Tastin' With The Tramps: Chilli Papas Spice Mixes!

The distinguished members of TATTGOC sure do love their curry, as evidenced by their now-outdated title of Curry Lovers Of The Year 2010. But their ongoing quest for spicy satisfaction isn't merely limited to TATTGOC's regular excursions to some of Glasgow's hidden-gem curryhouses. If they happen across almost any curry-related foodstuff, Trampy and The Tramp feel compelled to take it for a spin – and thus was born the irregular feature Tastin' With The Tramps. What spicy product is in the hot seat this time? Why, it's only Scottish-based, oil-free curry spice mix Chilli Papas! These magical sachets are supposed to be exceptionally easy-to-use ... but with TATTGOC's resident kitchen wizard The Tramp (and, unfortunately, his amazing camera) on the other side of the planet, can the rather more hapless Trampy actually turn out a decent tikka masala all alone? It's a very special Tastin' Without The Tramp – a rigorous test indeed! But if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere ...

(Click here to read on ...)

The Product: A sprightly start-up based in Dunfermline, Chilli Papas offers spice mixes in various varieties, and the company makes much of the fact that they provide a way of making oil-free curries with straightforward recipes. For less than £2, you get two premixed spice sachets, each containing a proprietary mix of cumin, coriander, turmeric, chilli powder and whatnot. The current range includes two types of vindaloo, a yellow curry mix, a mandalay curry and a 2-in1 Tikka Masala (the one Trampy is gonna get busy with). And let's face it, considering some of the current news stories swirling around about curry sauce in jars, maybe spice mixes are the way to go ...

Ingredients ... assemble!
The Pitch: From the engaging Chilli Papas website: "Blending fresh spices, Chilli Papas encourage you to cook a curry full of flavour from scratch using fresh ingredients. If you love curries but can’t or won’t cook, Chilli Papas has devised a product that will tantalise your taste buds but is simple to cook, quick to cook and easy to eat. It’s so easy, our kids help us cook it!" Yep, but can a kitchen naif like Trampy manage?

Adding the tomato puree ...
The Packaging: Chilli Papas is primarily a mail-order company, so while the packaging is attractively colourful, it's also cannily compact, with the recipe card handily enclosing the two spicy sachets. On the reverse, a list of the ingredients you'll need to put together a curry. On the inside, a relatively easy to follow recipe. Efficient all round ...

Just after adding some creme fraiche, rice on the go too ...
The Process: One of the most appealing things about Chilli Papas is that once you've rounded up all the ingredients – in the case of Tikka Masala, these included onion, garlic, ginger, meat, a stock cube, natural yoghurt and some tomato puree – the method is really just a case of chopping them up and sticking them all in a big pot, until your meat (in this case, chicken breasts from the awesome KRK) has cooked through. There is certainly no oil involved, although clueless chef Trampy was at one point a little confused as to whether the stock cube was to be crumbled in or mixed up and added as part of the 300ml water. (In the end, he just crumbled it in.)

Plated up, with some coriander on top
The original Tikka Masala recipe called for natural yoghurt toward the end of the recipe, but Trampy added creme fraiche in a pinch, and it still created the familiar, slightly soupy sauce. For half-an-hour's cookin', it looked pretty authentic, even though Trampy burnt the bottom of the basmati rice and resorted to microwaving the pre-bought chapattis. But what would "The Tramp" – in this case, willing stunt double and Foreign Curryspondent Makhni Knife – make of it all?

Trampy says: "Though I'm not the cooking half of TATTGOC, I was delighted when Chilli Papas sent over some unsolicited curry spice mixes ... and feel a little guilty that it's taken this long for us to properly try them out. As a fearful chef, I was instantly attracted to the idea of oil-free cooking and just bunging the majority of ingredients into a pan, but also concerned at how it might impact on the final result. In the end, it all seemed to work out to the good. After experiencing reasonable success with this Tikka Masala, I might return to try one of the Vindaloos. Now, if only I could do rice properly ..."

Makhni Knife says: "It does tastes like a real Glasgow Tikka Masala. And it doesn't taste like some pastes or jars that you can buy ... it's not gloopy or bland, there are some real flavours in it. I happened to be extremely hungry when I ate it, but I did genuinely enjoy it. For a dinner made at home, it seems pretty good, even if not quite restaurant quality. However, I will go on the record to say that this dish, this particular Tikka Masala, is immeasurably superior to any dish that The Tramp has ever cooked for me. And not just because Trampy is making me say that."

The Verdict: Clean karahi dishes all round suggest that this Tastin', even without The Tramp, was a success. Both participants were used to slightly hotter curries, so there was some chat about potentially including an extra sachet – such as one found in Salt'n'Shake crisps – to make the curry hotter, but since Chilli Papas already offer two varieties of Vindaloo, they probably feel like they have that potential market covered. In any case, the recipe clearly proved idiot-proof. So if you'd like to support Scottish company Chilli Papas, head on over to their website and try it for yourself.

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Chillipapa said...

Thanks for the fab and honest review. We are not trying to compete with restaurants but want to show people the simplicity of cooking with fresh ingredients to create a curry full of flavour. Even Trampy managed this and he now joins us men who are 'Chillipapas'!!