Posted on Leave a comment

The History of Chillies and Their Use As a Spice

cayenne peppers 2779828 1920

Chillies (chilies) are an amazing spice in that they have both gained universal appeal and represent one of the few spices to travel from the New World to the Old. They are the fruit of members of the Capsicum genus of flowering plants (all members of the Solanaceae (deadly nightshade) family of plants and range from sweet bell peppers (no heat) to the Naga chilli (currently the world’s hottest).

They all originate in the Americas, where they have been cultivated for at least 7500 and they were probably probably an essential component of the Mesoamarican diet (which relied on maize and beans as a staple) as the high vitamin C content of red peppers increases the uptake of non red blood cell iron in diets containing little or no meat. For this very reason they are a crucial component of the West African diet today.

Christopher Columbus encountered them on his first voyage to the Caribbean in 1492 and though he did not bring any back on that voyage (they were taken to Spain on his second voyage) he does write of a ‘pepper’ that the natives called Ají which was better in taste and nature that ordinary peppers. However, it was the Portuguese who, in 1498 took the chilli pepper (most notably the piri-piri chilli) back to Portugal and the Cape Verde islands. But as they sought to exploit their foothold in the Americas they brought chillies to West Africa and African slaves to Brazil. Chillies, most notably, the piri-piri did so well in West Africa that they became wild and naturalized and now the piri-piri grows wild in West Africa (which is why, even to this day it’s often mistaken as an African native). Between 1498 and 1549 the chilli spread eastwards both over the silk route and through Portuguese conquests in India, the Spice Islands, China and finally Japan so that by 1549 the chilli was known as far as Japan.

It’s amazing that, during the time of fairly primitive sailing ships the chilli had spread across the entire globe in just 50 years. This speaks to the true power of chillies as a spice. The perfect spice is typically taken as black pepper which offers both flavour and ‘heat’ to a dish. All other spices are pale imitations of black pepper in that they tend to have uncomfortable levels of bitterness. Chillies are amazing in that they have perfect heat but no bitterness at all. When used fresh they contain lots of vitamin C (often absence in many diets) and can mask bitterness and putrefaction in other ingredients. Thus the addition of a little chilli can make meals far more palatable than they might otherwise be. Chillies can also be dried and ground without losing much of the ‘heat’ quality (though the flavour of the raw fruit is often lost).

The heat in chillies is created by the chemical, capsacin, These are hydrophobic (water-hating) chemicals and this is why they tend to bury themselves into the surfaces of the palate and the mouth causing irritation (the burning sensation; indeed the chemical is produced by the plants to deter predation by animals). This is also why drinking water is ineffective as a way of eliminating the burning sensation. The capsaicinoids do not dissolve in water and are simply spread by it. However, foods rich in fat such as milk and yoghurt will eliminate the chemical (this is why yoghurt is served with many Indian dishes).

Despite the chillies spreading throughout the world very quickly, where they did not truly catch on was Europe. Indeed, for centuries most Europeans believed that chillies were sourced originally form India and it wasn’t until 1868 that Europeans learnt that chillies did not originate from India, but rather came from South America. And some of this confusion remains to this day, with the belief that piri-piri chillies (also known as pili-pili, African Red Devil and African Birds’ Eye) are native to Africa .

Dyfed Lloyd Evans runs the Celtnet Recipes site where you can find many hundreds of Chilli-based recipes as well as a history of spread of chillies

Article Source:

Article Source:

Posted on Leave a comment

Vegan Jamaican Jerk Kabobs

rice 6697947 1920

Kabob ingredients:

2 8 oz. packages of chicken chunk alternative or organic chicken (plain, no breading) Tofu?
1 15 oz. can organic pineapple
1 organic red pepper
1 organic yellow pepper
1 organic orange pepper
1 8 oz. package organic portobello mushrooms
½ organic onion

Jamaican Jerk marinade ingredients:

½ cup organic packed brown sugar
8 organic garlic cloves
4 Scotch bonnet peppers
2 bunches organic spring onions (green onions)
1 tablespoon organic ground thyme or 2 tablespoons organic thyme leaves
¼ cup organic allspice or ½ cup ground organic allspice berries
1 teaspoon organic cinnamon
½ teaspoon organic nutmeg
2 tablespoons organic soy sauce
Salt and pepper to taste

Dump thawed vegan chicken chunks in a large shallow dish. Use a fork or meat fork to punch holes into the chunks, which will allow them to absorb more marinade. In traditional Jamaican cooking, the meat is scored and rubbed with the sauce for more flavor.

Drain juice from pineapple; reserve juice in a bowl, and add pineapple to the vegan chicken chunks. Chop peppers and portobellos into bite-sized chunks that will easily stay put on a skewer.

Slice the halved onion vertically into wedges. Add peppers, portobellos and onion to the pile of vegan chicken chunks.

Chop spring onions and thyme, if you’re using thyme leaves. Add spring onions, thyme and all other Jerk marinade ingredients to a blender or food processor; puree until smooth.

When chopping the peppers, be sure to wear rubber gloves, and wash your hands thoroughly afterward. And whatever you do, don’t rub your eye! You can decrease the heat of the peppers by discarding the seeds and by reducing the number of peppers you use.

Likewise, you can turn up the heat by retaining the seeds and increasing
the numbers of peppers. You can add a little more soy sauce, or even some of the pineapple juice, to make the marinade more liquid if you like.

Pour the marinade over the vegan chicken and chopped vegetables. Traditional Jamaican Jerk cooking calls for marinading overnight, then cooking very slow over a low charcoal fire.

But if it’s winter or you’re in a pinch for time, you can marinade the vegan chicken and vegetables in the refrigerator for an hour. Then place them on skewers and broil them until the edges of the vegan chicken and vegetables are crispy and beginning to blacken.

Scotch bonnet peppers are a staple of Jamaican Jerk cooking. They look like a Scottish hat, hence the name. They are similar to habanero peppers, which are the hottest peppers on the planet. If you can’t find any Scotch bonnet peppers, try organic jalapenos.

You can also experiment with using different types of organic produce. Try cherry tomatoes, mangoes–whatever you like.

To make this meal truly traditional Jamaican, serve the kabobs with a side of hard dough bread. Red Stripe beer optional.

Serves four. You be jammin’, mon!