When there’s a glut of chilies the market stalls are almost giving them away. Yesterday I paid £1 for a brimming bowlful of bright red glossy specimens – the fatter, longer and milder ones. This was several thousand percent cheaper per chilli than the dainty little pack of three that was in my regular online grocery order. Chilli paste is an all-round useful ingredient. It will make a fiery dip for first course nibbles; you can spread it thinly on the flesh side of fish you will grill or barbecue; it is a brilliant short cut in curries of all sorts and of course for chilli con carne. Half a teaspoon added to an otherwise bland bean dish will transform the flavour.

The method is dead simple. You just trim the stalks from the chillies and put them, including the seeds, into a deep pot with all the other ingredients. After 30 minutes of simmering you use a stick blender to reduce it to a smooth paste and spoon it into sterilised jars. You can also freeze it in bags or ice cube trays. It will keep in the fridge for about 4 weeks and in the freezer for 6 months.

Note: if you have a pressure cooker you can reduce the cooking time to 10 minutes.

Makes about 500 ml

80g fresh ginger

2 lemons

500g medium strength fresh red chillies

1 small onion

6 garlic cloves

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 level dessertspoon salt

1 level dessertspoon sugar

200 ml any oil

100 ml water

Peel and grate the ginger. Use a vegetable peeler to remove the zest from the lemons then squeeze out the juice. Trim the stalks from the chillies and roughly chop the onion. Peel the garlic cloves. Put the ginger, lemon peel and juice, chillies, onion and garlic into the pot. Add the cumin, salt, sugar, oil and water. Add a tight-fitting lid, bring the mixture to the boil and then turn the heat right down to a bare simmer so that nothing burns. After 30 minutes everything will have softened. Use a stick blender to pulverise it to a smooth, thick, bright red sauce. Spoon it into jars which you have sterilized with boiling water then screw the lids down tightly. Store in the fridge or freeze (see above).