Inspired in part by Homer Simpson visiting a chilli cook-off, Helen Dorresteyn, owner of Clevedon Valley Buffalo Company and Chris Cullen, owner of Culley’s hot sauces had been plotting the Clevedon Valley Famer’s Market’s own inaugural chili cook-off for some time.
This fund raiser for the local Clevedon Valley fire brigade was designed as a fun event with some healthy competition on the side. “We aimed to showcase fresh seasonal market ingredients for everyday family meals, and to prove you can take a relatively cheap and lean ingredient like buffalo mince and make a masterpiece with it!” says Helen.
The rules were pretty simple. Each team was given one and a half hours to cook their chilli using a gas burner on a trestle table, and a set of market vegetables, herbs, spices, buffalo mince, tomato passata, and hot sauce.
Contestants were allowed to bring 6 additional ingredients of their choice (no processed or pre-cooked ingredients please!), and were also given $10 and 20 minutes to barter for any extra produce they could procure at the market.
Judges Lauraine Jacobs, Luke Nicholas (EPIC brewing company), and myself were instructed to mark against aroma, colour, consistency, taste, and presentation. “Don’t worry boys” Lorraine assured us, “there’s always a clear winner with these things.”
The six teams were all local dedicated cooks and confident that their chilli would win. Some were rustic and chunky, others more refined and subtle. Some were dark and chocolatey, many sweetened with honey. Some were garnished with a myriad of salsa (feijoa among them), and one team even made, pressed, and toasted their own tortillas. Some hit the hot spot better than others and it came down to which one we wanted to keep eating.
Lauraine was right, there was one clear winner. Very appropriately on a bright sunny Mother’s Day, it was the mother and son team of Geraldine and Sebastian (Bas) Braks, who won. Their family night chili was presented simply, with a surprising edge of prunes that were macerated with fresh chillies, giving it a lovely lingering heat.
They were as surprised as they were thrilled to win. 14-year old Bas is working on improving the family formula already. Although, as I was making their recipe for photography, I think their secret might well be in the slow hand, reducing the passata into the chili, a little at a time, tasting as you go.
Given the huge interest on the day, plans are underway for it to become The New Zealand Chilli Champs next year. So start working on your chilli and don’t forget to make it hot!
Geraldine and Bas Braks favourite family chilli
10 prunes, pitted
5-7 fresh red or green chilies, more or less depending on heat preference
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, diced
1 large carrot, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
1 small red capsicum
1 tsp salt
500g mince, we used Clevedon Valley Buffalo mince**
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp chilli powder
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1 can kidney beans, washed and drained
1 Tbsp honey
1-3 Tbsp Culley's Chipotle Sauce**
1 lime, to serve
1 bunch fresh coriander, chopped
Feta cheese, we used Clevedon Valley Buffalo feta**
Corn chips, we used Culley's, to serve**
- Finely chop prunes and chillies, cover with boiling water, stir well and leave to stand for 1 hour.
- Heat 1 Tbsp of the olive oil in a large frying pan and gently fry the vegetables until they're soft and lightly coloured. Add salt and remove from pan.
- Add the other tablespoon olive oil to the pan and brown the mince over a medium high heat, breaking it down as it colours. Add the cayenne pepper, cinnamon, cumin, black pepper and chilli powder. Cook, stirring for a couple of minutes then add the garlic.
- Add back the vegetables, the chilli and prune mixture and the kidney beans and slowly add the passata, reducing it into the chilli as you cook it over a medium/ low heat for about 1 hour. As it thickens, taste for salt, spice and heat and adjust accordingly.
- To finish, add honey and a 1-3 Tbsp of Culley's Chipotle sauce, (adding a subtle smoky flavour). Stir well, remove from heat and leave to rest for 5 minutes. Serve topped with lime zest, a good squeeze of lime juice, crumbled Clevedon Valley Buffalo feta, lots of fresh chopped coriander and corn chips to eat it with.
* Passata is an uncooked tomato sauce available from supermarkets and speciality food stores. Or you could use 2 cans of crushed tomatoes, blitzed, plus tomato juice or stock to equal measure.
** All Culley’s and Clevedon Valley Buffalo products are available at Clevedon Farmer’s Market (8.30am-12pm Sundays) or ask for them at speciality food stores.