Cookbook review: The Red Hot Cookbook by Dan May

15th Aug 19 | Lifestyle

Here’s our verdict on a collection of recipes dedicated to heat and spice.

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Whether your chilli dish of choice is curry or jerk chicken, ceviche or dark chilli chocolate, we’ve all been caught out by a rogue, way-hotter-than-anticipated pepper, that’s sent us crashing to the fridge for a glass of milk.

They might be small, but a chilli pepper can have a serious punch.

If you want to learn more about their fiery ways, and edible possibilities, this might be the cookbook for you…

The book: The Red Hot Cookbook by Dan May

Who will love it? Anyone with a taste for food that’s hot, hot, hot – also, budding chilli pepper farmers can follow the book’s step-by-step growing guide.

What is it trying to get us cooking? Rather than a particular cuisine or style of food, it’s trying to get us to broaden our culinary minds when it comes to using spice and heat. It’s not just curries and Mexican food that benefit from chilli – in fact, we’re all being too tame with our hot pepper intake. How about chilli jam ice cream? Habanero marmalade? Or chilli-marinated salmon gravadlax? Of course, there are some classics in there too, like jalapeno poppers, chilli oils, jerk marinade and Texas chilli.

How easy is it to use? While the ingredients lists aren’t short, and some recipes do require a little planning (especially if you’ve got to marinate something), once you get to the actual cooking, the recipes are straightforward to follow. Just don’t get chilli in your eyes, and everything will be fine.

The best recipe is… The chilli hot chocolate. We’d drink buckets of the stuff.

The recipe we’re most likely to post pictures of on Instagram is… The Italian fish stew – prawns in their shells and open clam shells are just so photogenic.

The dish we’re least likely to try is… The deliciously boozy truffles with ginger and chilli praline – purely because they feel quite Christmassy, and we’d not trust ourselves to share them.

Overall rating: 7/10 – a lot of the dishes featured are quite hearty and heavy; a few brighter, lighter, more summery dishes would be much appreciated.

How to make Dan May’s chilli pecan brownies…

Ingredients:
(Makes about 12)

For the caramelised chilli pecans:
2tbsp caster sugar
100g chopped pecans
1tsp hot chilli powder
A pinch of salt

For the brownies:
100g dark (75% cocoa solids) chocolate, broken into pieces
125g unsalted butter, chopped
250g caster sugar
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1tsp vanilla extract
200g plain flour
2tsp Baharat spice blend (available from all good supermarkets)
A pinch of salt

Chilli pecan brownies from The Red Hot Cookbook by Dan May (Ryland Peters & Small/PA)
Chilli pecan brownies from The Red Hot Cookbook by Dan May (Ryland Peters & Small/PA)

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F) Gas 4.

2. To make the caramelised chilli pecans, put 50ml water and the sugar in a small frying pan over medium heat and stir with a wooden spatula for two minutes. Add the pecans and stir well as the water evaporates. After three to four minutes, add the chilli powder and salt, stirring all the time and making sure the pecans are evenly coated. Continue stirring for a few minutes longer, until all the water has evaporated, the pecans are coated and the pan is dry. Tip the pecans onto a plate or waxed paper to cool.

3. To make the brownies, melt the chocolate and the butter in a large heavy-based saucepan over low heat. Stir well with a wooden spoon until thoroughly melted and smooth, then let cool for a few minutes. Add the sugar and mix.

4. Beat the eggs and vanilla into the chocolate mixture in the pan, with the wooden spoon, until well blended. Sift the flour, Baharat spice blend and salt into the pan and stir until just mixed. Stir in the caramelised pecans.

5. Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan, spreading it evenly. Bake in the preheated oven for 25–30 minutes, until firm to the touch or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Let cool in the baking pan on a wire rack, then cut the brownies into squares. They should last for one week in an airtight container.

The Red Hot Cookbook by Dan May (Peter Cassidy/PA)
The Red Hot Cookbook by Dan May (Peter Cassidy/PA)

The Red Hot Cookbook by Dan May is published by Ryland Peters & Small, priced £14.99. Photography by Peter Cassidy. Available August 13.

© Press Association 2019

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