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Potters Plants

Back in 2012 we wrote an article about a new business Potters Plants that sell chilli plants online. We have always been impressed with the quality of the plugs we’ve received from them so we recently caught up with Rich & Holly (the owners) in search of some chilli growing tips!

How many plants are you growing this year?

For 2014 we set over 2,000 chilli plants and around 500 tomato plants. We had excellent germination so we are currently growing around 2000 plants in total , 50% of which are now already sold by order on the website.

Presumably you have some sort of poly tunnel or glasshouse for that many?

Yes we have three greenhouses and a poly tunnel, the largest greenhouse is sufficient for our chilli and tomato plants while they are in plugs , any we decide to keep and grow on to harvest are then migrated into the other greenhouses and poly tunnel.

How much does the weather affect your plant production?

Weather plays a huge part in how quickly the chillies grow. Warmer , sunny weather is definitely preferred, while harsh frosts mean constant nightly efforts to cover and protect the plants, even inside the greenhouse . Obviously as summer arrives, the sunny warmth is essential for getting the fruit to ripen too.

Potter Senior Inspecting

Potter Senior Inspecting the Crop

What kind of lighting set up do you use?

Last year we used some led strip lights as we didn’t have enough space in the greenhouse but this year we are back in the greenhouse and the daily light is proving much better , our plants are strong and green, we are really pleased with them. I guess there is no substitute for natural 🙂

What are you most popular varieties?

Well, people seem to love the super hot chillies for sure, Trinidad Scorpion Butch T, Bhut Jolokia, Moruga Scorpion and this year the Carolina Reaper  . One chilli that consistently performs well and matches the super hots for sales is the Pimientos de Padron .

Rich Potter

Holly Potting On

Rich & Holly Potter 

What are the biggest challenges you face growing chillies for customers?

Weather is obviously a challenge, but the biggest challenge is the packaging. It’s time consuming, and after all the hard work growing them, we take great care in trying to make sure the plants are securely packed for their journey.

What variety do you eat most of and why?

We probably eat pardons quite a lot, mainly because the plant produces a lot of them and they make a great tapas dish, and orange habanero , which are so tasty and have a nice manageable heat which works so well in stir fry or chilli.

Any secret growing tips for our readers?

One thing we have noticed is chilli plants love a grow bag . Standard ones you get from the garden centre – we got such a good harvest list year our freezer is still full. We have the benefit of a greenhouse of course, a conservatory is just as good if you can or a warm windowsill for growing your plant. Also , don’t over water the chilli plant, and feed once a week with chilli focus or a tomato feed.

If you’ve left it a bit late to start of your super hots or you fancy trying some new varieties you can order your chilli plants now form Potter Plants.

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Dal Makhani Slow Cooker Recipe

Dal Makhani is a classic dish that originates from Northern India. It is a national treasure that until now I have found very hard to and replicate at home. After a few failed attempts using a regular pan and even a pressure cooker making this dal in a slow cooker is the only way I have managed to get an authentic tasting dal makhani at home.

When travelling around North India a few years ago I discovered the delights of Dal Makhani. I’ve since eaten it in 5 star hotels in India, family run restaurants all over the UK. To date by far the best I’ve tasted was the roadside ‘dhabas’ (truck stops) of Northern India.

I’ve heard time and time again, whenever I have asked, that the secret behind truly great makhani is the length of time it is cooked for (not just the cream and butter!).  Traditionally the dal is cooked overnight in the restaurant tandoor after service has finished. The slowly cooling tandoors (that are traditionally sunk into the ground for better insulation) provide a constant source of low heat throughout the night. It is this very long cooking time that breaks the black (urad) dal down into such a creamy, rich texture. Using a slow cooker replicates this kind of traditional cooking perfectly.

Dal Makhani Slow Cooker Recipe

I’ve seen this dal cooked in restaurants in India and often an ungodly amount of cream and ghee (butter) are used to richen the dish up. The recipe below uses only a small amount of both so is relatively healthy. In fact you could easily leave the cream out and not notice it.

