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Chilli Peppers

According to The Vegetable Encyclopedia & Cookbook by Christine Ingram, chillies are the most important seasoning in the world after salt and can have widely different heat values - from "just about bearable" to the "knock your head off" variety. In Mexican cooking chillies play a vital, and almost central role. They are also essential in curries and similar dishes from India and the Far East, and in Caribbean and Creole food they are used extensively. In general, she advises that chillies be used discreetly, if for no better reason than you can't take the heat away if you make a mistake!

The substance which makes the chilli hot is a volatile oil called capsaicin. This differs not only from one type to another, but also from plant to plant, depending on growing conditions. It is therefore impossible to tell how hot a chilli will be before tasting, although some types are naturally hotter than others. The belief that green chillies are milder than red ones does not necessarily follow, although generally red chillies will have ripened for longer in the sun with the result that they will be sweeter.

Chillies can be stored in their punnet, or a plastic bag, in the fridge for a few days. They may also be dried (they can look very attractive when strung up in your kitchen). You can preserve them by making chilli sauce.

Preparation

The capsaicin in chillies is most concentrated in the pith inside the pod and this, together with the seeds, should be cut away, unless you want maximum heat. Capsaicin irritates the skin and especially the eyes, so take care when preparing chillies. Either wear gloves or wash you hands thoroughly after handling them.

A selection of the varieties we grow are listed below, although various 'hybrids' have occurred though cross-pollination over the years, as we save some of our own seed. The permutations are therefore endless!

Hungarian Wax

Large, long and pointed. Starts off yellow and waxy and fairly mild. Gets hotter as it matures and turns to red.

Habernero

Sometimes called Scotch Bonnet, which it supposedly resembles! The small wrinkled fruit are the hottest of all chillies and can be green, red or yellow. Colour is no real guide to its heat properties. It comes from Mexico and is frequently used in Mexican and Caribbean dishes.

Bird Chilli

Small, red, pointed chillies that are fiery hot, not for the faint hearted!

Red Chilli

These are long, rather wrinkled chillies which are green at first and then gradually ripen to red. They are of variable hotness.

Thai Chilli

Yellow, long, thinnish and hot.

Purple Delight

New this year and grown from organic seed. Very ornamental variety with very small fruits. Colour turning from violet to bright red.

Recipes

Follow Dan Carrier's recipe in his recent Guernsey Press article, for Simple Arrabiatta. Skin some tomatoes, soften some onions and add some garlic and a 'handful' of chilli. Put half the tomatoes in another container and sieve a small amount of flour on top to give it a bit of consistency, then liquidise. Put some of the whole tomatoes into a pan, pour in the liquidised tomatoes and simmer whilst preparing the pasta. Pour the sauce over the pasta.

Chinese Dipping Sauce

Chilli

Mix together the following sauce ingredients in a bowl and stir until well combined: 1 tbsp light soy sauce, 2 shallots, finely chopped, 2 tbsp rice wine vinegar, 2 tsp sesame oil, tbsp caster sugar, inch piece fresh root ginger, finely grated and small red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped. Cover and leave to chill in the fridge to allow the flavours to infuse for at least 1 hour before serving. Can be used as a base for a salad dressing or added to stir-fries, etc.


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