Chillies (or chiles in Spanish) come in so many different varieties other than red and green. Mexico, arguably the home of the chilli, grows over 200 different varieties alone! The heat in chillies comes from capsaicin, produced by glands in the seed-bearing part of the chilli. It is not just the seeds that should be removed from chillies to modify the heat but also the seed sac that surrounds them.
A key ingredient in Mexican, Spanish, Indian, Asian and Thai dishes, chillies add more than just heat to a dish. Their natural partners are ingredients synonymous with these cuisines like coriander and tomato. They pep up bland ingredients, like rice, pasta and tofu, and complement the creaminess of avocado, cheese and paneer.
Large chillies can be stuffed then baked or deep fried. Roast or char chillies for a more mellow flavour. Infuse oil for a delicious drizzle or steep in vodka for a Bloody Mary with a real punch.
Chillies are clearly essential for hot sauces and the likes of sweet chilli sauce, but it’s not just sauces where they work with sweetness – a little chilli helps to cut through the richness of the chocolate.
Typically, the smaller the chilli, the hotter it is. The wider the top of the chilli, the milder it is. Red chillies are sweeter than green ones.
Often with a curved tip and somewhat rippled skin, they hang from the bush as opposed to growing upright. Most commonly found in New Zealand is the Asian cayenne pepper, which is green, and the Mexican cayenne pepper, which is red. Most varieties are generally rated at 30,000 to 50,000 Scoville.
Arbol Green Chilli
Imported from Fiji through winter months, a green chilli similar to cayenne but skinnier and hotter!
A variety of pepper from the municipality of Padrón in north-western Spain. Famous for their use in Spanish tapas (cooked in olive oil with sea salt), these are a very tasty chilli, most of which are mild in heat with the odd one, about 1 out of every 6–8 chillies having some real heat to it.
A medium sized chilli and is a cultivar of the capsicum. A mature jalapeño chilli is 5–10 cm. Compared to other chillies, the jalapeño heat level varies from mild to hot depending on cultivation and preparation and can have
from a few thousand to over 10,000 Scoville heat units. The number of scars on the pepper, which appear as small brown lines, called ‘corking’, has a positive correlation with heat level, as growing conditions which increase heat level also cause the pepper to form scars.
Commonly picked and consumed while still green, it is occasionally allowed to fully ripen and turn red, orange or yellow. Popular in Mexican cuisines, stuffed, fried and pickled.
Chipotle is a smoked jalapeño.
The second most popular chilli in Mexico. Another relation of the capsicum, the Serano chilli originated in the mountainous regions of the Mexican states of Puebla and Hidalgo. The name of the pepper is a reference to the mountains of these regions.