Dal Makhani Ingredients

  • 2 Cups of black whole dal (urad dal)
  • 1/2 cup of tinned kidney beans (rajma)
  • 150g of tomato puree
  • 2 tsp of cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp of coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp of black pepper
  • 1 tsp of garam masala
  • 1 tsp of dried fenugreek (methi) leaves
  • 2 dried red chillies
  • 3 crushed cloves of garlic
  • 4 thumb pieces of ginger
  • 2 tsp of salt
  • 2 fresh green chillies
  • 30g butter
  • 100ml of fresh cream

Method

1. Thoroughly wash the dal in cold water until the water runs clear. Soak in a bowl of water overnight.

2. Wash the dal once more then add them to a pressure cooker along with 6 cups of water and cook for 5 whistles. If you don’t have a pressure cooker you can simply cook them overnight in a slow cooker overnight.

3. The lentils should now be cooked and relatively soft. Mash them roughly with a potato masher for a few seconds to break them down slightly. This helps to speed up the creation of that creamy texture.

4. Using a pestle and mortar or food processor grind the cumin seeds, coriander seeds, fenugreek leaves, black pepper and dried red chillies into a fine powder.

5. Combine the garlic and ginger into paste along with a little water in either a pestle and mortar or food processor.

6. Add the dal to the slow cooker along with the water they cooked in and the kidney beans.

7. Stir in the spice mixture from point 4, the ginger and garlic paste from 5, the tomato puree, salt, butter and fresh green chillies (cut in half). There should be at least an inch of the cooking water above the dal at this stage. If it looks a little too watery then it is probably perfect. If not add a little more water.

8. Cook in the slow cooker for at least 6 hours on a medium heat, ideally for 12 hours on a low heat. You can’t really over cook this dal, the longer the better.

9. Before serving stir in the cream and serve with freshly chopped coriander leaves.

As with all dal dishes this tastes even better the next day as the flavours have even more time to mingle with each other. The recipe above makes enough to serve about 8 people so if you need less simply half the recipe.

This dal freezes very well so I usually make a large batch and before adding the cream separate out any that I want to freeze into an air tight container. To reheat simple add the frozen dal to a pan and heat over a low flame until hot and cooked through.

 

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How to Make Chilli Flakes

Making your own chilli flakes or powder is very simple and perhaps the easiest way to use up a glut of ripe chillies. Of course if you have a food dehydrator then you can use this however it is just as easy to make chilli powder or flakes with a regular domestic oven.

I usually tend to keep each variety separate so the resulting powder keeps the distinct flavours of the pods used. However feel free to try making some blends and let us know what works best!

In this batch I made three separate grinds:

  1. Yellow – made solely from Aji Lemon pods
  2. Brown – from Chocolate Habanero
  3. Red – From a mix of Spanish Naga, Tinidad Scorpiam Moruga & Naga Jolokia. This is very hot!

Method

1. Wash and towel dry your chilli pods

2. De-stalk and slice the pods in half, placing face up on a baking tray

3. Place in an oven heated to 80 degrees celcius (approx 175 fahrenheit) and leave the door slightly ajar

4. Check the pods every hour and remove when brittle. Depending on variety this can take anything from 2-5 hours.

By leaving the oven door slightly ajar the air can circulate more, which in turn helps with the drying process. It also helps to ensure a lower temperature, reducing the chances of you cooking the pods. The chillies will give off quite an intense aroma during this drying phase so it might be an idea to shut the kitchen door and open a couple of windows.

Dried Aji Lemon

Different varieties of pods will take different amounts of time. When you can easier crumble the pods between your fingers you know they’re done.

How To Make Chilli Flakes

 

Once the chillies have dried, remove the pods from the oven and grind them to the size you desire. Personally I like the resulting mixture to be about half powder and half small flakes.

For this batch I simply placed the dry chillies in a bowl and ground them down between my fingers. You could easily use a spice grinder or pestle and mortar instead.

If using your hand be sure to wear rubber gloves….oh and don’t remove you contact lenses just after making your powder!

 

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This year’s best performing plants have definitely been the Aji Lemons. The indoor plants haven’t stopped producing since June producing hundreds of pods each. Even the outdoor plants are still ripening pods despite the recent frosts we’ve been having…

Aji Lemon Plant

Meanwhile indoors the Spanish Naga is finally producing plenty of pods…

Spanish Naga

 

In fact many of our plants are still ripening. I don’t think i’ve been harvesting this many pods in December before….

