All fired up about chillies

It is that time of year when chilli peppers come into their own and begin to ripen to an intense deep red and get really, really hot.

Once upon a time, hot chillies were solely the preference of those with a taste for Indian or Mexican cuisine, but today it’s fair to say that chillies are a staple ingredient in everything from sauces, to cocktails to chocolate.

However, if you are not sensitive to chillies, remember that dairy products such as milk, sour cream, yoghurt or cottage cheese will help cool off the inferno caused by the compound capsaicin, contained in the white membrane of chillies. Dairy products contain casein, a protein contained in milk, which binds to the capsaicinoid molecules and washes it away, alleviating the burning sensation.

Studies report the many health benefits that can be derived from eating spicy chilli peppers. It is the capsaicin, one of the most versatile and amazing compounds on earth that bestows these benefits. Capsaicin is a natural anti-inflammatory and helps improve circulation. Chilli peppers literally clean your blood of mucus and toxins, making it easy for oxygen to be supplied to your cells, so these spicy delights will be sure to keep your body right as winter approaches.

Chilli peppers also help fight off ulcers, so if you have a weak stomach and high levels of stress in your life, include chilli peppers in your diet to help avoid painful stomach problems. If you are lucky enough to have a polytunnel, glasshouse or large conservatory and have grown more heat loving chilli peppers than you can possibly consume this year, the time has come to preserve them and thankfully there are several very simple methods for this.

FREEZING: Chilli peppers freeze well and will last for ages in the freezer, keeping their powerful hot flavour.

DRYING: In order to dry chillies, it’s best to select mature peppers that have grown fully and have a nice deep colour. Leave peppers on a sunny windowsill to dry out or get a needle and sewing thread and string the chillies up through their stalks and create an attractive display while drying at the same time.

PICKLING: Chillies can be pickled at any stage of growth and if picked when immature they will be milder in flavour and heat levels. To prepare, remove stalks and if are small, place chillies in jar whole or slice if using larger peppers, like jalapenos. Remember to wear rubber gloves to save your hands and eyes from burning afterwards. Gather enough glass jars and sterilise in a hot oven. Place lids in a separate bowl and cover with boiling water to sterilise. Carefully heat some white wine vinegar in a saucepan.

Put chilli selection in sterilised jars and pour hot wine vinegar over covering every chilli. Leave to cool and infuse for a few weeks before use.

CHILLI INFUSED OIL: Chilli oil is a great ingredient to have around the kitchen and is simple to make, all you need is a good jar, lots of fresh chillies and a bottle of olive oil. First, puncture chillies with a fork and pack them into jar and pour oil over to cover. Wait a week to use, then drizzle over everything!

RED HOT RECIPE

Thai Sweet Chilli Sauce:

Thai sweet chilli sauce may soon replace tomato ketchup as a staple in Irish kitchen cabinets, so why not attempt to make your own?

Ingredients:

1 cup white sugar

1 cup water

1/2 cup rice wine vinegar

2-3 cloves garlic, peeled

2 Jalapeno chillies or use a mix of peppers

11/2 tablespoons cornflour mixed with 2 tablespoons cold water

Method:

Chop garlic and, wearing gloves, de-seed and chop the chillies, depending on how hot you want the sauce.

Place the sugar, water, rice, wine-vinegar and chillies in a saucepan and bring to the and allow to rapidly simmer, on medium to high heat, for 10 minutes.

Turn the heat down to low, so that there are only a few bubbles, and stir in the cornflour and water mix, until it thickens.

Allow mixture to cool for a few minutes and then put in a food processor.

Decant into a sterilised jar or bottle.


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