Ainsley Harriott. We first became aware of this amazing Chef when we watched his Caribbean cooking show on BBC. So cheerful and so full of energy. His respect for local chefs and cooks who he worked with on all the shows was evident as was his love for life and food.
We watched every episode as he also showcased the cooking of each island including Trinidad and Tobago. LINK TO HIS WEBSITE
Because of his obvious interest in peppers and hot sauce we sent him our Scotch Bonnet to try and apparently he loved it. Link to BUY
Ainsley Harriott has been a Calypsonian and toured Europe in the 1990’s but then turned to his cooking talents and became resident Chef on Good Morning TV. His chops include a stint on Red Dwarf! See his amazing ebullience in this vintage calypso on YouTube See link
His career is amazing having written many best selling books on cooking and food. See link to amazon page
What an all round man, and what a cheerful up beat presence that dominates the screen on his shows. We are hoping that in 2020 he will be back with more Caribbean favourites
Great Taste Awards from the Guild of Fine Foods is one of the prestigious awards in the UK for artisan products. (LINK TO AWARDS) The judging is fierce, but the judges give feedback on the taste. This year our Smoky Chipotle ( LINK TO BUY) was awarded a coveted Star. The star means “Simply Delicious”.
We constantly taste and improve our sauces and based on the judges feedback we have again modified our Smoky Chipotle to improve the long lasting smoky flavour of those hand picked Mexican Morita chilli’s.
OUR NEW RECIPE
Our new ingredients list is as follows: Chipotle (>20%), ageing liquor, vinegar, aged garlic, sugar, salt, onion powder, roasted cumin, oregano thyme, tomato paste, tamarind, coriander and aromatics
Since arriving in the Uk we have always made crab and dumplings (a Tobago speciality) with brown crabs. But now we have discovered velvet swimmer crabs we will be using these all the time. They are inexpensive and eco friendly (apparently they breed rapidly and the ocean is full of them). But for us the big thing is how sweet they are and how easy to get the flesh out by biting through the legs and claws.
8 live crabs made enough curry for 4 people and at £5 for 8 that’s an economical meal. But curry crab is so much more than that. Curry crab and dumplings is one of the worlds great dishes. It will rarely be served in restaurants as eating it is so messy but half the fun.
In the USA lobster country Massachusetts and North the restaurants are prepared the staff give you huge bibs and bowls of water to wash your fingers, but the UK just isn’t there at all.
Its important to use uncooked crabs. We get all our shellfish from The Berwick Shellfish company LINK TO WEBSITE
As you can see in the phot these crabs make a lovely curry which goes so well with the bland wholesomeness of simple dumplings made with plain four salt sugar and water. the recipe is here LINK TO RECIPE
Ooft! at Loch Lomond in early April at the Springfest.
Ooft! at Loch Lomond, as part of the great culinary adventure. Chef Martin Sweeney was the host of Culinary adventures at the Lock Lomond Springfest in April LINK. This event is attracting increasing numbers of visitors due to its lovely location on the banks of Loch Lomond at Balloch. The two days featured live bands and exhibitions of birds of prey with lots of local shops and special offers.
Ooft! at Loch Lomond as part of the culinary offerings. As part of an extensive offering of local dishes Chef Martin used our Aged Ooft! Scotch Bonnet for a scallop Ceviche and our aged Chipotle as part of his lovely Blue Corn taco with Haggis. All the dishes were well received. You can buy Ooft! sauces using the following LINK
Ooft! home made hot sauce is very pleased to announce that the wonderful Glasgow Science Centre, (link to GSC Website) one of Scotland’s premier visitor venues attracting thousands of families annually from all over the world has chosen Ooft! Hot Sauce to grace every table in the Centre Café. Hot Sauce is growing in popularity in the UK and in Scotland but except in specialist Caribbean restaurants its unheard of to find hot sauce next to the pepper and salt. Buy your bottle of our award winning sauce now with THIS LINK
Langholm Chilli Club arrives with a splash in 2018!
Just down the road from Ooft! a group of locals in the small pretty Borders town of Langholm got together and started a club. Now we are in Scotland the land of the golfer, the hunter, and the walker, but they chose to grow, compare, and taste, chilli’s from around the world. This year was their first festival and it drew a LOT of attention and already has over 270 members growing chillis.
“By declaring the town the Chilli Capital of Scotland, the Langholm Chilli Club is hoping to attract visitors with the development of a new Chilli Trail and the first ever Chilli Fest at the end of September.
