Some people continually search for the hottest chilli or the most eye-watering pepper sauce. Mostly blokes, it’s a macho thing. When I visit the West Indies I always bring home a bottle or two of fiendish concoctions which I then try out on the real men in my local pub.
They remain implacable though a very faint glaze of sweat appears on their foreheads as they dip into my latest offerings.
Hmm, they say, not that hot. Five minutes later you notice them slipping into the gents to douse their burning lips with cold water.
Anyway, I think I have finally found the mother of all hot sauces which will test the credentials of any pepper popping masochist. I was in a market in Martinique a few weeks ago where a very jolly lady was selling little bottles of home-made spiced rum with names not suitable for publication in a family newspaper. She also displayed a selection of sauces branded as Hot! Hot! Hot! , Call de Fire Brigade and Auntie’s Devil’s Dipper.
Noting we were in a cruise liner port I suspected these would be pretty mild and aimed at our friends from across the pond. Have you got anything really hot I asked, trying to seem nonchalant? You want hot darlin’? I’ll give you hot came the reply and laughing uproariously she rummaged around under her stall, finally emerging with a small jar containing some innocent looking yellowish paste.
The label simply said pureed peppers. No health and safety warning. My suspicions should have been aroused when she sealed the jar with copious amounts of sticky tape and then wrapped it in no fewer than three polythene bags. I swear the other stallholders were smirking as I made my way back to our car.
Fast forward to my local. To put it in a nutshell, a guy who simply dipped his pinkie into the stuff swears that almost a week later he can still taste it on his hands. He reckons a teaspoon full could kill. Chemical warfare he called it!
I gave the little jar to a pal who is no stranger to hot sauces and he reckons it will last him at least a year. He swears that just the tines of a fork drawn through it and then swirled into a bowl of cream of tomato soup is transformative.
I kept back a wee bit of the paste and it’s lurking in my fridge. For just over a year I have mostly been living on a proprietary brand of weight loss ready meals. You add fresh vegetables or a wholemeal roll to make a filling but somewhat bland repast. I have lost a huge amount of weight but when I say ‘somewhat’ I’m being polite: they are boring beyond belief. The temptation to give up was almost irresistible.
But not anymore. The merest soupcon of my miracle ingredient turns the dullest dish into an exotic adventure. Dare me to add a smidge more? Call de fire brigade!