‘Feelin’ Hot, Hot, Hot’ on Leeside

In the final part of our ‘Spice Kings of Cork’ series KATE RYAN talks to four hot sauce makers in Cork, each with a unique twist on their products.
‘Feelin’ Hot, Hot, Hot’ on Leeside
Athula Kuruppu Archchi of Athula Fusion Food.

PAUL Moore began making chilli sauce in his mother’s kitchen back in 2010. A self-confessed hot food fan, he felt there was a lack of flavourful chili sauces on the market. At the time, Ireland was only really at its genesis of its love affair with chilli sauce.

Every month, in between lectures at college and study, Paul managed to make 50 bottles of hot sauce and sell them at farmers’ markets.

It was only when he finished up college in 2014, and had “nothing to lose”, that he decided to make a go at his business, Rebel Chilli, full time.

“It was a big challenge moving from part-time to full-time. I knew I had to get into the retail space to really make it work. Farmers’ markets are fantastic for building relationships with your customers face to face, but are too seasonal.

“I started to grow the retail side of things slowly, and carried on with the farmers’ markets too and then in 2016 we went to Bloom.”

While at Bloom, Paul was approached by a buyer from Dunnes Stores and within a month, Rebel Chilli products were gracing the shelves of the major supermarket retailer, followed by Tesco Ireland.

In the same year, Paul walked into Chopped, the salad bar chain, and found himself in the right place at the right time. Soon after, Chopped became their first food service customer; “We are now in all 50 Chopped outlets around Ireland and one in the UK.”

In 2018, Rebel Chilli grabbed the opportunity to enter the Grow with Aldi programme. After a successful month-long trial in five stores, Rebel Chilli are now listed in 137 Aldi stores in Ireland and have firmly set their sights on Aldi UK as their next goal.

Within nine years, Paul has graduated Rebel Chilli from 50 bottles a month in his mum’s kitchen and heading into lectures stinking of the sauce, to about 2,000 bottles a month across seven different products, heading out the door to their hundreds of retail and food service customers.

“Rebel Chilli is all about good times and having fun,” says Paul.

It is also about flavour — what good is a hot sauce if it’s so hot you can’t taste anything except heat, he preaches. Rebel Chilli sauces are full of flavour: you can taste the fruitiness of the chillies themselves, as well as their heat, and the flavour pairings of each sauce speaks to an understanding of how chilli can accentuate the flavour of other things, rather than obliterate them.

Paul Moore, Rebel Chilli. Picture: Cathal Noonan
Paul Moore, Rebel Chilli. Picture: Cathal Noonan

At Bloom recently, Rebel Chilli launched the second release of their small-batch barrel-aged limited edition hot sauce. Working in collaboration with West Cork Distillers in Skibbereen, Rebel Chilli age a special recipe hot sauce in Whiskey barrels for 62 days. The result? A mellow, warming, fruity sauce that’s ideal as a finishing sauce. Think brushing on to barbequed meats just before serving up to your guests. Delicious!

You can catch up with Paul and his business partner, Fergus Murphy, at A Taste of West Cork in September and Dingle Food Festival in October. Online shop at www.rebelchili.com.

Cork Chilli Company, Douglas

When Gary Barriscale bought his first chilli plant, he discovered soon after how easy they are to grow.

“I thought, this is cool, and started doing farmers’ markets in October, 2016. I started with four varieties the first year. That grew to 10 the year after that, 25 after that.

“Now I have 45 varieties of chillies that I grow hydroponically, growing about 300 plants to full maturity and selling the rest at Douglas Farmers Market.”

Hydroponics is a nutrient-based method of horticulture that enables growing a large amount of produce in a relatively small amount of space and, quizzically, without soil.

The ability to be able to better control pests and soil-borne diseases means that yield per plant is greater.

Growing chillies started as a hobby for Gary, and even though he is now a commercial grower of chillies, chilli plants and a producer of small batch chilli sauces, he still considers it a hobby, balancing the enterprise with a full time job and a young family.

“Yeah, the hobby has gone a bit wild now,” admits Gary, “I have plants everywhere I turn, but I still get excited when I see them begin to flower.”

Gary grows a range of chillies with a variety of hotness, and produces a range of six different chilli sauces, blending four or five chilli varieties in each. Their original and most popular remains Blazing Cayenne, and gets mightily adventurous with their Chocolate Reaper sauce — a blend of Carolina Reaper and Chocolate that wouldn’t go amiss in a chilli of low and slow cooked brisket and beans.

Visit Gary at Douglas Farmers’ Market, where he sells plants, chillies and chilli sauces; or drop by Mr Bell’s Emporium in the English Market, who stock the full range of Cork Chilli Company sauces.

www.corkchillicompany.com

Rock Steady Food Co, Cork

Friends Conor Lyons and Aaron Comerford have a burning grá for all things Jamaican! Music and food brought this dynamic duo together, and they are rocking Cork at the moment with their range of superb Jamaican-inspired sauces, rubs, and even a Bloody Mary Cocktail Mix.

Their range of three hot sauces (Fire in the Dance, Jamaica Mi Crazy and Cool Runnings) vary in heat levels, but all three pack a hefty punch.

Authenticity is key to their flavours here, and jerk seasoning is all about the heat — heat hunters need only apply. Their rub is great for marinades, or simply adding to stews and soups for an added punch of spicy seasoning. The Bloody Mary mix, launched recently, breaks through the heavy tomato juice perception of Bloody Marys, instead delivery a fresh vibrant tomato hit with black pepper and celery salt to the fore.

See www.rocksteadyfood.ie also available through Neighbourfood Cork City.

Athula Fusion Food, Carrigaline

Athula Kuruppu Archchi’s Sri Lankan food heritage shines through in his range of sauces and powders. Athula has created Ireland’s first range of Irish made Peri-Peri sauce (the mild sauce has a beautifully moreish fruity flavour), designed to add a finishing punch to dishes. His range of curry sauces are thick, satisfying and intensely spiced: the Jalfrezi jarred sauce won a star at the prestigious Great Taste Awards.

Athula has spent nearly 30 years perfecting his recipes that go into his sauces and powders, and just in case that wasn’t enough authenticity for you, back in his home land of Sri Lanka, Athula has a small farm where he cultivates a range of chillies beneath a canopy of coconut and lemon trees.

Sri Lankan food is known for its searing heat, but thankfully Athula’s experience as a chef in Ireland for the past seven years — notably in the five-star Hayfield Manor Hotel — means he has adapted this intensity.

The flavourful sauces are in full effect here, but the heat dial has been turned down a number of notches, allowing the complex melody of flavours to dazzle.

www.athula.ie – online shop and available in Supervalu supermarkets.

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