In Langholm, the Chilli Capital of Scotland, there are currently:
around 350 households growing chilli plants (Langholm has a population of 1800 and around 910 households) or one third of households
3500+ chilli seeds have been planted in the town in 2018
at least 1,000 chilli plants
53 different varieties of chilli, including the ‘Hottest Chilli’ the Carolina Reaper
21 local businesses have their chillis on display
Langholm Chilli Club has around 60 people waiting to receive seeds and members across the world including Canada, US and Portugal.“
and are already planning their 2019 enlarged festival. It is so nice to see people get so excited about chilli’s. Clubs come and go but there is a real love of the chilli in Langholm and plans afoot to do something special in 2019! Their FB page self description is “We’re going to grow Chillis! In Langholm, Eskdale, Canonbie and ANYWHERE! For no other reason than because they’re AWESOME! “. That says it all.
Hot sauce recipe – When we make Ooft! part of the process is checking each individual pepper for quality. So in the picture above carefully hand washed peppers are being checked, topped, and chopped ready for “long term aging”. The centre of the image shows the tops, sometimes they pull off but often have to be cut off. On the left is the good chopped and checked peppers. The top picture shows one of the problems we get, peppers are susceptible to attack and that’s why we hand check each one. We get our peppers from an importer in 3kg boxes which contain over 1000 peppers each so as you can work out this is a time consuming process. Our peppers come from the Caribbean the finest quality we can buy. But we believe its essential to start off right with clean peppers that have been rigorously checked inside and out.
As far as we know we are the ONLY hot sauce maker that does this. Imagine what is going into other sauces as they just blend it all up bad and good and bottle it!. Buy our sauce now using THIS LINK
Extreme hot sauce are we going too far? In a report on the BBC in April a man ate a Carolina Reaper pepper and ended up in hospital with a massive migraine. Doctors seem to think the pepper constricted the blood to his brain. LINK to story on BBC.
How did we get here? Well starting with Tabasco people have loved hot sauce for over 100 years. In the Caribbean hot sauce or pepper sauce is used daily on almost all meals. In fact as I often tell people on farmers markets if you go into KFC or Pizza Hut in Trinidad they offer you three sauces, ketchup, mustard and hot sauce all in sachets. Hot peppers are grown all over the Caribbean the most popular being scotch bonnet which we use in our Ooft! Aged Hot Sauce.
A Developing Story
So farmers noticed over time natural hybrids and began to name them, so in Trinidad there was a kind of blistery looking pepper and boy it was hot so they called it 3 pot as it could be used three times “in the pot”. So to get this, cooks in Trinidad pop a whole pepper into a stew or soup to add flavour. If it doesn’t burst then its mostly flavour with a little heat. So a 3 pot could be retrieved and used again. Later another farmer found an even hotter and named it 5 pot and later still a hotter named 7 pot. One farmer found a variety growing with a tail and named it Scorpion as that’s what it looked like. After all the scotch bonnet got its name because it looked like a tam o’ shanter hat.
Scientists and Carolina Reaper
Now we move to the technicians, people who breed plants and hybridize them. In Carolina a man hybridised a pepper plant and got an amazingly hot pepper and called it Carolina Reaper and that’s the one that caused all the headaches! In fact it looks a lot like a Trinidad Scorpion, but then they all come from the same stock. LINK to The man who developed this hybrid
What does Ooft! think of all this? Well we don’t follow fashion. Our sauce is based on scotch bonnets slow aged to develop flavour not heat. Yes its a hot sauce but chasing the heat for us misses the point. Hot sauce is not just heat its taste and we have tried so many other peppers to make a different sauce and just cannot match the taste of scotch bonnets. On your table you want salt and pepper and hot sauce, not a sauce that will give you a headache, but a sauce that will improve your food and make it come alive.
Scoville Scale is a measure of the heat in hot peppers. Heat in hot peppers, where does it come from and why? I have just been reading a very erudite report at Harvard University about the origin of heat in peppers. It amazed me that all the pepper lovers in the world only got what they love, by a tiny change that a primitive early ancestor of peppers made to protect itself from attack by predators.
It seems that there are two factors at work, one is that rodents eat peppers and love them and they have such fine teeth they eat the seeds to the point they cannot germinate whereas birds eat the flesh and drop the seeds. So the plant developed a small metabolic change to create capsaicin the heat in peppers as the birds don’t taste the heat but rats do, so this deterred the rats. Pepper plants are also attacked by insects that suck the juices, and this defence also deters them.
