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Chew on chillies

It's hot, it's happening, chillies are making a comeback. Have it on sarmies, use it in your favourite dishes and enjoy the heat...

02 Mar 2007

Cayenne pepper comes from the red chilli, Capsicum Frutescens. It's mae is derived from the Greek 'kapto' meaning 'I bite.' The truth is, cayenne pepper is not a pepper at all. The first European to come across chilli was explorer Christopher Columbus on one of his trips to the Americas in the late 1400s.

He was in search of an alternative black pepper, which was the favourite spice in Europe at the time. Native Americans had in fact used the small used the small fiery pods he 'discovered' as a seasoning agent for centuries. When Columbus first bit onto a chilli, he thought he had found a new source of popular spice, black pepper, and the name stuck.

Today, Capsicum frutescens has a variety of common names in different parts of the world, all of which refer to the same species of fruit from which cayenne pepper is made. There are more than 30 varieties of chilli pepper, each with a varying degree of 'bite' , ranging from mild bell pepper to blistering heat of the habanero, reputed to be the hottest chilli around.

Fiery cooking
Make a mild chilli dressing for salads and stir-fries by adding cayenne powder to your usual oil and vinegar dressing. Or add it to sea salt, mix well with crushed herbs and store in a screw top bottle. Shake well before adding to marinades or sprinkling on food to be braaied, fried or grilled

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