Happy tuesday again, everyone! It’s been a few weeks now since my birthday, so it’s about time we tried one of my more chilli-themed presents. Something that’s maybe a tad more mass market than I’m used to but still sounds rather exciting:
This is Jamie Oliver’s Ancho & Cumin Chilli Sauce and, while its celebrity nametag doesn’t exactly fill me with confidence, putting the pepper front and centre definitely does. Especially when it’s such a mild and flavourful variety as the mexican ancho.
Anchos aren’t nearly as well known as jalapeños, habaneros or chipotle, either. So this doesn’t just imply a specific heat but also some real knowledge of mexico’s chilli-based cuisine. Some genuine appreciation for what the region’s peppers can bring to a product, beyond their fire.
I’m genuinely excited for this sauce, despite its more mundane origins.
What I will say, though, is that I hate its packaging.
Bold single shades of dark blue and a vibrant, contrasting colour on white do not speak of quality condiments. They highlight cheaply produced, supermarket own brand items, made to undercut the costs of more reputable names.
The main font is scratchy, as though scrawled on by a child, but the front of the bottle alone holds at least three others. Jamie’s standing out as oddly sleek and correctly capitalised , in contrast to the otherwise almost (yet not quite) all upper case throughout the rest.
It’s a visual mess but even that could be forgiven if it said anything about the sauce inside. Rather than simply cluttering the label further with a fire breathing T-rex silhouette and multiple appalling dinosaur puns.
I’m used to dealing with small companies who don’t always know how best to present themselves but this? This is next level awful!
This is the first label that I’ve seen which would actively turn me away from a purchase and you would not be seeing today’s sauce, at all, if it hadn’t been given to me as a gift.
Yet it very much was and I’m going to try to look past its appearance as I go in for my tasting. Or, at least, past its external appearance. Because how it looks served up on my spoon is so much more appealling:
A vibrant, creamy orange, thick and filled with shreds of red pepper and onion. Its delicate aroma providing subtle hints of richness and maybe even something fruity. Though it’s hard to tell exactly what from just a sniff and all trace of it disappears completely when it comes to tasting.
Instead, all I get right away is a smooth, creamy base with a subtle sweetness. Growing gently until the somewhat bitter, dried peppers hit and put an immediate end to it. All fairly typical of the african peri peri style, despite the absence of any actual peri peri peppers.
No, the chillies in this one are crushed anchos and the peppers present in its flavour are all bells. An even mixture of red and green, judging by their taste.
And yet, despite their being no detectable chilli flavour to today’s sauce, it is far, far hotter than an ancho product should be. Taking its time to hit, due to its creaminess, then going for the throat and back of the tongue with a high
that seems just a touch too uniform for nature.
I check the ingredients list and indeed, there it is, right at the bottom:
Apple Juice, Sweet Pepper Paste, Water, Olive Oil, Sunflower Oil, Apple Cider Vinegar (Preservative: Sodium Metabisulphite ), Crushed Ancho Chillies (2%), Salt, Onion Granules, Thickener: Xanthan Gum, Smoked Paprika, Capsicum Extract.
Jamie Oliver uses extract. And, while “capsicum extract” can refer to a few different things, including the red colouring used in cheese, it is clear from the unusually high strength of this so called “Ancho Chilli Sauce” and the specific feel of its heat that, in this instance, it means capsaicin extract. The mass produced spicy oil concentrate made from the seed supporting membranes of the pepper.
Thankfully, while this product is insanely hot for an ancho-based item, it’s also remarkably mild for an extract one. Meaning that the chilli concentrate is used in such small quantities as to not noticeably alter the taste in any way. Though it also fails to support any real chilli, like the extract in The Garlic Farm’s sauce did.
It’s a shame, since I was really looking forward to the deep, raisiny flavour of the ancho, but at least I’m left with a hefty hit of cumin at the end. Meaning that the product lives up to at least half of its name.
And that cumin also lends itself beautifully to use over golden, crispy cauliflower, bean burgers or a nice BLT. So it’ll be a lot more than just the “DINO-MITE WITH CHICKEN” that its label claims and that the peri peri style is most commonly used for.
Is that enough to earn it my recommendation? No. No it’s not.
I am still quite disappointed in both the flavour and the feel of Jamie Oliver’s Ancho & Cumin Chilli Sauce. But not in the least bit the person who gave it to me.
This was a thoughtful gift from somebody who probably didn’t know as much about chilli as I do but definitely knew enough to know what would excite me. And, while it hasn’t been quite what I’d hoped, there was a lot of potential for greatness here and a lot worth talking about.
So I’d like to say thank you for a fantastic birthday present. Even if the sauce, itself, is okay at best.