There are five major species of chile peppers and thousands of varieties, in a wide range of sizes, shapes and colors. Even experts disagree about how many there actually are. So it is probably not surprising that the spelling for the word itself is somewhat problematic. Is it chili, chilli or chile? You are likely to come across all of those spellings if you are reading up on the topic.
This comprehensive book (which serves as both a reference and a cookbook) from bestselling author and expert researcher Judith Finlayson takes you through dozens of chiles and provides absorbing information on everything from the historical and geographic origins of chiles to information on the Scoville scale (which measures the hotness of a chile and was invented by Wilbur Scoville) to the health benefits of chiles and finally, 250 delicious and inventive recipes.
Full color throughout, this book takes inspiration from chiles and embraces them with an enthusiasm that maximizes their true flavor potential. From fiery Tex-Mex inspired meals to savory and sweet Thai dishes, this incredible collection of recipes is sure to make you a lover of all things chile.
Nasi goreng is Indonesia’s national dish. At its simplest, it is cold leftover rice, seasoned with sweet soy sauce (kecap manis) and whatever leftovers and spices the cook has on hand. Often it is topped with a fried egg and served for breakfast. Of course, it can be much more elaborate, depending on the circumstances under which it will be served. My version leans toward simplicity, making it a quick and easy weekday meal.
One of the fun things about receiving copies of a book you wrote is leafing through it and being reminded of its content. Take the story of peppered sherry. This condiment was invented in Bermuda by British sailors, who steeped wild chile peppers in barrels of sherry and used the results to mask the taste of aging food. Outerbridge bottles the product today but it’s easy to make your own. Naturally, there is a recipe in The Chile Pepper Bible
Tagine is the name for a type of earthenware vessel as well as the stew-like dishes that are cooked in it. They are popular throughout North Africa and differ among locales. This one is my own invention, but the addition of harissa gives it a Tunisian spin. I love the juxtaposition of hot and sweet flavors. It is easy enough to make for a weeknight meal, but with a tiny bit of dressing up, it is also perfect for guests
This recipe hails from northern Thailand. It is a kind of all-purpose sauce: you can use it as a dip for rice crackers or raw vegetables, or as a topping for plain rice or noodles, or stir-fried vegetables. Depending on the chile you use, it can be a bit fiery—that’s to be expected, as it is Thai, after all.
- Grill basket or baking sheet required
- Food processor required
- 5 hot banana peppers
- 2 shallots, peeled and quartered
- 8 cloves garlic, peeled and halved
- 8 oz cherry tomatoes (about 11⁄2 cups/375 mL) 250 g
- 2 tbsp finely chopped fresh cilantro 30 mL
- 2 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice 30 mL
- 1 tbsp fish sauce 15 mL
- Preheat barbecue to high or preheat broiler
- 1. Place banana peppers, shallots and garlic in a grill basket on preheated barbecue or arrange on a baking sheet and place under preheated broiler. Grill or broil, turning occasionally to ensure even cooking, until shallots and garlic are blackened and pepper skin is blistered, about 8 minutes for garlic and shallots, and 10 minutes for peppers.
- 2. Transfer peppers to a bowl, cover with a plate and let cool enough to handle. Remove stems and lift off skins. Transfer peppers along with accumulated juices to food processor fitted with the metal blade.
- 3. Add shallots and garlic and pulse until chopped and well combined, 5 or 6 times. Add tomatoes, cilantro, lime juice and fish sauce and pulse until chopped and well combined, about 5 times. Season to taste with salt. Transfer to a serving bowl and let stand at room temperature until the flavors are melded, about 30 minutes. Serve immediately.
- Makes about 2 cups (500 mL)
- You want a relatively large and not-too-hot chile for this salsa—that is the best substitute for the prik num chile that would likely be used in this recipe
In Chinese medicine, which is fundamentally based on the balancing principles of yin and yang, heating foods are those that warm the body, feeding it with energy. Balance, which includes establishing equilibrium among the five flavors (sweet, sour, salty, bitter and umami), helps the body’s vital spirit, called qi, to flow freely and support excellent health. Need I say more? Hot, sour, salty, sweet and loaded with umami from the soy sauce and mushrooms, which are also known to strengthen the immune system, this soup has all the makings of a restorative tonic. And it tastes good, too!
The addition of grilled chicken adds a flavorful and festive note to this simple chili. I like to use leftover chicken alla diavola (marinated in extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice and chile peppers), which we often make on the barbecue. It adds pleasant hints of citrus and hot pepper to the mix, but if you’re opting for convenience, use a store-bought rotisserie chicken instead. You won’t be disappointed.
My paella is not traditionally Spanish. It is more like a Portuguese dish in the sense that it combines seafood and meat. But I’ve been making it for years and it is a family favorite—one that, I might add, I often serve to guests. Served with crusty bread, a simple green salad and some good white wine, it makes a perfect Friday night dinner with friends.