To my recollection, there has been only one dish I have eaten that was so spicy it overwhelmed me. It was a Som Tam salad, and I ate it at a Thai food stall in Kuala Lumpur. I was weeping, Andy was mopping my brow and the owner of the stall brought me over some watermelon to cool down. Alas, on that day in the case of Suze versus food, food won. But (and this is the crucial bit), such is my obsessive relationship with chillies and spicy food, the second, the very second I woke up the next day, I wanted to go back and eat it all over again.
I always find it one of the peculiarities of life in New Zealand that properly hot food is quite hard to find. Argentina was the same actually, and we ate at was, at that time, the only Indian restaurant in Buenos Aires so often that we were recognised as regulars, and the Gosht Saagwala would appear at our table as soon as we sat down. It's also quite odd to me that when you order at an Indian restaurant here, you're often offered the choice of three heats: Kiwi hot (mild), Indian hot (medium), and English hot (supposedly hot, although us two chilli addicts never find it that hot) - when surely it should be served at the heat the recipe calls for?
So I always like to have some kind of hot sauce hanging round at home to add instant oomph to dishes that need spicing up. I discovered this as part of the Ottolenghi carrot salad, and happily, there is now a jar of this intense, thick with garlic and chilli paste sitting in my fridge, just waiting to be added to some scrambled eggs, or rubbed over the skin of a roast chicken, or tossed through vegetables before roasting, or bringing new life to sorry leftovers. This is very much an adaptation; I had to go with the quantities of spices I had in. I can't vouch for it's authenticity, but I can vouch for it's spiciness, and that makes this chilli addict very happy indeed.
Adapted from Ottolenghi, 'Jerusalem'
10 dried Guntur chillies
12g ground cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon ground cumin
0.5 tablespoon caraway seeds
20 garlic cloves, peeled
1 teaspoon salt
75ml olive oil, plus a little extra for preserving
Boil the kettle. Put the chillies in a bowl and cover them with boiling water, then leave them for half an hour. Meanwhile, pour some boiling water into a clean jar, to sterilise it. Pour it out after 10 minutes, then leave to dry naturally, and be sure not to put your fingers inside the jar.
In a large, dry, nonstick frying pan, spread the cayenne pepper, paprika, cumin and caraway seeds. Toast them over a medium heat for a minute or two. Let your nose guide you: when you get a lovely waft of toasting spices, they are done. Put them into a small food processor bowl along with the garlic cloves and salt.
Drain and deseed the chillies, then put them in the processor with the spices. Pulse a few times until everything is well mixed, then, with the motor running, pour in your olive oil until it all comes together in a thick paste.
Spoon into your jar, and cover with a thin layer of olive oil.
This will keep in the fridge for a few weeks. Doubtful it will last that long, though.