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.
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!
Large, long and pointed. Starts off yellow and
waxy and fairly mild. Gets hotter as it matures and turns to
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.
Small, red, pointed chillies that are fiery
hot, not for the faint hearted!
These are long, rather wrinkled chillies which
are green at first and then gradually ripen to red. They are of
Yellow, long, thinnish and hot.
New this year and grown from organic seed.
Very ornamental variety with very small fruits. Colour turning
from violet to bright red.
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
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, ½ tbsp caster sugar, ½ inch piece fresh root
ginger, finely grated and ½ 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,
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