Nando’s extra extra hot peri peri sauce

23 02 2011

I was doing the rounds in the shops the other day and was pleasantly surprised to find that my local Spar has started to stock a selection of hot sauces from Nando’s.

For those of you who don’t know Nando’s are a South African chain of restaurants serving up Portuguese inspired cuisine; in particular they serve a lot of chicken dishes –  so much so that in the US they call themselves “Nando’s Chickenland”.

The other distinguishing thing about Nando’s is their use of Peri – Peri / Piri – Piri sauce which takes its name from the key ingredient Peri-Peri Chillies – which translates quite literally as hot hot chillies….mmm chicken and hot sauce.

A number of years back Nando’s decided to cash in on the following they have amassed and started producing their various sauces for retail sale; historically the main range consisted of regular, hot and extra hot versions all with one thing in common: they taste great.

The heat in Nando’s sauces isn’t going to melt your face off but the flavour is to die for – (click here to read Scott Roberts review of the other sauces in the range) and even if you are a hardcore chilli head you will find yourself coming back for more as a result.

So enough waffling let’s get onto the sauce itself….

Ingredients:

Water, Vinegar, salt, lemon, African Bird’s eye Chilli (Peri Peri chilli), Onion, Cayenne Pepper, Vegetable Oil, Dehydrated Green Pepper, Paprika, Garlic, Thickner (Modified food starch), Stabilisers (Xanthan Gum, Propylene Glycol Alginate).

On checking out the ingredients list I was pleased to see that Nando’s took the effort of actually listing the type of chillies used – African Bird’s Eye to be precise.

I say this because Peri-Peri isn’t always used as an exact name and can often be used to cover a whole different range of chillies of varying different levels of heat. In this case the African Bird’s Eye should be somewhere in the region of 50 – 70, 000  SHU although there have been instances of some African Bird’s Eyes hitting as high as 175k  – Just a little bit of difference there…

Appearance:

The sauce is a nice vibrant red/orange colour with a good smattering of seeds and small flecks of chillies running throughout. I think that the consistency of this sauce is pretty much spot on, it is just thin enough to pour without issue but is thick enough to really coat food well.

Aroma:

The aroma is ok but there are certainly more enticing sauces out there; you can pick out the smell of the chillies and some of the spices but mostly you get the smell of the lemons and vinegar making it a little on the tart side.

Taste:

I tried this straight up and had slightly mixed feelings about it to be honest. The core Nando’s taste was there and came through quite clearly which was obviously a plus and you could clear pick out the flavour of the chillies as well which was also good.

Unfortunately though the first flavour that you really get is the lemon and the vinegar and whilst a little bit of citrus is really quite nice this was just way too much to take by itself.

Now I realise that very few people eat hot sauce straight out the bottle and as such most mainstream manufacturers haven’t really got their sights set on pleasing us few weirdos that do, as such it was time to add this bad boy to some food and see how things went together.

Seeing as this is a sauce from Nando’s it would be lunacy not to try this with some chicken and so when I was cooking dinner that evening I kept back a little plain grilled chicken and gave it a good smothering of sauce.

Instant redemption.

The flavours worked perfectly to compliment the food without taking over and that citrus and acidity that had seemed so raw and full on previously now seemed fresh and zingy and really just helped give a nice lift.

Next up I had a little salsa from the local supermarket and decided to try to pep it up with a couple of tablespoons of the extra-extra hot sauce.

Again the sauce handled the job admirably, it added a good bit of zip to what was otherwise a lacklustre mass-produced salsa and imparted just enough heat to give you a bit of warmth without having anyone reaching for the milk.

The level of heat here is pretty good actually; granted it didn’t set my mouth aflame with scorching fury but there was enough of a kick from the chillies to give a bit of warmth that lingered well.

All in all I would recommend Nando’s extra extra hot sauce as being a great choice with chicken and can really see it going well with prawns or maybe some  good meaty fish but there is just a slight lack of balance that stops it from really standing out in my eyes.

Heat – 2.5 /5

Taste – 2/5 straight up

4/5 on food

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The Magician’s Guild – Trudi Canavan

20 12 2010

The Magicians' Guild (Black Magician Trilogy, #1)The Magicians’ Guild by Trudi Canavan

Seeing as the story revolves around a pre-teen child who has no knowledge of her magical abilities but ends up being whisked away to a magicians guild and ends up being pretty much the top of the pile there were always going to be similarities drawn between this book and the Harry Potter series.

I really can understand how on the face of things it all seems a bit of a coincidence. Especially when in the second book of the trilogy we discover that the real enemies were believed defeated years ago but are back in secret and it will take huge sacrifice to defeat them…

Ok so I lied –  the similarities aren’t just on the surface. This really does read in parts like a mild re-write of some of the HP books.

But that didn’t really detract from my overall enjoyment, not just of this book but of the trilogy as a whole. The story is different enough that you don’t feel like you should just be replacing the name Sonea with that of HP himself and for the most part is well written, if a tad simplistic.

The class issues that Canavan brings up are a little bit clumsy and play out much as expected but even so it is a nice touch and helps keeps things fresh when otherwise you could be about to swap the Magicians Guild for Hogwarts.

