Spice Infusions 3 | Chillies

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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!

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  • 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

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I am sure nowhere else on the www will you find such an incredible selection of chilli recipes, facts and ideas. This is definitely a burning hot collection!

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!

All photographs and written content on What's For Lunch, Honey? © 2006-2016 Meeta Khurana Wolff unless otherwise indicated. | All rights reserved | Please Ask First

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  1. Lovely pictures! Thanks for the mention. I really love chillies.



  2. beautiful Meeta, thank you for tagging my post.. honoured.. and its like a repository of chilli recipes..i will come back to this again..

  3. very cool post, great pics and some amazing links :-)
    Best regards from Zurich,

  4. Great post, beautiful photos and thanks for all the links. I need to start cooking with more chillies.

  5. That's a nice lesson on chillies and a great bunch of recipes to make the most of them. Great pictures too.

  6. This is a great post with lots of info. I like using chillies and there are some great recipes here to give them a try.

  7. Your photos are gorgeous. Now I am craving chillies!!

  8. In Arizona we can grow chili peppers so well and always have a lot on hand and I never know what to do with them all. I am going to have to give this a try!

  9. Thanks so much for the mention Meeta!!!! An absolutely delightful article on one of the most diverse spices and one I simply love using in my kitchen everyday. So many beautiful recipes to try out too.

  10. Wow what a informative post Meeta , and those beautiful clicks, red on red is stunning

  11. I can't take my eyes off of the first picture. The red background for the red chillies, looks terrific.

  12. I love Chillies. Great pictures Meeta. R

  13. This post is gorgeous! I love your take on red on red. Thanks for including my recipe here :)

  14. I had a rather nasty experience with a mouse-shit chilli in Thailand once... my tolerance is now somewhat diminished, but couldn't live without them.

    Loving that red backdrop to your photos by the way.

  15. What a treasure of recipes you have put together Meeta using this lovely spice! Loving the red on red composition!

  16. Wow I like chipotle so much ! I like your ideas like spicing Caesar salad with a Chipotle Greek Yogurt Dressing Yum !


Thank you for visiting What's For Lunch, Honey? and taking time to browse through my recipes, listen to my ramblings and enjoy my photographs. I appreciate all your comments, feedback and input. I will answer your questions to my best knowledge and respond to your comments as soon as possible.

In the meantime I hope you enjoy your stay here and that I was able to make this an experience for your senses.