#7 Quick Chilli by Nigella Lawson (from Nigella Express)

For someone who isn’t a ‘Chilli Head’, I start to sweat even looking at a bottle of the ubiquitous Sriracha sauce, I fucking love a Chilli! My last chili review was actually an unorthodox Gizzi Erskine variant (with chicken) that was delicious nonetheless. I’m tempted to add a whole section dedicated to them here on Pigley’s Kitchen, or maybe just a specific chilli-fangirl blog. One of my favourite things about Nigella Lawson is that with each new book comes a new recipe for chili. I’ve cooked all of them to date, her aptly named Quick Chilli from Nigella Express completing my research.

I’m not usually one for cheat ingredients – it’s a bit Joe Wicks for me – so looking at Nigella’s Quick Chilli I was a little apprehensive. Ingredients include: Ready-made chunky vegetable pasta sauce; tinned mixed beans in spicy sauce; sweet chilli sauce. I couldn’t actually bring myself to buying a jar of pasta sauce especially, as I have a glut of onions and endless tins of tomatoes. I made my ‘chunky pasta sauce’ by sweating off onions and garlic as normal. It probably added 5-10 mins to the cooking time, not the worst result. I did actually have a tin of the beans in spicy sauce from a grandparental care package, so that came in handy. I always have the inexpensive ‘Healthy Boy’ sweet chilli sauce in the fridge and there was an open pack of chorizo that needed using.

You’re never safe from being surprised until you’re dead.

Well I had to eat my words with this recipe. This Quick Chilli had unexpected depths of flavour. Just spicy enough. Just sweet enough. Just reduced enough. The sweet chilli sauce helped to add a stickiness to the chilli that belied the short cooking time. Honestly, I’ve painstakingly slow cooked chillis in a casserole for hours with pieces of beef shin and had results less satisfying than this one. It’s not fair.

After lecturing people for years about the necessity of slow cooking, I went days without pausing for breath. Constantly raving about this Quick Chilli, breaking only to snaffle more leftovers. I also feel bad for doubting Nigella. That’ll learn me. For your own chilli-based life lessons, you can find the recipe for Quick Chilli here or in Nigella Express.

P.S. No photo on this occasion – a chilli rarely photographs well with artificial light at nighttime. It looked brown and wet.

#4 Pulled Chipotle Chicken with Pink Pickled Onions – Gizzi Erskine

I wish it could be Chilli Friday everyday…

Fridays always call for a treat meal and our household are big fans of a Chilli in most of it’s guises. While the real thing calls for beef as per tradition, with an eye to reducing my red meat I’ve long since moved to playing around with other meats for my Chilli fix. My go-to chilli is a slow cooked turkey leg version, with the meat shredded off the bone into the dark broth. Additions of stout or chocolate, if available, help to persuade eaters that they’re not eating ‘dry’ turkey. I suppose it’s more a lean pulled pork than your traditional chilli but who’s nitpicking. This recipe for Pulled Chipotle Chicken from Gizzi Esrkine’s Healthy Appetite did indeed whet my own healthy appetite. Close enough in form to my own recipe but with her cheffy twists.

Opting not to joint a whole chicken as suggested. I used a variety of thighs and drumsticks. These were painstakingly browned off in oil which gave me both oil burns and the disgrace of running around opening all the windows after setting the fire alarm off.. twice. It is much less fiddly browning one or two large turkey legs than 12 chicken pieces. The onions are then cooked slowly in the chicken oil, followed by the spices, then the fresh tomatoes; then the stock. The chicken is then added back to the pan and cooked on a lowish heat for about 50 mins with the adzuki beans added toward the end. At the end of the 50 mins, the chicken is removed and shredded while the sauce reduces. All are given a good season, combined and served.

By this stage, the whole flat now stinks of chicken and spices.

It is a mouth watering aroma, just not on all my fresh laundry. True to expectation, the Pulled Chipotle Chicken is incredible. By far the best pulled chicken I’ve eaten. If Burrito bars made their chicken like this I would get lunch their errryday. Praise indeed. Gizzi’s spicing is on point. I used dried Ancho chills instead of Chipotle because I already had them, and they added a gentle warmth. Although listed in the ingredients, the chipotle weren’t in the method so I just chopped them and added in with the fresh tomatoes which worked. The cloves, bay and cinnamon gave it a real depth that I worried might be missing without the richer ingredients. The Pink Pickled Onions provide sweetness that would have been needed though, an inspired garnish. Not integral but definitely recommended.

Pulled Chipotle Chicken with Pink Pickled Onions

Any health benefit of Gizzi’s Pulled Chipotle Chicken sabotaged by that bowl of cheese.

I served it with some sweet potato wedges, plain rice and salad greens. I know the sweet Chilli, sweet potatoes and Pink Pickled Onions might sound like a sugary step too far, but it was Friday and I wasn’t having dessert. Gizzi recommends cauliflower rice and avocado to accompany her Pulled Chipotle Chicken, but I wasn’t feeling that virtuous at the end of a long week.

Not if, but when I make this recipe again, I’ll probably used canned bean rather than soaking and cooking dried because I’m lazy; substitute a can of chopped tomatoes for ease; and reduce the volume of stock to around 300ml, as between the tomatoes and the supermarket chicken there was a lot of extra liquid in the pan that took longer to reduce down; I also added a table spoon of maple syrup for sweetness to balance out the sharp tomatoes available in March. Oh and once cooked, you can just squeeze out the cooked half-garlic into the pan. Minor quibbles to suit myself, but a really, REALLY delicious dinner. MORE delicious the next day. Make DOUBLE. This Pulled Chipotle Chicken really does warrant the capitals.

I’m not sure if the recipe is available online, maybe try Googlebooks or Eat Your Books. Failing that, it’s often not too pricey on Amazon.