Hello everyone, please welcome Simpson’s Seeds back to the stage. Without the accent of their last appearance but all the same lacklustre labelling:
Today’s bottle is clad again in plain paper, with nothing but black text printed on it. And, as you can see, you can’t even read it all from one angle.
It’s a problem that we saw before with The Unusual Chutney Company’s Fiendfyre but that sauce at least had art. The only thing this one has going for it, visually, is a gold trim to its shrink wrap.
Here’s the thing, though: I got this sauce from Reading Chilli Fest. I tasted it before I bought it. I know its looks aren’t representative of what’s inside this “Arrowhead Salsa”.
And, while its slight, ketchup-like stickiness makes it a little hard to get started, once this sauce begins to flow, it comes out fast and looks a good deal better on my spoon than its packaging would suggest.
It’s a pleasing shade of orangey-red with a few seeds and shreds of black and purer red, the chillies and black pepper lending a good bit of body to the product’s texture.
Unfortunately, for me at least, some of the black pepper pieces have ground up finer than others and also given it a powdery feel but I do appreciate their flavour in here.
Yet, before we delve into the taste more thoroughly, there’s one last thing that bothers me about the packaging. The ingredients list:
Tomatoes, Onions, Red Wine Vinegar, Sugar, Habanero ‘Wessex Arrowhead’ Chillies (10%), Peaches, Lemon Juice, Salt, Black Pepper and mixed herbs.
The chilli found therein is one that the makers call “Habanero Wessex Arrowhead”, the namesake ingredient of their salsa.
I know next to nothing about this pepper, if I’m honest, and research turns up very little. From my talk with the stallholder, however, I did manage to pick up one important detail: It’s not a habanero.
Habanero is simply a name that Simpson’s Seeds, the makers of this product and growers of many of its ingredients, apply to almost all chinense type peppers.
If it’s not a scotch bonnet or a naga, they’ll list it as a type of habanero, even taking the place of important words such as the “scorpion” in the moruga scorpion (now the “habanero moruga”) or the actual family of the 7-pot lucy (now the “habanero lucy”).
They say that this is because it’s difficult to explain what being a chinense type chilli means to their customers but, even if that is the case, a little more simplicity is no excuse for removing important information in favour of something that I’d say is rather misleading.
And, as a result, I’ll be doing a thursday piece on the common chilli types as soon as I can.
In the mean time, though, perhaps we should go back to looking at today’s item.
The Arrowhead Salsa is sweet yet tangy, with a clear tomato, onion and red wine vinegar base. Its chillies make themselves known with a warming
and a slightly more savoury, red pepper taste that fits beautifully into that body. But then there’s also the black pepper and what seems to be an italian-style blend of herbs, since it’s providing an almost bolognaise element.
The lemon juice and peaches, on the other hand, really don’t stand out to me but I still suspect that they’re doing a lot to support the fruity, tangy, tomato-heavy base that prompts Simpson’s Seeds to call it a salsa.
Me, though. I’d say it’s somewhere between that and the kind of sauce I’d add to my pasta. I probably wouldn’t dip my tortilla chips into it but it’ll still go just as well in a taco, say, as over spaghetti. A delicious mexican/italian fusion.
And the fact that it’s a sensible level of “hot”, not anything super, makes it nice and accessible. Though still a way off mild.
I may not like the packaging or the way the company names its chillies but the sauce itself is definitely a good one and that’s what really counts.