There are however two big problems for me that keep me from scoring this book higher and unfortunately they carry on pretty much through out the latter installments of the trilogy.

Firstly there is the characterisation which is a little bit lacking on occasion.
The principal characters are surprisingly two-dimensional and formulaic and you never really find yourself building any attachment to them or indeed giving two hoots as to whether they all die in a fire.

This is a real shame as there is plenty of potential to really build some tension between the main protagonists right from the start.

 One prime example of this is the relationship between Sonea and her friends in the slums; it is obvious that Cery, one of the thieves, has strong feelings for Sonea but rather than build this up into anything too deep or emotive Canavan has the character dismiss his own feelings and cast them aside quite casually over the space of two or three paragraphs.

The second big issue that I have with this series is that I never really get a sense of immersion into the world the story is set in.

The slums and the guild are outlined reasonably well but even they are rather thin on detail and everywhere else we venture is so sketchily outlined that you are squinting to see it.

I am not asking for Tolkien like levels of detail about every blade of grass crushed underfoot but I would like to feel some sense of connection.

If I had to give an example of a fantasy writer who manages to pull this off to perfection it would have to be Terry Pratchett; on one hand I haven’t a clue what colour the second daffodil to the left of the buttercup and indeed don’t want to know was but on the other hand I can walk the streets of Ankh Morpork in my head without having to fill in huge chunks of blank canvas.

When I read that Sam Vimes stops and buys a sausage in a bun off of C.M.O.T Dibbler I can not only see Sator Square where they are standing I can smell the sausage.

In contrast to this I can read that some Bolhouse (a pub in Sonea’s world) is about to be destroyed by marauding Sachakan magicians (the bad magicians) and I really couldn’t give two figs. I haven’t a clue about the place in question other than the mere fact that it is a kind of pub and that they better have insurance. 

I am probably coming off sounding more displeased with this series than I mean to; it really isn’t bad but I feel that it lacks depth and a bit of originality and I am hoping that Canavan’s next installments will give me a bit less Potter and a bit more sense of her world and what she wants the reader to see.

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Santa’s Sack Christmas Ale

16 12 2010

I had this recently as part of Wetherspoon’s selection of festive beers.

It is the last of Thwaites  “Signature Range” for 2010 and  having enjoyed several of the earlier offerings I was looking forward to an enjoyable pint.

My first impressions were pleasing as the pints that were set in front of me a really dark ruby red with a nice  thick foamy white head on them.

There was a fairly distinct aroma coming off  the beer which was a mixture between chocolate and what smelt like ovaltine, suggesting to me that there should be a really malty depth to the beer.

Well it turns out that looks can be deceiving, I led to believe I was going to be spirited away to a magical Dickensian Christmas  full of luxury and richness. Instead I was dragged on a 3 hour bus ride to Weston-Super-Mare, in the rain, with the windows open and the heater broken.

The predominant taste was that of cheap sugar and burnt toffee, none of the rich fruits, spices or chocolate notes that I would expect to get from a Christmas ale or winter warmer.

The body was so light as to be non-existent and if there was one that sticks out in my mind most about this pint it is wet.

I know that a number of people online have been raving about this beer but I just couldn’t bring myself to enjoy it. So much that I took my pint back unfinished as did my mate.

1/5





Man Walks into a Pub: A sociable History of Beer by Pete Brown

18 11 2010

Man Walks into a Pub: A Sociable History of BeerMan Walks into a Pub: A Sociable History of Beer by Pete Brown
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have read quite a few books on beer in the past and have found that typically they all have one thing in common: they are either monumentally dull or a total farce.

Weighty volumes that document the complete history of a particular brewery right down to what tiny changes were made to a particular recipe and when are all very well and good. No doubt they are of great interest to men with big bushy beards who wear cable knit jumpers and who carry note books around with them but they are a bit too serious and stodgy for the more casual reader.

On the flip side of the coin I don’t want to read a book written by some tracksuit wearing chav who just wants to brag about how he can drink 20 pints of Stella, fight some rival football fans and still drive his barely legal Vauxhall Nova that should have been scrapped before he was born.

That is where Pete Brown has got things bang on the money, he treats the subject seriously and manages to convey a lot of useful information whilst keeping things light and smattered with humour throughout.

By choosing to focus more on the social history of beer brewing and drinking he avoids bogging the reader down with some of the useless minutiae that a lot of the more serious beer books pride themselves on.

I am also very impressed with the way that Pete Brown handles the often tricky real ale vs. lager issue. A lot of writers fall heavily on one side of the fence or the other and as such we often hear lager being decried as tasteless or a children’s drink or ale being slagged off for being a drink for fat, bearded weirdos who need to get out more.

Whilst I have my own views on the matter I realise no one really wants to hear them, and in return I don’t really want to hear their views rehashed over and over again either.
So it was certainly pleasant to come across an author who wasn’t using their book as a soapbox to take pot shots at their target of choice.

If you have anything more than a passing interest in beer and have ever considered reading more about beer and drinking then you could do an awful lot worse than to take this book as a starting point.

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