Ok, this isn’t something that you’d be making in the great outdoors – well, you could, but unless you were planning on eating an awful lot of it, there’s the pesky problem of making sure your jars are all sanitised…food hygiene and all that. It is, however, something that you might want in the box of stores that you do take along though.
What can you do with it? For a start, it’s great in jaffles and on burgers or sandwiches, but it’s also great with Thai fishcakes, corn and coriander fritters, and on grilled or cold meats.
You can also drop some into a jar with lime juice and olive oil and shake it up for a spicy dressing, add a little to some decent mayo for a variation on marie sauce to have with prawns or mix some with cream cheese as a quick and easy dip.
When it comes to the quantities of things like sugar, tamarind, fish sauce, let your taste guide you – how much you need will be dependent on how spicy your chillis are. And yes, this recipe does call for heads of garlic rather than cloves – it isn’t a typo. Having said that, I tend to use 3 heads of garlic – especially at this time of the year when Australian garlic is in season and tastes great.
I also tend to use a lot less palm sugar – say, about 175g vs 250g – and an extra tablespoon of tamarind water…but that’s just our taste. Speaking of which, you can make tamarind water by mixing a couple of teaspoons of the paste with 100ml water; or (as I do) by soaking a hunk of block tamarind in a cup of boiling water for 10minutes or so.
Ok, to the recipe…
What you need
10 red birds-eye chillies
8 red long chillies
2 red capsicums (I de-seed the capsicums, but not the chillis)
6 red onions
1 stalk lemongrass (pale part only)
1 knob ginger
5 heads garlic, peeled
1 cup vegetable oil
250 g palm sugar
3 tbsp tamarind water
1/2 cup fish sauce
What you do with it…
Blend chillies, capsicum, onion, lemongrass, ginger and garlic to a fine paste.
Heat oil in a wok or heavy-based pan, add paste and fry until fragrant.
Add palm sugar and caramelise. Add tamarind water and fish sauce gradually, tasting as you go (you may not need the whole measure to get it to your own tastes). I tend to simmer it all for at least a half hour just to allow the flavours to blend together and soften.