The first time I remember coming across chilli flakes was alongside the salt and pepper in jars at Pizza Hut, sat on the table so you could sprinkle them over your pizza at will. Until fairly recently, I would have said that I didn’t like chilli, partly because I feel that too much chilli tends to overwhelm other flavours and partly because I just can’t handle that much spice. However, I’ve experimented a bit in recent weeks with cooking with fresh chilli to taste and am becoming gradually more confident with it.
I use chilli flakes on occasion, mostly in chillis and occasional dishes that require a slight kick, but I usually reduce the amount by about half. I generally only use them when a recipe requests it – it’s a spice I’m very unlikely to be able to use instinctively in the way I would cinnamon or paprika.
I came across a recipe for something called ‘Cheddars’ in The Great British Book of Baking, which is a book published several years ago based on The Great British Bake Off. Now, I should probably explain that I don’t watch the Bake Off because I find the competition element of it too stressful, but I do love the way that it has inspired people to bake and I love the culture surrounding it. This book is a really useful baking book as it features lots of basic recipes, such as scones, victoria sponge and bread, as well as more inventive recipes, and is therefore great for anyone wanting to learn about baking or for more experienced bakers looking for new ideas. I chose the cheddars because I like Jacob’s mini cheddars and wanted to attempt a homemade version. They’re not all that similar to the commercial brand, as they are more like cheesy shortbread biscuits. They’re more crumbly, less crunchy and would I think be really good as a pre-dinner nibble/appetiser. The chilli is a good addition – not too spicy, just adding a subtle kick and is actually a really good way to lift the cheesy flavour.