When Christopher Columbus set off from Spain to find an alternative route to Asia, he was looking to find a new fruitful passage to India and the lands beyond. He was looking to safeguard Europe’s kitchen, little did he know he was about to completely change it.
Black pepper had become a luxury item, so expensive it was used to pay rent and taxes. Since the Greek and Roman times it was used as a medicinal aid and spiced up their cooking.
With the rise of the Ottoman Empire, the traditional land and sea routes to Asia were cut off, forcing European traders to look for new ways to India and into Asia. They were in search for not only valuable pepper but also for other lucrative spices, opulent silks and opium. Certain he would find a new route to the East Indies, Columbus’ route took him westward. Of course he never got there; instead Columbus found a fiery fruit in the islands of the New World. Within a matter of years, it not only infused southern European cooking with bold new flavors but also reformed the cuisines of India, China and Thailand.
If you were to ask an Indian, a Chinese or a Thai, they will swear that chillies are native to their homeland. The phenomenal rise of the chillies is a hot story and never was there a food that took so many people and their cuisines in so many places by storm like the chillies have. Chillies have become an essential element in these cuisines and are deeply rooted in their culture.
Chilies belong to the genus Capsicum, a member of the nightshade family, which also includes tomatoes, potatoes and eggplants. They are native to South America, where people have been cultivating and trading them for at least 6,000 years. Over years chilli growers continually try to produce the world’s hottest chillies resulting in records being broken on a regular basis. In 2007 the hottest chilli was the Bhut Jolokia or also known as the Naga/Ghost chilli was the world’s record holder.It rated at around 1,000,000 Scoville units. Six years later the new chilli flame is the Moruga Scorpion measuring an incredible 2,000,000+ Scoville units more than double that of the Bhut Jolokia. Who knows what they might reach in the future!
Indian cooking has several uses for chilies, from simple snacks like bhaji where the chilies are dipped in batter and fried, to wonderfully complex curries. Chilies are dried, roasted, pickled and salted as a side dish for rice varieties or ground they are sprinkled over dry vegetable dishes or are a part of the several spice blends.
Spice Infusions is my monthly photography challenge I am currently working on together with Simi Jois, Dolphia Nandi-Arnstein and Deeba Rajpal. Over the course of the year we are journeying on a magnificent trip to discover spices mainly from India. As you guessed, April’s flaming spice of choice is chilli!
As it was decided we would dedicate the month to the one spice in all its forms and varieties, I instantly knew I was going to color my images very red. When I found the lovely bunch of fresh chillies at the market and the chilli strands, my idea and visions for this series all fell easily into place. I played with light, shadows, red tones and created my story of monochrome red on red. What a spicy way to spend a day in the studio!
To keep track of all the images and spices in this series take a peek into the past themes of my Spice Infusions and I hope these spices inspire you in your kitchen.
Spice Infusions 1 | Star Anise | Cinnamon | Nigella Seeds | Carom Seeds | Fenugreek
Spice Infusions 2 | Turmeric, Cardamom, Peppercorns
My fantastic friends over on my Facebook page helped out to compile a pretty cool list to include awesome ideas on how they incorporate chillies in their kitchens. Here are some of them!
- Rosa shares her Cherry Tomato, Dried Chilli And Hibiscus Salsa
- Jaswant says „I love to use these beauties in my cauliflower and lime parathas , adding the lime brings out the sharpness of the chilli”
- Safa uses it with chicken satay and with Thai steak salad. She says “they are super yummy with a bit of chilli heat”
- This mean looking mutton chukka is wonderfully spiced by Jofy. This is next on my list!
- Simi makes a simple multi-purpose spice blend for most of her curries. She says “Blending spices is like blending colors in a painting.”
- Ambica uses them in her sweet baking makes these wonderful Chocolate Red Chilli Muffins
- Gayatri says that chilies are one of most frequently used spices in her kitchen. “A simple pickle made in combination with limes and chillies slit n filled with a basic mixture of salt and turmeric. A kind of chutney very famous in Maharashtra, specially from Kolhapur, the zanzanit ( sizzling hot) thecha. Thecha has the capacity to turn around a simple meal into something so lively and sublime. Another favourite is the garlic red chilli chutney found in almost every Gujarati household, wherein garlic pods, red chilli powder, whole jeera and salt a crushed into a smooth paste on a pestle and mortar.”
She shares a lovely recipe of green chilly stuffed with a boiled potato, coriander, green chillies, amchur (mango powder), red chilli powder and cumin powder, fried in a chickpea batter and made into a chat with yoghurt, tamarind date chutney and a chili, coriander, mint chutney!
- Navneet loves it in her spaghetti aglio olio alla gambretti. She says “it not just to spice up the pasta but also give the bright colour to the dish“
- Marta has two spicy recipes that she loves this piquant Spicy roasted tomato and pepper soup and Glass noodle stir fry with edamame and tofu both
- Richa makes this sensational and mighty fiery Indo Chinese Schezwan Sauce
- Lucy spices her Caesar salad with a Chipotle Greek Yogurt Dressing
- I just love Lisa’s hatch green chilli bread for some heat!
- Pam has a hot summer salad lined up with her Zucchini, Green Bean, and Chile Slaw
- Samantha’s classic chilli con carne recipe is a real stunner
- I have been drooling over Gwen’s Red Chile Shredded Chicken Tacos ever since she shared them
- How is Rebekah’s Guajillo Chile Salsa for hot. She says “Using dried peppers means you can have tasty salsa all year round. Slightly sweet and smoky, this salsa pairs wonderfully with pork!”
- An instant red chilli pickle recipe is always good to have. Molly has a hot, spicy one, ready in 5 minutes and it can be stored in fridge for up to a month.
- Donna tempts us with a colorful Spicy Chipotle Tofu Burrito Bowl
- Check out Michelle’s crispy hot Hatch Green Chile and Cheese Wontons
- Lorena shares her 2 favorite sauces the famous Salsa Verde and a homemade Mexican Salsa
- Feel the heat with Melanie’s Fiery Habanero Hot Sauce it even comes with a warning “this seriously Fiery Habanero Hot Sauce is not for the faint hearted!”
- Spice up your pasta with Liza’s Jalapeno Ranch Pasta Salad
- I am all forErin’s smooth and piquant harissa hummus
- Beth has Pork Enchiladas with Red Sauce lined up for us.
- Bam's Kitchen is serving up Pull Apart Chicken Tandoori Sweet Potato Skins
- Sheena provides an easy Paleo Chile Verde
- Erin is currently hot on Turkish ezme, a mix of finely chopped green and red bell peppers, red chili, tomatoes, walnuts, pomegranate molasses, onion, garlic, sumac, and, tons of olive.
- Ishay makes a fantastic Deep-Fried Green Bananas with Green Chilli and Tamarind dipping sauce.
- Prerna likes it hot with her Red chilli pickle and her Indian chilli pickle - so flavorful I am licking my fingers
- Sia also pickles her chillies in this Stuffed Red Chilli Pepper Pickle Recipe
- Lovely Bina loves Kashmiri red chillies and uses them in all her chutneys, including this cilantro chutney
- and Preeti offers a quick fact: Capsaicin has been scientifically researched on since a while now. Its anti- inflammatory properties are known since Ayurvedic times and have also been tested scientifically. But that's old news. Recent research- though preliminary still- supports they actually kill (apoptosis) tumourous cells like those of cancer.
If you too have your favorite chilli recipes please feel free to share in the comments section. In the meantime enjoy making all these wonderful chilli creations.
See you next month here again with a new set of aromatic spices to flavor your dishes!
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