The second is mould. Now peppers grow in moist environments and are very prone to mould and fungus, which attacks the buds and stops the peppers growing. Capsaicin deters mould and fungus so stops that attack as well. We notice this as when we age our peppers over two to three years, not only do we notice no deterioration, but laboratory analysis confirms that the peppers stay pure which explains our two year shelf life.
The article points out that the peppers pay a price for the defence. Producing the complex molecules for heat weakens the plants water retention capability and pepper plants with heat are much less resistant to drought than sweet peppers. Its a trade off they have made over time, but are we not so grateful. Without this development we would not have our hot sauce.
Hot Sauce Brands – Like most “what is the best” questions there is a different answer for different needs so essentially you are asking what is the best hot sauce for me to use with my X, where x can be a hot dog to a quesadilla. The answer therefor can vary enormously. If I ask on Google what is the best Chinese restaurant in Edinburgh (a question I do ask all the time), I will get results that vary enormously based on the angle of the writer. So I will get told that this tiny take away is best in Edinburgh. But when I investigate the writer loves huge portions and is not fussy about quality. Well that’s not me I like good tasty food. One way to identify is to look at awards. A restaurant or hot sauce that’s won awards has at least been verified by someone. We are not big believers in awards but Ooft! has 3, Great Taste, Scotland Food and Drink and Quality Foods.
So let see what’s important in a best hot sauce:-
What is a hot sauce
A hot sauce is a table sauce like Ketchup. You use it on meals as a taste expander. Its not a marinade although it can be combined with other things to make one. So our Ooft! Smoky Chipotle can be combined with tomatoes and herbs to make a lovely marinade for chicken or pork or even seafood before barbeque or grill.
Type of peppers used
There are about 50,000 varieties of hot pepper each with its own unique taste
Some hot sauces us multiple varieties but we have tried so many and found that for us with our taste the scotch bonnet is unique and we have spoken to many hot sauce lovers at farmers markets and they share our view.
Heat – peppers vary enormously, there is even an index called the Scoville Scale SEE LINK that attempts to show heat. Some people (maybe the food equivalent of skydiving) want the “Hottest”. Our view is that this is a condiment. What would be the point of a salt that was so salty that even a grain or two spoiled your meal so all you could taste was salt? We concentrate on a tasty blend that is hot yes but also has tremendous flavour.
Quantity or percentage of peppers in mix
We think that a good sauce should have lots of real peppers. But the most popular hot sauce in the world Tabasco contains no actual peppers, just the liquid extract as its used mostly for splashing on oysters or in drinks. In the Caribbean people like to see some pieces of pepper in the sauce, everyone is different
Good Ingredients – No hot sauce contains only peppers. If it did it would be solid. So pepper makers use a variety of other ingredients. In Ooft! we use daikon a Japanese radish that we think adds unami or taste to our sauce. We also use garlic, sugar salt and vinegar to season the peppers. But our most important ingredient is time. We find that aging creates a unique taste. Tabasco also ages so we are in good company.
Bad Ingredients – Almost all available hot sauces contain additives and preservatives. Just look on the bottle to see colourings, flavourings and preservatives like guar gum. At Ooft! we don’t think they are necessary in a good sauce. So here is a key way to identify a good sauce. if the bottle has any additives or chemicals or emulsifiers avoid it.
Type of sauce
When most people talk about hot sauce they are talking about the West, sauces from Mexico or the Caribbean or the USA. But there is another whole branch of hot sauce used by those in the East although most of these are used to season food rather than as table sauces.
Go into any large supermarket and there are perhaps 20 different hot sauces from £1.50 to £5 a bottle. Why such huge variation? Well a lot is to do with processing. if you are making huge quantity of sauce, bottling as soon as you blend, and churning them out then you can sell cheap. But my wife and I who hand check every single pepper for quality wonder what goes into those bottles. We find peppers that are going bad, we find peppers that look great on the outside but when cut are rotten inside and we wonder. If you are pouring a million peppers into a hopper how do you manage that?
As far as we know only Tabasco and Ooft! age all hot sauce. There are one or two speciality brands in the US that also age but they are sold as the companies top of the line products. All Ooft! sauces are aged. Our experience is that when you blend the raw ingredients they taste just that, raw. After a year or two aging and developing, the difference is quite remarkable.
The aging process also eliminate the need for any chemicals. When you blend raw ingredients you immediately have separation. So most companies add emulsifiers and chemical to keep the sauce consistent. Aging removes this need as time blend the ingredients naturally.