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Name:

Chillies

Variety:

 

Family

Fruit

Availability:

Year  round

Character:

Chilli peppers are related to the sweet pepper. There are literally hundreds of varieties of chilli peppers. Some are definitely more suited to particular end uses than others.  The intensity of the heat also increases as the chilli ripens.

Use:

Chilli peppers are the key flavouring ingredient in a lot of Mexican, Spanish, Indian and Asian, especially Thai, dishes.  Chilli peppers are usually chopped very finely. After handling the chillies, don't touch your eyes, nose or mouth until you've washed your hands.

Quality Points:

Chilli peppers should be well shaped and have skins which are firm and shiny. Avoid those with soft spots or a shrivelled appearance.

Storage:

Chillies do not need to be refrigerated and will stay firm at room temperature for 3 - 4 weeks. They may begin to dry out and this is still quite acceptable for use. Chillies freeze well and may be used straight from the freezer, do not thaw.

Preparation:

To ascertain the chilli’s ‘temperature’, first touch the tip of your tongue on the pepper and wait one minute. If a burning sensation develops, consider the chilli ‘very hot’. If you feel nothing, cut off a tiny piece and nibble, you can label medium or mild, use quantities accordingly

Cooking Method:

Large chillies are suitable for stuffing, roast the skin until charred then place in a plastic bag or cover with a paper towel to allow it to sweat. Slip the skin off, cut in half and remove the seeds. Stuff with your favourite filling. Cheese or meat based fillings are great. The roasting causes the sugar in the chilli to caramelise and there is a wonderful change in flavour

History:

Exotics:
Thai or Birds Eye Hots are preferred in many Asian dishes and tend to be rather hot. They are a small long thin chilli and are available either red or green. They are very versatile and may be used either raw or cooked.

Habernero (Scotch bonnet):
This is a Mexican chilli which is a very attractive, lantern shaped, light green to orange coloured pod. It is extremely hot with an aromatic fruity flavour. Habernero is said to be the hottest chilli grown commercially.

Wax:
The Hungarian yellow wax hot is a very attractive large long chilli. It is very mild and is picked when a green / yellow colour. It is ideal to use raw in salads, added to stir-fries or it can be pickled. If left to ripen it goes orange and becomes very hot. A banana chilli is similar to this.

Jalapeno:
Jalapeno chillis are cylindrical in shape with a blunt point and are available in green and red. Green jalapeno is most commonly used raw sliced on nachos or in a salsa. Red jalapeno has tough skin and is best not used raw but rather in sauces, pickles or dried.

Dutch red:
This chilli looks very attractive but has a rather leathery texture. It is best dried, plaited or used in sauces or curry pastes.

Cayenne peppers:
The two most commonly found in New Zealand are the Asian cayenne pepper which is green or the Mexican pepper which is red. Both of these are ideal used in a chilli and curry pastes, and the red is good in sauces. The skins, which are often quite thick, are too tough when raw.

New Mexican:
Anaheim is a mild flavoured, large chilli pepper which naturally ripens green to black / brown to red. It is quite often stuffed when green or black / brown. When red it is often used for decorative purposes or used in sauces or pastes.

South American yellow:
A very attractive medium sized, dark yellow chilli pepper which is good used raw or cooked. It ranges in taste from medium sweet, ideal for use with chicken, to hot, which is particularly good in meat dishes.

Nutrition:

For most people chillies are eaten only in small quantities so is more important for their taste than nutritional value.

Comment:

As a general rule, the smaller the pepper, the darker the colour, the more pointed the top and narrower the shoulders the hotter it will be - although there are quite a few exceptions!