Tag Archives: chili

The Dorset Chilli Festival

21 Aug

 Open Wide Delicious Mango Hot Sauce



Gone are the days when British cuisine equates to meat and two veg,  not only is London one of the gastronomic capitals of the world nowadays but the whole country has seen vast changes in its typical cuisine. A few years ago curry, or more specifically Chicken Tikka Masala, overtook the archetypal Fish ‘n Chips as the nation’s favourite (and most eaten) dish.  There has been a growing trend in particular for chilli peppers and  they seem to be getting hotter and hotter ever since the UK took the crown for the world’s hottest chilli in 1995 with the Dorset Naga. In fact this year has already seen the Guinness Book of Records crown change hands twice by competing British Chilli farmers. Firstly the Infinity Chilli, grown in Lincolnshire by Fire Foods owner Nick Woods – however he was quickly dethroned a fortnight later by the Naga Viper grown by Gerard Fowler, owner of The Chilli Pepper Company in Cumbria.

For those non-chilli aficionados, chilies are measured in scovilles indicating how much capsaicin is in the chilli to give it that burning heat. The Naga Viper comes in at an eye-watering 1.3 million SHU (scovilles). To make a comparison a jalapeno is about 3000 SHU, tabasco sauce 5000 SHU and a habanero chilli somewhere between 100,000-250,000 SHU.

With the Dorset Naga now being sold in mainstream retailers such as Tesco’s, it can no longer be considered a niche product. The Great Dorset Chilli Festival is cashing in on this trend and on the already internationally renowned native chili with its first ever festival. I’ll now give a lo-down of the highlights and lolights.

Top 5 Highlights

1) The Chilli Eating Competiton

Well I lost my chilli-contest virginity at the Dorset Chilli Festival, although it wasn’t quite the baptism of fire it could have been seen as I was a spectator and not a contestant, (un?!)fortunately after having to pull out of the competition on medical grounds before it even began. I did however manage to get front row tickets to the Chilli Eating Contest on day 1, maximum respect to all the contestants who did manage to take part as it looked like pure hell. Starting off all nice and friendly, with what looked like a sweet pepper; each contestant had to eat a sequence of entire chilies, seeds and all, without drinking any milk or using the indiscreetly placed sick bucket at any stage. There were 10 chilies starting from mild moving on to hot, really hot and then so-absolutely-insanely-dangerous-it-could-be-used-instead-of-CS-gas. This was a competition to really separate the men from the boys with the two finalists getting to chilli number 9, at this point they both decided they had had enough and didn’t want to do themselves any more damage. We could all see they were in pain at this point but the crowd were still calling for them to do more, I felt a bit like a roman in the Colosseum shouting for more Christians to be thrown to the lions.




2) Mango Hot Sauce from the Wiltshire Chilli Farm – www.justchillies.co.uk


Picking just one product from the Wiltshire Farm was actually the hardest part, there were seveal really high quality exhibitors at the Dorset Chilli Fesitval but this one really stuck out. First of all the Mango Hot Sauce was delicious, spicy yet sweet without being too sweet, it’s the perfect blend. But there were also some other greats sauces, Chipotle, Habanero, Chilli Jams, make-your-own Chilli Chocolate kits and many more. Plus the man who runs the company was very friendly and told us about how one day he decided to become a chilli farmer and what his wife said when he came home with 60ft polytunnels. He also gave me and my two friends a great tasting bhut jolokia chilli which helped me make an incredibly curry this week. These sauces combined with those stories really helped add to the chili experience.

3) Jalopy Pizza – www.jalopypizza.co.uk

Jalopy Pizza is the best pizza I’ve ever had outside of Italy! The thin base is covered in a rich passata sauce with just enough topping to be generous without it overpowering the rest of the base, it’s all about ratios and Jalopy Pizza have them down to a T. The old-skool Peugeot van gave it a funky retro feel too. On the down side it did take 50 minutes to arrive but I’m not sure if this was more to do with the wholly inadequate catering provision on site or if it always takes this long, they certainly made everything from fresh though that’s for sure.  Shame they are based 3 hours drive from London or I might be a regular!


 4) 10 minute burn sauce – The Chilli Pepper Company – www.chileseeds.co.uk

My Malaysian friend Vijay was visiting London for a few days on business when he called me to tell me he was in town and did we want to meet up. I told him I was going to a chilli festival about 3 hours southwest of London, and that it was in Dorset where the former world’s hottest chilli was from and asked him if he wanted to come. Vijay scoffed at the idea that we could have hotter chillis in UK than exist in Malaysia – however after tasting the 10 minute burn he was quickly sold to the idea! I will try and get the video we took from trying this put up, but it was crazyily hot. What none of us realised at the time was that this was from Gerard Fowler, who was in the Guinness Book of Records with the hottest chilli in the world the Naga Viper. I’ve eaten a lot of chilli before but this was really on another level.

5) Caribbean Dipping Sauce – The Chilli Garden Hampshire – www.thechilligarden.co.uk/

The Caribbean Dipping Sauce is like a chilli jam with a real kick to it but is the most vibrantly orange colour it makes it instantly stand out from the crowd. Great taste, great texture, great jam.


Lo-Lights of Festival

Now it was the first ever Dorset Chili Festival and as an events manager I know only too well that it’s very hard to run events, especially new ones. I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt this time round  but there were some areas that need to made better for next year.

  • Not enough Catering provision – there was nowhere near enough hot food on sale, they certainly missed a trick with food and drink as queues were horrendous and choice sparce – many people gave up and didnt bother.
  • Not enough entertainment – The Chilli Eating contest was fantastic and got a huge crowd, some cooking demonstrations or other sort of interactive session would have gone down well – as would a more prominent stage with musicans on.
  •  The moment we walked through the door we were confronted by an irate couple demanding their money back; “You’re charging £7.50 for us to buy stuff from a few stalls” she said, not a good first impression.
  • General cheap feel to it, some of the marquee tents were dirty, unkempt and seemed like they were pre-WW2. There wasn’t enough seating, the layout wasn’t even and the field untidy. Also the event programme looked like someone had made it on Microsoft Word, printed it on orange paper at home and stapled them together.
  • Exhibitors on marketing that weren’t at show – there were quite a few, making me think that no deposits were taken from exhibitors before the marketing went to print. Easy to be rectified for next time.