Richard's hot stuff!
Little Green Men's Richard Alker tells us about his love of chillies, how he'd like to spice up Sam Allardyce and what extra hot meal he cooks up for his missus!
How did your love of chillies develop?
From my love of spicy and hot foods. It seemed like a barmy idea given the area of the country, but I decided to try and grow some. First year, I managed a couple of plants, and learnt by doing. Each year I tried a new range, and I moved from the house, to a glass greenhouse, to a polytunnel and now I’m looking again!
So, it all started as a hobby, and the quantity and varieties of chillies and chilli-products like my knowledge and experience have grown over time. My IT skills made websites and online shopping easy and with help from the North West Fantastic Foods Partnership in developing my chilli business and profile raising, product development with other Made in Lancashire and North West Fine Foods producers - the rest is history.
You expect chillies to come from exotic locations...Lancashire doesn't quite spring to mind! How have you managed to do it in Lancashire?
It’s been an interesting journey, the truth is research, determination, trial and error. There was a time when the suggestion of chillies in Lancashire may have …erm… raised an eyebrow shall we say! But chillies are becoming more popular these days, for example varieties I’ve been growing for some time like Joe’s Long Cayenne feature in the Gardeners World Chilli Trials 2006, it keeps growing and growing, reaching up to 20-25cm in length!!
You produce some seriously hot chillies...aren't they bad for your health though?
Surprisingly, these fiery little characters can be quite good for you according to a New Medical Research Report this week, red chilli peppers don't cause stomach ulcers, as was previously believed, but can actually prevent or heal them.
Tepin: The Mother of all Chillies
In addition, Chillies are loaded with vitamin A (a potent antioxidant and boost to the immune system), green chillies contain high quantities of vitamin C which are gradually replaced during ripening with beta carotene.
Chillies are also reputed to stimulate the heart, skin, kidneys and nervous system and to act as an aphrodisiac.
Your personal favourite chilli?
This is a tough one, as I love them all for different reasons, but I am fond of the tiny wild Birdseye varieties, hard to grow, long to mature: I choose Tepin (Chiltepin), and here’s why:
They may not have the gastronomic qualities of my other varieties, but they demand respect, these are ancient chilli varieties, some argue they are the original wild chilli: the plant from which all others have evolved ‘The Mother of all Chillies’.
They are a tiny round berry, slightly larger than a pea, a very decorative and bright scarlet in colour.
Capsaicin is the substance responsible for the fiery spicy flavour of chillies. Neither cooking nor freezing reduces the intensity of capsaicin, removing the seeds and veins is the only way to reduce a chilli's heat, and in a small chilli like Tepin there is a higher proportional concentration of seeds and veins to flesh, and consequently they can seem a lot hotter, and this goes some way to explaining how the reference to being ‘The Mother of all Chillies’ can sometimes be confused with their heat producing capabilities.
What's your favourite use of chilli?
I like chilli in all sorts of food and drinks.
Surprisingly chillies make good organic or natural insect repellents too.
Your favourite restaurant?
The 3 Fishes at Whalley, for menu and the use of local produce
Your favourite chef?
Philippa James – for character and commitment to the region, she’s a great laugh, good friend and potentially one slice short of a butty!
My favourite “TV Chef” is Simon Rimmer, again for character and commitment to the region.
Do you travel much with your business?
At the moment, no, as the growing conditions in Lancashire are quite different from the usual chilli hot-spots, but I have long-term plans to visit the chilli regions of Asia and the Americas, I’m looking for something unusual.
When you go on your holiday where do you go?
I am always looking for new chilli varieties and growing methods, it’s a pretty safe bet that there’s a chilli producer within day-trip distance of my destinations.
My favourite holiday places are (overseas) Australia, (UK) Newquay and Abersoch, I’m also a bit of a surfer.
Anyone famous you would like to spice up with your chillies?
Big Sam Allardyce (I’m a lifelong Bolton Supporter)
If you're cooking a romantic meal - what would you cook?
My Romantic Summer Dinner for Two would embrace the 2 loves of my life:
Chillies act as a stimulant and are an aphrodisiac, and I would seek to create the mood with a nice Chilled Chilean White Wine, and blend a hot and sweet combination through the courses.
Begin with Chilli Gin, made with the tiny yet powerful Birdseye, Pequin or Tepin chillies – each with their own distinct flavours. Accompanied I think with perhaps parsnip crisps flavoured with Purple Prince or Purple Tiger chillies.
A Chilled Apple and Chilli Soup. I simply adore the pale apple colour, with shards of bright red and green jalapeno chilli.
Sweet Cider Chilli Chicken using Bangalore Torpedo or Indian Firecracker chillies and honey, a lovely combination and not too spicy as the sweetness interacts with the heat and flavours of these Indian Chillies.
For dessert: white vanilla ice-cream with Chocolate Habanero chilli. Toss cooked chillies in sugar, dry off, so crispy, and sprinkle over the ice cream. The cool ice cream allows the fiery and wonderfully fruity flavour of the chilli to blossom.
Coffee and a twist on mint crisps: mega thin toasted Jalapeno chilli chocolate wafers.
Chilli Lemonade - to clear the palate
Attention to detail is key here: This is a romantic dinner a deux …. it is sensual heat we are aiming to generate - so, a word to the wise, after handling chillies work olive oil into your hands, and wash to remove the fiery essence of chilli, otherwise it may be transferred to your partner by touch!
Which is your fav red or green?
As most of the chilli pods mature (except for my Purple, Scotch Bonnet and Habanero varieties) they ripen and darken, some from green to red, as capsaicin levels increase to their highest.
Although my favourite colour is green, hence the name Little Green Men, and green chillies have flavours and properties of their own, I prefer the range of flavours found in mature chillies, and therefore, for now, I’m voting red, with an option to change to green at an undetermined point in the future, and then possibly back to red again!
last updated: 08/04/2008 at 11:28
Have Your Say
What do you think of Richard's x rated menu?
Peter from Chorley
Sounds good to me, possibly needs a few more chill