Monday, 27 October 2008
Tipped.co.uk chilli cook-off, Islington
I am not, it's fair to say, one of life's natural athletes. I generally do my best to avoid physical exercise unless it's absolutely unavoidable and taking place in the strictly climate-controlled environment of my local gym, and even then my motives for going don't stretch any further than offsetting the guilt of yet another salt beef beigel or Northcote Road sausage roll. Lazy might be an oversimplification; I am, by nature, just not a very competitive person, and I can't pretend I'm going to Fitness First to achieve physical perfection when all I'm actually doing is just enough to stop me dropping dead of a heart attack by the time I'm 30. And no more than that.
One essential part of competition is passion - you need the motivation of a desire to see a decent result, and of course to fuel that motivation you need a genuine interest in a subject. I have no interest in exercise. Food, however, is another matter. And on Saturday in Islington gathered a group of highly motivated foodies allowing their competitive streaks to shine through in a "chilli cook-off", organised by Tipped and held in the pool room of the Mucky Pup pub.
The first thing I noticed was just how varied in style all the different (there were eight in all) chillies were. Some used chunks of stewing steak while others used mince, some had sweetcorn and herbs and vegetables whilst others were no-nonsense meat and tomato with little extra filler. My favourites tended to be not too hot but with a very obviously fatty/beefy hit - I particularly enjoyed one using liquid smoke to evoke genuine USA barbecue flavours.
But the winner, in the end, managed to bring together all the best elements of herby/Mediterranean flavours while letting the good quality meat speak for itself. Step forward Helen of Food Stories, whose submission "El Paso Heart Attack" was the favourite with the voting public. Her reward consisted of little more than a comedy chef's hat and a pat on the back, but of course the real prize was knowing that her product was appreciated by her fellow peers. For everyone else, it was hardly a wasted afternoon sat in a charming old pub drinking free Corona and eating free chilli. Now that's my kind of competition.