Feelin’ hot hot hot!

Some like it hot but how do you like it?  Do you like it tame or do you like it fiery?  Do you prefer the lip-tinglers or the full-on inferno?  I am not talking about anything other than our fiery friend, the chilli (Or ‘Chile’ for our American friends!!)  Those wonderful brightly coloured miniatures that are deceptively pretty but can often make a huge impact.  So versatile, they infuse heat, depth and flavour to so many dishes in different cultures around the world and there are over 400 known varieties in existence.  It is believed that their use dates back to 3,000 BC in ancient Mexico.  Their heat can be measured using a ‘Scoville Scale’ – which was created in 1912 by American Chemist, Wilbur Scoville.

Ok, so that’s the science bit out of the way.  Why do we like Chillis so much?  Personally, I feel they add character and excitement to simple dishes.  For example one of my favourite dishes on earth?  Spaghetti alle Vongole,  (That’s Spaghetti and clams) consists of just a few simple ingredients; Spaghetti, clams, garlic, white wine and of course those wonderful volcanic Italian chillis or ‘Peperoncini’.  Personally the whole dish would be a total waste of time without a little heat from a chilli.  I’m addicted to heat.  Varying degrees of it, from those that tingle and plump your lips to the ones that make your eyes water… Bring it on!  I like it spicy!  But always keep a piece of bread to hand, because this is the ONLY way to tame the heat!

I couldn’t imagine not eating Indian, Szechuan, Thai or Mexican food without a decent injection of heat.  How bland would food be without a little spice?  Long live the chilli! We should be introducing it, in moderation, into the diets of our children at an early age.  You would be surprised at how much children enjoy spicy food and it will open up their palates to new flavours, preventing them from being long term fussy eaters.

Sadly, I live in a country where a generous percentage of my fellow Brits live on diets largely consisting of bread, chips (that’s fries to you), ready meals, fried food and frozen food.  I sometimes look in people’s shopping trolleys and all I can see is convenience food, salt-rich, starchy, sugary foods and there seems to be a distinct lack of fresh meats, fish and vegetables.  I know that a lot of people struggle when it comes to cooking and not everybody is confident in the kitchen, but countries like the U.S.A and United Kingdom are definitely not minorities when it comes to the consumption of convenience food.  You won’t find the Chinese or Italians encouraging each other to eat that crap, so why do we?  Sheer laziness I guess or is it because we find flavouring food at home to be too difficult a job?  

I know for some people ‘spice and seasoning’ usually means salt and pepper, but chilli is a pretty versatile ingredient and instead of being restricted solely to savoury food, it is now making regular appearances on dessert menus worldwide.  For example chocolate and chilli are widely regarded as a complementary combination.  The heat of the chilli perfectly offsetting the rich texture and sweetness of the chocolate.  Another popular combination is chilli with fruit, especially the exotic ones such as Mango, Papaya and Pineapple etc.  In Mexico, they actually sprinkle chilli powder on their Papaya and squeeze lime juice over it and it’s a wonderfully fresh and zingy combination.

Cooking is a pretty simple thing.  It’s just time consuming and therefore often requires a degree of “Hosselleh”, but it is worth the effort and a good meal doesn’t need to take more than 15 minutes.  Chilli is a great way to instantly transform a simple dish into something a lot more special.  To create a delicious and quick Oriental dish, simply start by lightly frying off some garlic, ginger and chilli in some vegetable oil, add your chosen meat or seafood and stir fry (increasing to a high heat) until the meat/fish is cooked.  This won’t take more than 5-8 minutes if your meat is cut into thin strips and seafood takes no time to cook at all.  You can add vegetables if you like, perhaps broccoli, peppers or green beans, and finish off with either some soy sauce or some oyster sauce and serve with rice or noodles.  See? Simple!

Mexicans use a wide range of chillis to create what they call ‘Moles’ [Mo-lays] which are basically pastes which can be added to various different dishes to create a sauce or used as marinades and even better they can be stored in jars and kept in the fridge for future use.  In India they tend to put Chilli in everything, believing it can help fight diseases, destroy harmful toxins and stimulate gastric enzymes that help in digesting food.  They also believe it can help in clearing nasal congestion, relieve throat infection and act as a painkiller for muscle spasms.  So in some cultures it’s not just used for its flavour but also its medicinal properties as well.  

For the wimps out there who don’t like it hot, start with the mild sweet bell peppers and then work your way up.  But for those of you our there with more “Cojones” than brains… and for those who like a challenge, I recommend going straight for the jugular and hitting the most top-ranking chillis on the Scoville Scale.  Either ‘Habanero’ (used in South American cookery) or ‘Scotch Bonnet’ (used in Caribbean cookery) Their respective heats can be extremely unforgiving and are not for the faint-hearted!  They can cause heartburn, cramps and make painful re-appearances for those with sensitive stomachs!

So, what have we learned?  Chillis add heat, depth and flavour.  Are reputed to contain medicinal properties and are used in cuisines of many different cultures across the globe.  So next time your food is bland, do what I do… Add a little heat!  Bring on the chilli!  “Spice up your life” as the Spice Girls once said, and of all the things they did say, these are the only words I truly agree with!  But take it slow, because with over 400 varieties to try, its going to be a long journey my friends!  Viva la Revolucion!!!!

Meet Iranian Singles

Iranian Singles

Recipient Of The Serena Shim Award

Serena Shim Award
Meet your Persian Love Today!
Meet your Persian Love Today!