With their attractive brightly coloured, smooth, shiny skins, chillies range from mildly hot to scorchingly fiery. Red and green chillies are widely available although yellow and orange varieties can also be bought. They come in a range of different varieties and shapes, ranging from long and slender to round and bulbous. Popular as an everyday ingredient in a variety of cuisines, including Thai, Indian, Mexican and Chinese, chillies can add just a subtle flavour or a real kick to a wide selection of savoury dishes. As a general rule the smaller the chilli the hotter it is but the colour is no guide to heat. The heat of the chilli comes from capsaicin, a type of oil, which is concentrated in the seeds and the white pith that surrounds the seeds, although it is present in the flesh too. When buying, choose firm chillies with a shiny unblemished skin.
Varieties of chillies widely available include:
The hottest of all chillies, habaneros are squat, box shaped-chillies from Mexico. Similar to Scotch bonnet chillies, they can be green, orange, yellow or red, and are especially suitable for Caribbean cuisine.
Bird's eye chillies are small, long, thin red or green chillies. They are particularly popular in Chinese, Thai and Indian dishes. They are very hot and add a distinctive flavour to recipes such as curries, sauces and rice dishes.
A medium hot chilli, tapered in shape and green or red in colour. A good general purpose chilli, useful in Mexican cooking.
These relatively mild chillies are green and plump. They are popular in relishes, dips and salsas and often used on pizzas.
How to Use
Chillies can be served raw or cooked. Raw chillies are added to dips, salsas, salads and they can also be used as a garnish. Chillies are included in a vast number of dishes including curries, stir-fries, sauces, soups, stews, pies, pizzas, risottos, vegetable dishes and in meat or vegetarian chilli.
How to Prepare
If you prefer a milder taste remove the seeds and pith before cooking: slice the chilli in half vertically and using a small, sharp knife scrape out the pith and seeds, chop into small pieces. Wash your hands well after cutting chillies to avoid rubbing any of the fiery oil into your eyes. If you prefer a hotter flavour, simply wash and slice the chilli into rings.
How to Cook
Chillies are usually fried in oil, sometimes with garlic and onions at the beginning of a recipe. To fry, heat 1 tbsp oil in a frying pan and stir-fry for 2-3 minutes.
How to Store
Keep in the fridge for up to 1 week.