Happy National Chilli Day (26th February 2015)
Standing in line to
See the show tonight
And there’s a light on
Recognise the song? The opening lines from ‘By The Way’ by the Red Hot Chilli Peppers. Anyone that has accidentally come across a chilli pepper on their culinary journeys knows all about that ‘heavy glow’. It can stay with you for hours. The famous fruit of the capsicum is a member of the nightshade family, and it can be almost deadly. The very hottest chillis rejoice in names such as ‘Carolina Reaper’, ‘Trinidad Moruga Scorpion’ and ‘Naga Viper’. They are a food that carries a health warning.
If only the heat of the chilli could be used to warm what is sure to be another cold February. Well, National Chilli Day towards the end of the month is all about doing just that. It is actually a celebration of one of the most evocative foods in the recipe book. Chillis are used by top chefs all around the world every day, including our very own Michael Weiss. It is the lion king of flavours, and it is not confined to curries. It has become more and more versatile and widely-used in the leading kitchens. Chillis now spice up everything from curry to chocolate, nuts to ciabatta. Luckily for you we have the best in the business on hand to deliver a delicious chilli recipe using the ‘Espelette’ pepper, a variety of chilli pepper that is cultivated in the French commune of Espelette, in the Basque area.
Chilli pepper, originally from Mexico, was introduced into France from the New World during the 16th century. After first being used medicinally, it subsequently became popular for preparing condiments and for the conservation of meat. It is now a cornerstone of Basque cuisine, where it has gradually replaced black pepper and it is a key ingredient in Piperade
Chicken “basquaise” with Espellette chilli piperade
Piperade is a colourful pepper sauce that is only spicy when made in the Basque region. This dish is often served at the Celebration of the Peppers.
Serves 4-6 with plain potatoes, pasta or my favourite rice
–4 table spoon extra virgin olive oil (2+2)
-3 medium onions, thinly sliced
-3 cloves garlic, sliced
-3 yellow peppers, seeds and stems removed, cut in ¼ and sliced 1 cm strips
-3 red peppers, seeds and stems removed, sliced cut in ¼ and sliced 1 cm strips
-4 large tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
-3 Tbsp piment d’Espelette, or more to taste
-2 sprig thyme
-15 basil leaves
-Salt and pepper to taste
-1 chicken, cut the 2 breasts in half; 2 thighs; 2 legs), leave bone on skin on
200ml chicken stock (more or less)
Heat 2 tablespoon of olive oil in a large sauté pan and cook the onions and garlic for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, add the peppers and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add the tomato paste cook for 2 minutes, add the fresh tomatoes, Espelette powder and cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the thyme, salt, and pepper and transfer to a bowl.
Wipe out the pan and heat the remaining olive of oil.
Brown the chicken in the oil until golden, turning often. Pour the pepper mixture over the chicken, reduce the heat, topped with the basil, and chicken stock, cover and simmer until tender, about 30-40 minutes. Season to taste
Our wonderful executive chef Mickael Weiss described this as;
‘One of my favourite dishes. Kids love it and it acts as a great substitute to the classic coq au vin’.
A Little Chilli Trivia
-Some cultures put chilli powder in their shoes to keep their feet warm.
-Hot chilli peppers burn calories by triggering a thermodynamic burn in the body, which speeds up the metabolism.
-The first documented recipe for chilli con carne is dated September 2, 1519, according to Wikipedia.
-The first chilli cook-off took place in 1967 in Terlinga, Texas, a border town about 400 miles west of chilli’s alleged birthplace, San Antonio. It ended in a tie between a native Texan and a New Yorker, but chilli cook-offs are still held there today.