Chilli Sherry and What To Do With It

Combining chillies and sherry might sound like an eccentric fantasy today but I remember the 1960s (even though I was there - just about). Back then sherry was one of the staples in dinner party and restaurant cooking and, despite what we're often told, chillies and spices were available to English cooks who wanted them. So it was perfectly reasonable to stick a few chillies in one of your bottles of sherry while listening to the new Beatles LP. In fact, this method turns up in the Constance Spry Cookery Book published way back in the mid 1950s. Since then, sherry in cooking has become a bit of a joke and faded from use. It deserves a revival. 

Chilli Sherry

How To Make Chilli Sherry (it's really simple): 

Step 1 - Go and buy a bottle of sherry.

The two types of sherry favoured these days seem to be the very dry or the very sweet. For sipping purposes, I totally agree, but for chilli sherry in the kitchen a medium or medium-sweet is probably the most useful of all in my opinion.  

Step 2 - Wash and dry 2 or 3 long, red chillies and either cut a small slit in each chilli or prick them a few times with the point of a knife. Put the chillies in a sterilised bottle and fill with the sherry. 

Actually, you can use any chillies you like, but I think long, red chillies look good in the bottle and add the right amount of heat for me.

Step 3 -  Seal the bottle, place in a cupboard and leave it alone for a week or two before using.

The chilli sherry will keep for a long time. Constance Spry suggests that it will keep indefinitely if you keep topping it up with more sherry, but I'd be inclined to renew it every now and then.

Chilli Sherry

And here's what you can do with it:

Chilli sherry is a really useful flavour booster for soups, stews, sauces, marinades or whatever you fancy. Constance Spry (or, let's be honest, Rosemary Hume) also suggests salad dressings and that's not a bad notion, but be sparing if you use hot chillies. The following are just a couple of my favourite ways of using this little drop of delight. 

Dried fruit in chilli sherry:

Rehydrate a few raisins, sultanas, dried cranberries, barberries or apricots in a little of the chilli sherry for a few hours or overnight. You'll have lovely little sweet and hot flavour bombs to add to slow-cooked dishes, couscous or salads.

Sultanas in Chili Sherry

A BBQ-style marinade (or sauce):

A quick recipe as an example of what the the chilli sherry can add to marinades and sauces.
Sauce with Chilli Sherry

Scale the amount up, as necessary:

1 tbsp chilli sherry
1 tbsp marsala (or sweet sherry)
1 tbsp maple syrup
1tbsp runny honey
2 tbsp soy sauce (I use a reduced salt version)
1 tbsp Henderson's relish (or Worcestershire Sauce)
1 tbsp tomato ketchup

Mix all the ingredients together thoroughly and use as a marinade or dilute with water or stock and use as a coating or braising sauce. 

This is a treat on pretty much any meat or grilled veg you fancy, although duck, turkey, aubergines and guinea fowl would be especially good choices.


  1. Sadly I can no longer take chilli (which is tragic considering the way it is sneaked into so many unexpected things - such as the cauliflower cheese in our local pub ) but a splash of sherry is a welcome additional ingredient in many of the things we cook. In fact I never really stopped since the 70's.

    1. I've always used sherry in cooking but gradually over the years I began to use more marsala than sherry. Every now and then I remember a really good Spanish recipe or I think about how fond I am of a drop of PX and that makes me realise I should buy some more sherry for use in the kitchen. It's always puzzled me a bit why sherry is largely ignored in France and French cooking.

  2. I actually bought a bottle of medium sherry last week, as my son asked for a glass on his last visit [no idea why!] and there was none! Not a great chilli fan, but it's an interesting recipe.

    1. Maybe sherry will be making more of a comeback as a drink soon. I must admit that it's the really sweet PX sherry that usually has a place as a drink in my house to sit alongside desserts but sherry is such a good ingredient in cooking that it seems a shame that it's dropped of the radar in recent years.

  3. That’s a blast from the past! I have a years-old bottle of Tio Pepe which has been rendered into rocket fuel with the addition of a Scotch Bonnet. To be used sparingly. I think it’s understandable that French cuisine doesn’t use sherry — they have their own perfectly acceptable substitutes :)

    My favourite sherry/fortified wine for cooking, bar none, is PX. I buy some whenever we are in Spain, and have built up an embarrassingly large stock. I never drink it, but it’s a magic ingredient in so many sweet and savoury dishes.

    1. I completely agree that France has many superb alternatives to sherry but I was still a little surprised when I went into a supermarket with a vast selection of drinks just a few miles from the Spanish border and there wasn't a single bottle of sherry to be seen. After all, they have many fine vinegars in France but I've just been looking through a recent French cookery magazine and it had half a dozen separate recipes using Italian balsamic vinegar. Oddly enough, the first time I ever tried a glass of PX was in a French restaurant. Admittedly it was a French restaurant in London.

    2. Those of us just a few miles from the Spanish border buy our sherry in Spain :) You can often get sherry in French supermarkets, but not the best. Even more tragically, it is basically impossible to buy good port in France.

      We have a very local guy who makes vinegar, including balsamic, and supplies 3-star Michelin restaurants with it, so no supply issue there ... if you have deep pockets.

  4. Phil, I'm behind on my visits, as I've had a rather hectic couple of weeks, and so I'm just discovering you've had a facelift! What is the story, why did you do it? It looks great! I've never been a sherry drinker but used to have a "cream" sherry on hand as it was a favourite of my late friend Dorothy. I always have a bottle of drinkable dry sherry on hand for cooking. I seem to be always sloshing a bit of sherry or brandy into something I'm cooking. Never thought to chilli it up; that would make a beautiful gift.

    1. Apart from a brief period of drinking very dry sherry very chilled (both the sherry and me) back in the late 1980s and my love of a little PX with desserts, I've never really been a sherry drinker either. But it's so useful in the kitchen. You're right this would be good as a gift - I'll try to remember that for Christmas.
      As for the redesign, it was initially driven by some technical issues with the old design. Google was nagging at me about errors and problems in the old code caused largely by its age. Most of the visits to this blog are from mobile devices and the old code was based on computer and laptop screens. Correcting the issues individually was possible but tedious and long-winded and so it was easier to adopt a brand new clean design that understood the modern mobile world. Glad you like it.

  5. Phil, this is fascinating (like all your posts!) and I can't wait to try it. Sherries of all kinds are so costly here (distance, import duty, etc) but surely a bottle of something to cook with will be an investment! It strikes me that this could be an excellent Christmas gift... thanks!


Post a Comment

Sorry but I've had to switch word verification on due to a vast amount of very depressing spam.

Popular posts from this blog

Palestine Soup

Hollygog Pudding

Duck Apicius