A Late Chilli Harvest

 

So what to do with them. The cupboards are full of chutney, the fridge is full of hot sauce and the freezer is full so what to do with all this heat? Well I think it’s time for some chilli flakes and powders…

 

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Homemade Yogurt Recipe

Whilst having a meal out the a few weeks ago I was marveling at how nice the lassi tasted. Whether in a Raita or a Lassi, shop bought yogurt just never seems to have that strange combination of creaminess and tanginess that restaurant yogurt tends to have.

Yogurt always tastes better in an Indian restaurant and I suspect that 9 times out of 10 it is because they’ve made the yogurt themselves or bought it from a local supplier using more traditional techniques than large scale western manufacturers.

I promised myself that I’d make some homemade yogurt that weekend and after a few efforts here is the surprisingly recipe I’ve settled on.

Home Made Yogurt

 

While the actual process of incubating the yogurt takes about 12 hours the preparation time is only about 5 minutes.  All you need is milk (i use semi skimmed but any sort works) and about 2-3 tablespoons of natural yogurt to use as a starter. Assuming you’re using shop yogurt as your starter be sure that the label says something like “contains live cultures”.

Ok, so here’s how to make your own yogurt at home:

1. Add about 2 liters of milk to a pan and place on a medium heat.

2. Bring the temperature of the milk up to 200 degrees Fahrenheit, stirring continuously to avoid burning the milk. Don’t worry too much if you don’t have a cooking thermometer. You need to heat the milk until it is almost too hot to dip your finger in to it but before it reaches a boil.

3. Remove from the heat and sit the pan in a sink of cold water until the temperature reaches 115 degrees Fahrenheit. Again if you have no thermometer when you dip your finger in it will fee ‘nicely warm’. This temperature allows the yogurt cultures to incubate in the milk.

4. Put 2-3 tablespoons of your starter yogurt into a large bowl and gently whisk in 1 cup of the warm milk.

5, Once mixed add the rest of the milk gradually and stir thoroughly with the whisk.

6. Place cling film or a towel over the bowl and place in the airing cupboard over night. I find about 12 hours works best for us. Alternatively a lot of people warm there oven for a few minutes, switch it off ten place the yogurt inside in a pot wrapped in towels, leaving the oven light on overnight to create some residual heat.

The longer you leave the yogurt to incubate the more set and tangy it will become. You may find some clear liquid sitting on top of the finished yogurt. This is the whey. You can strain the yogurt to remove this (resulting in something more like Greek yogurt) or simply stir it back in to the yogurt.

I’ve found using frozen yogurt as a starter works equally well. As soon as I have made a fresh batch I freeze a cups worth to use in the future as a starter. In a sealed container it lasts for at least 2 week in the fridge.

 

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We often get emails from readers asking what the hottest chilli pepper in the world is. There is always much debate from chilli heads around the world about what is the hottest variety.

The Chilli Pepper Institute at the New Mexico State University is renowned as being the worlds leading research body in all matters relating to Capsicum and/or chile peppers. They conduct vast amounts of research into all aspects of chillies such as farming methods, pests and diseases, cultivation of new varieties etc.

One key thing they also get involved in is the testing of heat levels of different varieties. As a result they are the defacto testers of the heat levels of chillies. Below is a list of the 10 hottest chillies they have tested in order of hotness:

1. Trinidad Moruga Scorpion (2 Million SHU)
2. Chocolate 7 pot(1.8 Million Shu)
3. Trinidad Scorpion (1.5 Million SHU)
4. Bhut Jolokia (1 Million SHU)
5. Red 7 Pot(780,000 SHU)
6. Chocolate Habanero (700,000 SHU)
7. Red Savina Habanero (500,000 SHU)
8. Scotch Bonnet(350,000 SHU)
9. Orange Habanero (250,000 SHU)
10. Rocoto (175,000 SHU)

Moruga Scorpian Chilli

It is worth remembering that not all pods of the same variety will have the same levels of heat. There are many factors that go into determining both the flavour and heat levels of a chilli pod, the main ones being:

  • Heat
  • Light levels
  • Watering & feeding regimes
  • Nutritional value of growing medium
  • Humidity
  • Virility of seed used

While you can’t guarantee that if you grow some Moruga Scorpian chillies they will all register 2 million on the Scoville heat scale, you will be guaranteed that they will be very hot. We recently made some hot chilli jelly (here’s the recipe) using just 3 Trinidad Moruga Scorpians to make 500ml and it is searingly hot!

