Do you ever play the "What If" game with your friends? What if you had to lose one of your senses? Which would you give up? What if you could have passionate sex with any celebrity? Who would it be? If you could have dinner with any three famous people, dead or alive, who would they be and why? My favorite bar game called "No Option" is a riff on this game: You pick any three people in the bar, and your friends have to say who they would have sex with and why. It's called "No Option" because they can't say, "Death". You play, you answer the question and tell us WHY. Death is no option.
In my circle of food-obsessed gluttons, this game tends to quickly turn to all things culinary. If you could have only have three cookbooks, what would they be? (For me, It's Giorgio Locatelli's Made In Italy, Jerry Traunfeld's Herbfarm Cookbook, and Teage Ezard's Lotus – Asian Flavours). If you could only have one condiment for the rest of your life, what would it be? For me, it used to be ketchup. As my palate and culinary skills grew, aioli nosed its way into the lead. Then I discovered Chile Jam. Chile Jam is a traditional thai recipe, and there are as many variations as there are for rustic curries. I've tried every chile jam recipe I can get my hands on. For my tastes none of them touch this one by Christine Manfield, an Aussie chef whose cookbooks are inspirational, inspiring and invariably put out amazing recipes that always work. (You may recognize her name, as she just won the IACP award for her newest book, Tasting India .)
Best. Condiment. Ever.
I’ve done in huge batches a few times. Typically, I double the recipe because it takes time, and for the investment I'd rather make a ton of it so it will last. The first time I used serranos instead of the red birds eye chillies, because they didn’t have them at the asian market that particular day. I also added a bit more palm sugar, which rounds out the heat more IMHO. The second batch was with the hot thai birds eye chillies, and it is REALLY hot. Still good, but much more punch than the first batch. Just be forewarned.
This has depth of flavor you won't get from most condiments, because it cooks for 12 hours (sometimes I cook it up to 18 hours). The chile heat blast blends in with the sweetness of the caramelized onions and palm sugar. The tamarind adds a great tang to the mix and rounds the flavors out completely. It's a time investment, but the active time isn't too much. You just have to remember to stir it every hour or so.
I put this into any recipe calling for chile sauce, Sriracha, or just needing a kick. It's the perfect accessory for a fried egg sandwich, tossed with sautéed vegetables and one of my personal favorites — an addition to fried rice.
I've typed the recipe as it's listed in the book, which is from Australia. This is how they spell chiles down under. Don't beat me up for spelling!
If you make this, please tell me what you think. I'm certain you won't be disappointed.
By the way, I'm curious what your favorite "What If" categories are. Share, people!
1.5 kg large red chillies, chopped
300 g red birds eye chillies, chopped
8 large brown onions, chopped
15 large garlic cloves, chopped
1 litre vegetable oil
300 ml Tamarind liquid
125 g palm sugar, divided
Blend chillies, onion, garlic and oil to a smooth paste in a food processor. Cook paste in a wide, heave based pan over low heat until dark red – this will take up to 12 hours of continuous slow cooking and occasional stirring. Stir in tamarind liquid and palm sugar and cook very slowly for 2 hours. Spoon into jars, then cover with a film of oil and seal. Refrigerate for up to 3 months.
Chile Jam ingredients at the beginning of the simmer.
Chile Jam after 12 hours, ready to put into jars.