I come from a land where dishes have names which are not identical to their ingredients. My average day in the UK is spent eating Sambhar, rasam, idli, dosa, chutney, oothappam, upma, – not chilli, jacket potato or boiled vegetables! So, when I was press ganged by my colleagues at work into a chilli cook-off, my first thoughts were – what the hell is a chilli? An image of a chilli slow-cooked for four hours rose in my mind! Then the thought of horrendously hot dishes of Bhutan welled up, ‘cos they literally contain kilos of chilli in them! Later, a better suggestion came up, Mulaga – bhajji. This is the closest we can think of for a ‘chilli’ which can enter a competition!

Milagai bajji2

The milagha bhajji


A ‘vegetarian only’ bhajji stall on Besant Nagar beach in Tamilnadu

None of their infectious excitement rubbed off on me until Charles (of Team Charles) imparted some chilli-gyan. He spoke eloquently about its South-American Spanish-Brazilian origin. Oho! Appadiya! Achcha! Respect! Although it will be respect with two fingers pressing my nostrils down and eyes shut – to cut out the smell and the sight – no prejudice but reflex action to anything non-vegetarian.

I am beginning to have an inkling about chilli. So there is a chilli in the ‘West’, just as there is ‘curry’ in the ‘West’! Perhaps I have got it completely wrong.. but hey, I will soon find out. Well, a chilli cook-off is popular, going by the zeal of the contestants and partakers at the first ever UH edition in Feb 2014.


Dan Berger surrounded by Team Dan! © Pete Stevens


Dan the DJ! © Pete Stevens


John Gunner trying to explain his chilli! © Pete Stevens


Team Steve with impressive chilli accessories © Pete Stevens


Team Lukasz © Pete Stevens


The five chilli cooks – Charles, John, Dan, Steve and Lukasz, and a fan! © Pete Stevens


The crowd at the NSS chilli cook-off © Pete Stevens


An estatic team Charles, after being unofficially chosen as the best chilli, sorry Dan! © Pete Stevens


Team Dan wins the cook-off! © Pete Stevens

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Currently I have no ideas, only the will to take on the challenge. I might end up doing a version of sambhar – the rules will okay a sambhar – maybe add kesari powder to make it ‘reddish-brown’! But how the hell do you have sambhar on its own?!! Madness! It isn’t mulligatawny soup!

On the subject of M-T soup, guess what I found – there is a Hertfordshire speciality of mulagutawny!

160. MULLIGATAWNY SOUP (Hertfordshire)

Fry some onion and carrot in butter till they become a light brown, then add a small piece of apple, some sultanas, coconut, chutney, Harvey’s sauce, a pinch of salt and pepper, a tablespoonful of curry powder, a little curry paste, and about a quarter of a pint of strong stock, and let simmer for about an hour.
And these are other colourful versions of மிளகு தண்ணீர் – ‘pepper-water’! – mulagatoney, mullaghee-tanny, malaca-tawney, malachatauni, malagatany, malakatanni, mulkatany, mullagatawney, mullagatawny, mulligatawney, mullikatauny, mulligatawny, malagatawny

But let’s stick to Mulligatawny, Jeeves old chap!

Chamu Kuppuswamy

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