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Too Hot to Handle?

When it comes to chillies, it seems us Brits just can’t get enough. Take Stock spoke to chef Anjula Devi, who runs her own Indian catering company and is an advocate for traditional, healthy curries, to find out which are the right, and best, chillies to cook with.

“There are many ways to really enjoy chillies – you just have to know how to use them correctly,” said Anjula. “Chillies are a key component in many amazing Indian dishes, they are also the secret to creating some truly delicious pickles.”

Anjula orders them from the mildest to the hottest!

How hot?
The heat of a chilli is measured using the Scoville scale, invented by Wilbur Scoville in 1912. Measuring the heat of a chilli is achieved by measuring the amounts of a particular group of chemicals called capsaicinoids, which are found in differing amounts in each type of chilli pepper. Capsaicinoids are unique, as they irritate skin tissue by producing a burning sensation. Have you ever noticed your fingertips stinging after touching a Scotch bonnet chilli pepper? If you have, that curious sensation is caused by capsaicinoids.

Kashmiri chilli
A chilli for the beginner! Measuring only 2000 SHU (Scoville heat units) this chilli is known for its vibrant colour. Very mild, it delivers enough warmth on your palate for you to detect it. A popular chilli, it can be used in all types of dishes – I believe Indian food is about layering and balancing each spice to deliver aromatic and flavoursome dishes.

Guajillo chilli
Incredibly aromatic, this chilli is perfect to be used in Indian food because it delivers on colour and warmth without overpowering a dish. A little hotter and more pungent than the Kashmiri chilli, it works well in lentil and sambar dishes.

Bird’s Eye chilli
Don’t be fooled by this tiny chilli – it’s pretty hot and packs a punch! Not for the faint-hearted customer, it delivers great flavours when used appropriately, and makes great pickles. These chillies are also fantastic for drying out and then using to perk up many types of Indian food, especially dishes containing lamb, chicken and robust lentils.

Piri Piri
A popular, well-known chilli that is a favourite for many people thanks to a particular chain of chicken restaurant! Versatile, it works really well in sauces, stews and makes a wonderful rub-in seasoning too.

Red Savina chilli
This is an attractive looking chilli, and registering 580,000 SHU it should be used carefully. Ideal for creating pickles and chutneys because you still get the wonderful aromas without so much heat. It used to be the hottest chilli, until the Naga Jolokia came onto the scene.

Naga Jolokia chilli
This chilli should be used with caution! I recommend you only cook with it once you have pickled it first to help reduce its SHU rating of over 1,000,000. But once it is tamed, this chilli delivers the most amazing flavours like no other – although it should still come with a warning sign! Go easy on the quantity as too much of a hot chilli can make a customer ill and damage their taste buds, so it is best to try a little and add more if needed – and wear gloves when handling the chilli. Best cooked with red meats, it is ideal for a lamb curry, and works great for chilli oils.

How to prepare a chilli
No need to peel or discard chilli seeds, simply prick them a few times with a cocktail stick and add them whole to your dish. This way, you have full control over the level of heat in your dish; at any given moment you can remove the chilli once you’re happy with the heat.

Click here for a Naga Pickle recipe by Anjula Devi

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