I love chilli
But this was not always the case. Allow me to explain.
A good friend of mine, Yendor, took great glee in ordering pizzas fully-loaded with chilli after a few beers in our usual watering-holes in Newcastle.
“Why would you ruin a good pizza?” was the question Yendor’s drinking buddies would ask. Was it to look like a tough guy? Was it to deter the vulture-esque (and invariably stoned) hands of his hungry, yet broke, friends?
Enjoyment was never a word associated with Yendor’s pizza habits.
Yendor was, however, always defiant towards his detractors – “I fu#king love chilli!”
No one believed him.
I would occasionally dabble in Yendor’s chilli pizza concoction. Watering eyes, a burning tounge and utter incomprehension as to Yendor’s taste (and a mental image of his toilet bowl) would ensue.
As I later discovered, Yendor was on to something.
After I graduated university I jumped on a plane to Vietnam.
Chilli is an important part of most cuisines in South East Asia, and after consuming chilli almost everyday (for breakfast, lunch and dinner), for eight years – needless to say – I developed a strong relationship with the one time enemy of my tastebuds.
After tasting some of the best chilli available in Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and Malaysia, I was amazed by the complexity of the varieties available.
Smokey, rich, sweet, lingering were just some of the wanky adjectives I attached to the fruit that became the accompaniment to pretty much all of my meals.
Much like wine, whisky, cheese, or any other flavour available to the human tounge, one could classify chilli into taste groups. Who would have thought that there is more to chilli than fire?
On my return to the UK, I was shocked as to the quality of chilli available. Quite honestly, shocked.
So I grew my own.
Aided by an unbelievably good UK summer, I grew three varieties of chilli. I went for Scotch Bonnet, Maui Purple and Yellow Sun Habernero.
This was the result.
My Scotch Bonnet. Heat rating: 100,000 to 350,000 as per the Scoville Scale.
My Maui Purple. Heat rating: Up to 300,000 as per the Scoville Scale.
Yellow Sun Habanero
My Yellow Sun Habernero. Heat rating: Up to 300,000 as per the Scoville Scale.
I was really impressed with the results. I am not a gardener – by any stretch of the imagination – but my plants turned into fruit which turned into flavour in my mouth.
The only help I had was: Sun, water, chilli food (weekly) and a lot of love.
Next post: I turn my harvest into the best chilli sauce in the world – Sambal. Stay tuned.
Written by Paul Leck Davidson