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Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Help! I’m Running out of Jalapenos – but not any more.


It was over a year ago that I took delivery of a large carton of chile products, air freighted from New Mexico by my good friend Glenn Norman. It cost over $50.00 in postage but was absolutely worth it – even though my polite enquiry, ‘What do you fancy for lunch?’ is invariably answered by, ‘Any chance of toasted cheese and green chiles?’ Day after day after day. Yep, we’re now both hooked.

So… having emptied the last can of chopped chile, I decided to do something I’ve only tried once or twice before, pickling my own. And I have to report that they are… damned good.

While we’re on the subject of tasty condiments, here’s a picture of the remains of the lime pickle I made before Christmas. When I first read the recipe in Ishmael Merchant’s Passionate Meals my jaw did drop. ‘Take 200 limes…’ it began. I suspect that the recipe was written for people who pickle in season. Okay, lads, it’s the lime harvest. Grab yourself a couple of hundred and get out those clean jars.

I settled for fifty – and did a deal with my local greengrocery. A box containing 63 small fruit for £5.00 ($8.00). The recipe requires huge amounts of (a) garlic and (b) chile, plus several other spices. But it’s easy enough. The problem comes in having told  the world  - ie, one’s family – what you’ve been up to. ‘Ooh, lime pickle! I love that.’

I held onto two jars and parted with the rest, disguised as Christmas presents. That’ll teach them.


I have been struggling with the childhood memoir I am ghosting. As ever with such projects, it’s more or less impossible not to allow one’s own memories and experiences to creep in. I actually think it’s both necessary and in desirable, in order to achieve empathy with the subject, and to give the narrative authenticity. Even when I co-wrote the cricketer Wasim Khan’s autobiography (Brim Full of Passion, which was chosen as Wisden’s Cricket Book of the Year in 2007) – and this was a guy who grew up a Kashmiri in inner city Birmingham – I had to incorporate passages from my own childhood, firstly to add a genuine flavour and secondly to allow myself to participate joyfully in the writing. Joy: it does come out in the writing. It’s a complicated business, being a ghost writer – at least, it is if you do it with any commitment.

Eight o’clock. Time I quit the keyboard and watched the football. It’s an F.A. Cup tie between Manchester City and Blackburn Rovers. I’m hoping for a goal-fest.


  1. Hmm i am thinking if should do try and do that too.

  2. lime pickle! I love that.’

  3. Could you tell all the ingredients and how it was made?

    1. Give me a little time - like later today.

  4. My recipe start with 'Take 200 limes....' As you'll se, this is quite a job, and you only want to do it once a year. That's why I divided it - and all other ingredients - by four, but I'll give you the full version, and you can do your own sums. First up, squeeze the juice from HALF the limes; put the rest of the limes in a large steel pot, cover with cold water and bring to the boil. Simmer till tender. Drain, cover and put to one side.

    Now the spices. For 200 limes you want 1.25lbs dried red chiles; 1 cup mustard seed; 1/2 cup cumin seeds; 1/2 cup onion seeds/ 1lb garlic, peeled, 1lb coarse salt; 3.75 cups mustard oil (I used olive oil); 12 fresh hot green chiles.

    Pound the red chiles in a mortar and pestle or grind in a blender.

    Put the mustard, cumin and onion seeds in a large skillet and dry roast 2-3 minutes so that they release their aroma.

    Take 2/3 of the seed mixture and pound it with a mortar and pestle, or grind, in batches, in processor/blender.

    Combine the ground red chiles and the ground seed mixture with the rest of the seeds.

    Pound the garlic into, a paste with a little water, then drain. Mix it with the chile and seed mixture, adding the salt and a little of the lime juice to make a paste.

    Now, the recipe I used asks you to quarter the limes. I have decided next time to slice them - otherwise this is too chunky. Stir the sliced limes into the mix, making sure they are thoroughly infused with the spices, and add the remaining lime juice.

    Heat the oil till it begins to sputter, then pour it over your limes and whole green chiles.

    When cool enough, put in jars with airtight lids and store in a cool place.

  5. struggling with the childhood memoir

  6. Wow! This is great! Thanks

  7. My worst enemy jalapenos. Be careful with that.

  8. if you do it with any commitment.

  9. Jalapenos are good anti oxidants too you know. Just one of benefits of jalapenos.


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