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Aji Lemon & Mango Sauce Recipe

I can’t remember where I found this recipe…it’s something I stumbled across online a while ago and i noted down in my trusty notebook where it lay forgotten until a couple of weeks ago. My Lemon Drop plant has been podding like crazy in our conservatory, producing well over 125 pods this year so I was wondering what to do with them all when i remembered this recipe.

From memory, I think the recipe originates from South America, Peru I believe. No matter were it comes from this recipe is quite unlike all for the other hot sauce/salsa recipes I’ve tried before. Uniquely sweet thanks to the mango and shallots yet with a wonderful citrus flavour with a nice level of heat.

It’s worth noting that the original recipe states the use of shallot infused vinegar (see recipe below). While you could use just plain white wine vinegar I definitely think it’s worth the extra effort and time to add the shallot flavour to the salsa.

Aji Lemon Chilli

Aji Lemon Salsa Ingredients

  • 200g Aji Lemon (Lemon Drop) chillies
  • 250g of yellow bell (sweet) peppers
  • 2 fresh mangoes (peeled and pitted)
  • 1 cup of light brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons of salt
  • 2 teaspoons of ground ginger powder
  • 2 tablespoons of Dijon mustard
  • 1 1/2 cups of shallot flavored vinegar
  • 1 cup of lime juice

1. Add all of the ingredients to a pan and cook slowly until the peppers are soft (about 30 mins).

2. Add the cooked mixture to a food processor and blend to a smooth batter.

3. Return to the pan and then bring back up to a gentle boil, skimming off any foam/scum.

4. After 15 minutes add the lime juice and stir thoroughly.

5. Add the mixture to steralised jars and store the salsa in a cool dark place.

It should keep for a few months if unopened. However once you’ve tasted it, it will most likely last nowhere near that long!

Aji Lemon & Mango Sauce

Shallot infused vinegar

This takes a week to make but it is well worth the additional preparation.

1. Take a clean empty wine bottle and fill it 1/3 up with chopped shallots.

2. Add approximately 3 cups of good quality white wine vinegar and mix well by giving the bottle a gentle shake.

3. Seal the bottle and store in a cool dark place for at least a week for the shallot flavour to infuse into the vinegar.

4. Strain through a fine sieve or some muslin before using.

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This is the first year I’ve grown any Demon Red (Capsicum anuum) chillies. I wanted a small, compact variety that would grow well on a south facing windowsill and produce lots of edible pods. Anther key requirement was that plant had to look good in order to be ‘granted permission’ to live inside our kitchen. Demon Red turned out to be an excellent choice to be grown indoors….

Demon Red Chillies

The plant has been covered in tiny (1-2cm long), upright pods all summer long. It was one of the first varieties to produce pods and is still throwing out flowers and pods deep into October. Although they are small, the ripe pods pack a fair bit of heat and have a decent flavour too. One or two pods is more than enough to liven up a pasta dish. They make an idea chilli plant for a kitchen window as a hit of heat is always to hand.

With the pods being very small and thin skinned they are also ideally suited to drying. To do this I simply pick them and place them on a tray somewhere warm (like the airing cupboard) for a couple of weeks. They can be used whole or ground down into flakes or even a chilli powder. Check out our preserving chillies article for some more ideas about how to preserve your crop.

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Super Hot Chilli Jelly Recipe

In our humble opinion here at The Chilli King, chilli jelly needs to be hot. In fact it needs to be a little bit ‘too hot’. The Trinidad Moruga Scorpian peppers that I use in this recipe are incredibly hot chillies. In 2012 they were crowned the hottest in the world when one tested in at over 2 million units on the scoville heat scale at the New Mexico University Chile Pepper Institute.

Our Moruga Scorpian plant was given to us earlier in the year by our friends over at Potters Plants. If you don’t have Trinidad Scorpians then any variety will do, particularly other super hot chinense varieties such as Naga Jolokia or Butch Ts. Failing that most supermarkets or asian shops tend to stock the old hot sauce favorites Habanero or Scotch Bonnets which would work equally well in this recipe. You might want to adjust the number of peppers depending on how hot you like it and the heat of the pods you’re using.

