Sweet and sour chilli sauce

chilli sauce


I should have told you about this first. I wanted you to have plenty of time before the Seville orange season is over to enjoy this sauce. But life goes on, and the days are short and the time to take pictures is even more compressed with these gloomy winter days, and my harissa was mouldy and I could not find it new nor had I time to make some. Whiny me.

Whining apart, I hope you have some time left, or you let me know how it turns out with oranges and limes, or other souring agents. I will stick to my favourite ingredient for this period of winter. Bitter or Seville oranges are a rare find in Italy. When we did find some, we’d always make Vin d’Orange, the most elegant and sophisticated drink ever. Very boozy too: all too easy to drink too much of it in the first warm days of spring, maybe on the first barbecue of the season.

Here Sevilles are plenty and cheap: all greengrocers stock them and they’d invariably warn me that I have picked up marmalade, not normal oranges. I buy loads of them, although I have never made marmalade with them. I make sorbet, curd, and a variety of orange flavoured cakes. I soon found out that Sevilles are brilliant in savoury food as well: wherever you’d use lemon or vinegar, roughly. Which is more or less everywhere for me.

Now, this recipe is not something I’d usually try. As much as I love dips, I never think of sauces or vinaigrettes. I dress my salads and vegetables with olive oil and vinegar or lemon juice, and for other food, either the recipe has a sauce, or I don’t make one, nor do I use a ready bottled versions. However there are some sauces that I like. One of them – in the slightly sick way you like something that is not really good – is those oriental sweet chilli sauces. I avoid it though, thinking of all the nasty stuff it must contain. Besides, my partner is so sensitive to MSG that he get a headache as soon as he touches one of those things.

I never thought of making my own to avoid any side effect. Then the other day I was browsing Epicurious looking for a way to jazz up some scallops I had just bought at the market. One recipe had a chilli glaze, and I thought ‘brilliant! Let’s make it!’. As usual for me I changed the recipe a lot. The glaze turned out too strong for the scallops, which , when fresh, don’t really need anything else anyway. It was great though drizzled on the accompanying raw vegetables, and it was oddly similar to bottled sweet chilli sauce, although much better tasting and more acidic – a crossover between sweet chilli and sweet and sour. I found myself drizzling leftovers over pretty much everything, and making another batch soon after. It takes five minutes to make, start to finish. It keeps for at least a couple of days in the fridge (it never lasted more). The only problem is checking how it will taste when Seville orange season is over.

Sweet and sour chilli sauce (makes a minimal quantity, enough for a person to dip)


2 tablespoon brown sugar

2 tablespoon water

juice and zest 1/2 Seville orange

dash of chilli flakes, to taste

1 teaspoon harissa

pinch of salt


In a heavy bottomed saucepan mix sugar and water. Add chilli flakes to taste (be careful because the harissa is quite hot) and the orange zest. Bring to the boil and let it bubble until the sugar is dissolved and it is slightly caramelized. Add the orange juice, give it a good mix and turn off the heat. Add the harissa and taste. The flavours won’t have developed yet, but you may want to add a touch of salt or a little more orange juice or harissa. Let it cool. It will thicken slightly but still be spoonable.

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7 Comments to “Sweet and sour chilli sauce”

  1. It is indeed quite difficult to take pictures with this gloomy weather…

    That chilli sauce looks amazing. A great way of using Seville oranges!



  2. Beautiful sweet and sour chilli sauce. I bet is delicious!

  3. We’ll be switching to daylight saving time in about a month: I can’t wait! I am not sure whether I can find Seville oranges here. This time of the year, I am charmed by blood oranges. I have never made marmalade either, but plenty of orange ice cream. And I agree with you that fresh scallops speak for themselves. It sounds like you have created a sauce that may be a bit addictive 😉

  4. Well, since I am in Italy where you mention the almost total absence of Seville oranges, I may have to try this with lemons but it sounds delicious. I adore anything oriental-inspired!

  5. I love to get other ideas on Seville oranges which here are always used for a tahini sauce for kibbeh or the rind is candied etc. Using them for a chili sauce is great!

  6. The sauce sounds delicious. My favourite oranges are Merlin (Washington navel) oranges which are juicy, sweet and delicious and use them for whatever I do. I prefer them because they are seedless, as I have a kind of allergy to pips in citrus and grapes.

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