Zest and Herbs

Hot Habanero Salsa, Winter Olympics

Salsa and hummus Now that the Winter Olympics have started in Sochi, I find myself watching little else.  Politics and twin toilets aside, the Russians put on quite an opening ceremony and it’s kept me entertained.  I can’t say I’m very keen on getting cold and sliding around on snow and ice though: I don’t have the balance.  Nevertheless, put on a game of curling and I’ll be enthralled until the last stone, incessantly spouting armchair punditry.

With any sport comes some sort of edible accompaniment though.  Dips of all varieties are available at pretty much any shop, but it’s much more satisfying to make your own, and they’re usually quite simple too, but hot tomato salsa and nutty hummus are probably the most ubiquitous – hummus is reportedly found in over a third of British fridges!  Recipes for hummus are equally easy to find (Felicity Cloake’s column weighs up the pros and cons of a few), but tomato salsa recipes are often little more than finely chopped spicy salads instead of something thicker: salsa means sauce in Spanish, after all.

I like my salsas nice and spicy and this is no exception.  Habaneros are the Mexican relatives of the Caribbean Scotch bonnet chilli and are equally fiery so can be substituted with minimal detriment to the dish, although the dried chillies tend to impart a smokier flavour which I prefer.  For extra richness, sometimes I mix in a tablespoon of grated 70% dark chocolate and it can perk up slightly under-sweet tomatoes too.  Dolloped on nachos and fajitas, or as a dip for crudités and tortilla chips this can be easily adapted to your tastes and given any signature touches you might desire.


  • 200g ripe tomatoes
  • 1 mild green chilli
  • 2 cloves of garlic, unpeeled
  • 75g shallots (about 2 or 3, depending on the size) or a 75g piece of onion
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp tomato purée
  • 1 dried habanero chilli, cut up if you want it really spicy
  • Small handful of coriander, finely chopped
  • Juice of half a lime

In a hot dry griddle pan, roast the tomatoes, chili, garlic and shallots so that they char on all sides: the chilli and garlic should take around 5 minutes, the tomatoes and shallots up to 10 minutes.  Set aside to cool.

Once cooled, remove as much skin as possible from the chilli and tomatoes.  Peel the garlic and crush to a paste with a pinch of coarse salt using the back of a knife.  Finely chop the chilli and shallots and soften on a moderate heat with oil for 5 minutes. Coarsely chop the tomatoes before adding the tomato purée and garlic and frying for a further minute.  Add the tomatoes and habanero and cook for 15-20 minutes until the tomatoes have broken down and the chilli has released plenty of heat (it will continue to do so after cooking), using a little water if necessary to stop the salsa drying out.

Remove from the heat, and stir through the coriander and lime juice before transferring to a serving bowl. Serve warm or at room temperature, with something to dip into it!Habanero salsa

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This entry was posted on February 16, 2014 by in Recipes and tagged , , , , , , , , , , .

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