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FOOD Cooking with chilli

Chili Peppers

Hello hot stuff

Redmond Cabot

I was down watching the superb ‘Legend of Gráinne Mhaol’ musical at Hotel Westport the other night and I was struck by the foreign influences throughout Gráinne Mhaol’s life. A super show, full of life, and a great story, it made me think how we in the West have adapted and adopted foreign food influences to our very pronounced native cuisine.
I was chatting with the cast afterwards, a great mix of local and foreign actors, and we had lots of chat about different ways of cooking meats around the world, as well as the use of chilli in hotter climates.
Chilli, in my childhood, was something that came in powder form in a jar. Only in the ’90s did fresh chillies start appearing on shop shelves. Long, red luscious fingers of spicy flavour; small, stubby green chillies bombarding you with flavour.
Suddenly, everything from eggs to stir-fries, mussels to tomatoes – even the humble spud – could be given a new lease of spicy life. A personal revelation: Linguine with chilli crab.
These little sticks of dynamite also pack a punch in the health department. Chillies are known to reduce pain and inflammation in the body thanks to their active ingredient, a chemical called Capsaicin. They also help control the level of insulin in your body, helping to manage sugar levels. With antibacterial and decongestant properties, they even help our bodies deal with the inevitable coughs and colds of winter.

Perfect partners
Chilli and ginger complement each other perfectly and have been used together in Asian cooking from time immemorial.
Many people are also experimenting with chilli and chocolate these days – but this is another long-standing marriage that can be traced back many centuries to the Aztecs of central Mexico. The association between chocolate and chilli is dark, mysterious, historical, almost magical.
Here are two relatively simple introductions to both pairings.

Chilli, ginger and soy fish
This may not sound like the sexiest dish, but it showcases the chilli and ginger mix, and how it can work very well with fish.
Cooked on a tray in the oven using tin foil shows you how you cook fish ‘wet’ style, which the ginger and chilli needs here. A ‘dry’ cooking would not produce the same results. The green scallions look good and mix well with white fish and red chilli. Never forget the importance of a dish’s looks.

What you need

  • 1 good-sized hake fillet with skin on
  • 2 red chillies, chopped
  • 10 50-cent size pieces of cut ginger
  • 1 bunch scallions, chopped
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • Olive oil
  • Lime for dressing
  • Dash of water or wine

What you do
Lay the fish skin-side down on an oven tray that has been sprinkled with olive oil. Scatter the chilli, ginger, scallions and soy sauce around the fish. Throw in your water/white wine and cover with tin foil. Cook at 180 degrees for 15 minutes, then serve with a squeeze of lime.

Chilli and chocolate mousse
This recipe blends these chilli and chocolate ingredients easily, and gives you a relatively fancy restaurant dessert with minimum fuss. It is a good introduction and point of entry to new avenues.

What you need
  • 1 red chilli chopped
  • 100g chopped regular milk chocolate
  • 300ml (or 1/2 pint) whipped cream
  • Icing sugar and a bit of fruit for decoration

What you do
Melt your chocolate in a bowl above water that’s at a rolling boil, stirring it to melt it. Mix in 90 percent of the chilli. After cooling slightly, fold the chocolate mix into the whipped cream, and put that mix in a serving dish and place in fridge 30 minutes to chill.
Decorate your dessert with the remaining chilli, some icing sugar, and some fruit if you fancy it – you can either do the whole bowl or do each serving individually.

Red Cabot
is interested in food, nature and small things. He sells his food at Westport Country Markets in St Anne’s Boxing Club, James’s Street car park, Westport, every Thursday, from 8am to 1pm, and Newport Street Market on Fridays, 11am to 4pm.