and chopped into them with my kitchen scissors. And coughed and swore as I breathed in chilli dust – so please be careful when doing this! Chilli dust up ones big Greek nose is not an experience that I recommend…
Anyway, when they were done, in bigger flakes than you’d get in the supermarket and a darker red too, I popped them into a spice jar, and took a picture. There. Dried chillies. I’m not sure if it’s how you’re meant to do it, but there you go.
And I am astounded that it took 42 chillies to fill a teeny tiny jar. I’m not going to measure out in ‘pinches’ to see whether it’s more or less efficient than using fresh ones, but it will be interesting to see how long it lasts. And it’s certainly more efficient than buying a packet of supermarket chillies, or letting the fruits on my abundant chilli plant go to waste.
Now, what to do with the next crop… And what to do with these seeds and tops kicking around? Dry them out and use them for oil, or steep in vodka for ‘chilli essence’? Answers on a postcard, chilli lovers…
Jack Monroe. Twitter: @MsJackMonroe