After a long wait, the first of my chilli seeds are germinating and starting to look like they might make plants. For the second year running, chilli seed germination has been poor. I’d bought fresh seed this year in an attempt to hurry things along a little, but chilli seeds are prone to taking their own sweet time over germination. They like a bit of cosseting too – a heated propagator is useful to encourage growth, along with regular checks to see that the compost hasn’t dried out too much.
Some varieties are easier to get going than others. ‘Hungarian Yellow Wax’ has always been reliable for me – just as well really, being as it’s one of my favourites. It produces good sized, well-flavoured chillies that get hotter as they ripen from a jazzy green to red. For smaller fruit, I grow the varieties ‘Etna’ and ‘Prairie Fire’. These smaller chillies can be fiddly to deseed, not so easy to work with if you are in a hurry, but they are good for drying to use later in the year when the fresh chillies are gone.
The dried chillies came in useful yesterday. Stuck for something to do (it was grey and cold, and not at all inviting outdoors…), I made a batch of blondies, which are a lot like brownies but with less chocolate involved. I used a recipe from Joy the Baker and stuck fairly closely to the original, but adapted it for a British kitchen by changing the cup measurements to weights. I did omit the nuts – daughter doesn’t like them, and added a sprinkling of last year’s dried chilli flakes. I used a teaspoon of chilli which was enough to give the blondies a bit of heat – you can adjust the amount you use depending on how much of a kick you want.
This month’s ingredient for the One Ingredient challenge is the chilli, so these blondies are being linked in. The challenge is jointly hosted by Laura at How to Cook Good Food and Nazima at Franglais Kitchen, and there’s already a tasty selection of entries – worth a look if you’re a chilli fan…
Ginger & chilli blondies
115g unsalted butter, melted
165g light brown soft sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
125g plain flour
½ tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
1 tsp red chilli flakes
4 knobs stem ginger, chopped
75g dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
Preheat the oven to 180oC, 350F, gas 4. Line an 8″ square baking tin with parchment.
Whisk the melted butter and sugar together in a bowl until you get a pale and creamy mixture. Add the egg and vanilla extract and whisk them in.
Sift the flour and baking powder into a separate bowl, add the salt and chilli flakes and stir to mix well. Add these dry ingredients to the sugar and butter mixture and fold in until there is no dry flour left. Add the stem ginger and chocolate and stir them through the mixture.
Pour the batter into the prepared baking tin, and bake in a preheated oven for 20-25 minutes. Test the blondies by sticking a skewer into the centre – if it comes out clean they are ready. Leave to cool in the tin for 30 minutes (hard to do I know, but they firm up as they cool and trying to cut them sooner will lead to a gloopy mess).