We’ve come a long way with our attitude to chillies over the past 16 years.
But there’s plenty more to learn, says cook and food author Rosemary Moon, who will be sharing her tips and ideas with visitors to the Chilli Fiesta at West Dean Gardens.
The West Sussex event is in its 16th year and Rosemary will once again be demonstrating some dishes. She’ll be matching chillies to her recipes and explaining her choices, helping visitors to choose the plants to buy to match their style of cuisine.
‘The very first event was a single afternoon and now it’s a three-day event,’ says Rosemary, adding: ‘Over the years we’ve seen the interest in chillies change from something rather strange, which people weren’t quite sure how to use, to it being a case of how hot a chilli we can possibly bear to eat.’
She says the move now is towards the subtleties of flavour, how heat can enhance flavour, selecting the right chilli for the right dish and managing the heat by picking at the right time.
‘This year I’ll be concentrating on three or four different varieties, a very hot and spicy one, a milder one for salsas and hot chicken dishes and a fruity flavoured chilli which you could even use with sweet things.’
She adds: ‘During courses this summer I’ve been showing people crazy things like serving strawberries with some lime zest, diced chilli and sugar. You scatter that on the strawberries and leave it to macerate for about 10 minutes. Serving strawberries like that with a chocolate mousse is wonderful.’
The Chilli Fiesta, at the gardens near Chichester, draws inspiration from the 300 varieties grown and displayed in West Dean’s glasshouses.
More than 150 stallholders will be offering chillies to eat and grow, specially-prepared sauces and homeware, clothes and jewellery with a chilli theme.
There will also be an extensive programme of entertainment including Mano de Dios, who will be heating up the atmosphere with their blend of modern flamenco, ragtime, gypsy music and rhumba styles.
Chilli Fiesta runs from Friday, July 27 until Sunday, July 29. It is open between 10.30am and 5pm on Friday and Sunday and 10.30am and 6pm on Saturday.
Standard admission is £10.40 on the gate (concessions available) or £8.60 in advance online. Friday admission is £8.60 on the gate (£8.10 in advance online). Children can go in for 90p. There are also Gift Aid admission prices.
Visit westdean.org.uk/events or call (01243) 818210.