Saturday, 10 March 2012

The Habanero Chilli

 Habanero chillies can look a lot like their larger cousins, bell  peppers. But don't be fooled by their petite size and elegant shapes: round, lantern-like, or oblong - these little creatures will bite!

They figure quite highly on the Scoville Heat Scale (SCU) around 200,000 to 300,000. Repress the urge to cup these pretty little chillies in your hands (as I did and then learnt). You must handle them with care - the use of gloves is advisable; direct contact with skin may result in blisters.

The Habanero chilli, named after the Cuban city La Habana (Havana) begins life as green turning to orange, salmon or red when ripe. They have a floral aroma and fruity citrus-like flavour, incomparable to other chillies. Before consuming it is best to deseed and remove the placental tissue from the chilli (see picture above) as the capsaicin ( this is what gives heat to the chilli) is concentrated in these parts. This will reduce the heat considerably but not completely.

Did you know that the heat produced by capsaicin stimulates the nerve endings in the tongue and sends a message of pain to the brain which in turn releases endorphins, the body's natural painkillers? The resulting euphoria after the pain subsides is what causes some people to become addicted to chillies. By the way the more chillies you eat, the higher your resistance threshold to capsaicin which is why those seeking the 'hot pepper high' are after hotter and hotter stuff.

Here comes the health bit: chillies are rich in vitamin C!

This is a chilli sauce you can adapt to your taste buds. If you want less heat, reduce the amount of chillies or replace half the quantity with milder chillies such as Thai chilli in the picture above and add more honey.

Recipe for Sweet Chilli Sauce

6-8 ripe habanero chillies desseded
1 tbsp of grape seed oil
1 medium red onion
2 garlic cloves
1cm fresh ginger
1/2 tsp of Tamarind paste
1 tbsp cider vinegar
3 tbsp of Acacia honey

1. Chop the onions, garlic and ginger finely (or blitz in a food processor). Sauté together in a heavy-bottomed pan.
2. When reduced, add the chillies (chopped finely) and cook on medium heat.
3. Add the tamarind paste. Mix well. Add a little water to stop the ingredients from sticking to the pan.
4. Next add the vinegar and finally the honey (adjusting to taste).
5. Cook for a further 5 minutes before removing from the stove and blending into a fine liquid.

Use as a condiment with meat, fish or spread in sandwiches. Will keep in the fridge for months.

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