Chatting (and eating) chillis with ABC Radio Melbourne host Richelle Hunt
This was a very popular topic for the radio audience! The talkback boards lit up – it was great to learn that there are a lot of chilli fiends out there, including some kids and a surprising number of people who carry emergency chilli stashes with them wherever they go. Enjoy the chat with new host Richelle Hunt and see below for some chilli tidbits.
Chillis originated in central and south America – some say Mexico, some Brazil or Bolivia. There are five main species but up to 3000 different cultivars today
Capsaicin (pronounced kap-say-sin) is the most common active ingredient in chillis that makes them hot (they’re part of a family of compounds called capsaicinoids)
Chilli hotness is judged according to the Scoville scale or Scoville Heat Units (SHU). It’s named after an American pharmacist called Wilbur Scoville who came up with a not-very-accurate method in 1912. He gave a panel of tasters various dilutions of chilli and rated their subjective responses. Today, an analytical chemistry method of high performance liquid chromatography is used; it’s similar to that used to assess urine samples for drug cheats. Capsicum is less than 100 SHU, birdseye chillis are around 100-350,000 SHU and the fearsome Carolina Reaper is around 2.2 million SHU
Cold milk or sugar solutions are more effective in reducing the chilli sensation than water. The proteins in milk wash the capsaicin off the tongue, a bit like detergent. There’s more information here.
I have so many chilli recipes on the site! Some of my favourites are below and you can find many more by searching for ‘chilli’ on my Recipe page.
This flavoured salt is an incredibly versatile condiment with the chilli notes rounded out by lots and lots of citrus and spice. It’s a sparky snack for melon or grapes and can also be stirred through rice flour to make a powerfully flavoured crumb for seafood or chicken.
I think dark chocolate and chilli are excellent friends: there’s something about the bitterness of dark chocolate and the punch of chilli that works so well. As an added bonus, adding a bit of chilli to your chocolate keeps the children away (or some of them, anyway!).
Big thanks to chef Neil Perry for allowing me to adapt this delicious chilli sauce for Thermomix. It’s so easy and amazingly delicious – if you’re like me, you’ll start adding it to everything for its warmth and persistent flavour. Jars of sauce also make brilliant gifts so make a big batch!
Everyone loves this Indian classic: the chilli is evident but it’s not overwhelming, tempered by yoghurt and the caramelised depth offered by oven-roasting. I love this one with cauliflower or pineapple too. Pineapple? I know! Trust me!
Chipotle are dried, smoked jalapeño chillies – I use the tinned variety in this dish. They are a favourite cheat ingredient! The mayonnaise recipe also stars in the Mexican chapter of my Entertaining cookbook, where it’s slathered over Steamed Corn and served with a lightly cooked Coriander Salsa.
Zhoug is a green chilli and coriander condiment from Yemen: it’s powerful and fresh. We use it here to marinate salmon before steaming then add extra dollops to the salad. Zhoug is an amazing condiment for grilled meats too; it features in the Barbecue chapter of my book Entertaining with Dani Valent.