Moruga Scorpian Chilli Jelly Recipe

The following recipe makes approximately 2 x 250ml jam jars. This incredibly simple chilli recipe has only three ingredients: chillies, sugar and vinegar.

Super Hot Chilli Jelly Ingredients

  • 3 x Moruga Scorpian chillies
  • 500 g of jamming sugar
  • 300 ml of cider vinegar

1. Add the jamming sugar and vinegar to a medium sized saucepan. Cook over a gentle heat until the sugar has dissolved. Try to avoid stirring the sugar, instead an occasional swirl of the pan will help it along.

2. While the sugar is dissolving place the chillies (with seeds, without stalks) into a food processor and blitz until they’re shredded into small pieces.

3. Once all of the sugar is dissolved in the vinegar, add the chillies and turn up the heat.

4, Bring the mixture to the boil and continue to cook at a rolling boil for 10 minutes.

5. Turn off the heat and wait a few minutes. Any bubbles/foam should disappear after a couple of minutes. If not skim off the top with a spoon.

6. As the jelly cools it will start to thicken. The aim is to jar the jelly while it is still pourable but thick enough for the chilli flecks to be suspended in the jelly rather than floating on top.

6. Once the consistency is right (typically after 5 minutes), add the jelly to steralised jars and seal tightly.

Unlike chutney chilli jelly is ready to use as soon as it has cooled and fully set. This hot chilli jelly is ideal served with cheese and crackers, along side cold meats or in sandwiches/toasties.

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Habanero peppers are absolutely perfect for making hot sauces. Habaneros provide an amazing flavour as well the expected searing heat. There are literally thousands of habanero sauce recipes out there but this is my ‘go to’ recipe for making a basic habanero sauce.

In this recipe I’ve used red habaneros, however any variety will be perfectly adequate. The addition of the carrot means the sauce ends up with a vibrant orange colour. If you don’t have habaneros then any ‘super hot’ pepper or chinense variety of chilli such as Scotch Bonnet, Butch T or  Scorpian Moruga will be fine in this recipe.

Habanero Hot Sauce Ingredients

This recipe makes about 500ml of sauce. You can scale up or down the ingredients if you want to make more or less.

  • 10 x Fresh Habanero Chillies
  • 1 medium sized carrot
  • 1 onion
  • 1 cup of cider vinegar
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of corn flour
  • 2 teaspoons of salt
  • 1 teaspoon of sugar
  • 4 cloves of garlic

Habanero Peppers

1. Finely chop the carrot, onions and habaneros and add to a small saucepan with the water and vinegar. Bring to the boil then simmer on a low heat until the carrots and habaneros are soft. This should take roughly about 20 minutes.

2. Meanwhile add the garlic cloves (unpeeled) to a dry frying pan on a high heat. Once the skin is charred remove from the heat and set aside.

3. After 20 minutes of simmering, add the habanero mixture to a food processor along with the garlic (peeled), salt, sugar and corn flour and blend until the mixture is smooth.

4. Add the mixture back in to the saucepan and simmer for 2-3 minutes. Use your judgement here, if the mixture looks a little thin continue to cook down until it reaches a consistency you’re happy with.

5. Once you’re happy with the consistency of the sauce, pour it into sterilised bottles and allow to cool.

Habanero Hot Sauce Recipe

The sauce will keep for a few months if left unopened. Once you’ve opened a jar/bottle keep it in the fridge and consume it within a few weeks.

Hot sauce recipes such as this are very flexible. As mentioned above, this is my base hot sauce recipe so feel free to tweak and adjust as you feel. If you want to liven the sauce up you can substitute some of the vinegar for some lime juice. Also you can add some sweet fruit such as papaya or mango, to add extra sweetness and an extra dimension of flavour. Just remember the more fruit/vegetable you add the more vinegar/lime juice you’ll need to add to maintain the preservative nature of the recipe.

When you’re cooking this sauce it is worth opening a few windows in the kitchen. While the cooking of the habaneros gives off a wonderful smell, you’ll likely find your eyes and nose watering if you don’t let some of the fumes escape!

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