Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Indian Cooking 101 - The Spice Tin - Chillies

Hello! It’s been a little while since the last blog post but with the launch of our new website at we were inspired to get back to our blog, starting from the basics. The thought of making Indian food can be a little daunting with all of the spices and ingredients that most people don’t recognise and even for those who do – we don’t always know exactly quite why they’re there or what to do with them.

With this in mind, over the next few weeks the Devnaa blog will feature a few of the main spices used in Indian cooking, a few of the key spice blends with a little information about just why and how they go into Indian recipes, and of course one of our favourite recipes which spotlights that particular flavour.

We’ll start with one of the most synonymous spices with Indian cuisine – chillies. Something most people don’t know is that chillies haven’t always featured in any Asian food. Historically spiciness was added to Asian food through the use of different varieties of pepper – from black to green, pink, white, and long varieties have grown in South Asia for centuries but they were extremely expensive and rare – to the point that they were even used as currency in some countries. Chillies are said to have come to India via South America when the Portuguese settled in Goa in the 16th century.

Chillies are far easier to grow than pepper and as such far less expensive so they overtook pepper in popularity as an ingredient, although pepper also still features. Now chillies are used far and wide all across South Asia, and definitely in Indian cuisine.

We use fresh and dried chilli in Indian cooking – fresh is normally green and dried normally red, both with a middling spiciness – definitely not as hot as some South American varieties but also not as sweet as tropical kinds. Red or green, the chillies are normally long and thin, they look a little like gnarled fingers and the rule of thumb is the shorter, firmer and more intensely hued chillies are the more fiery ones while the softer, longer, lighter ones are more flavourful with less heat. The great thing about chillies is that as with all spices – they are there for flavour and you can add as much or as little as you like to any recipe – if you’re nervous start off with a milder, fruitier chilli or just add less of what you have.

While fresh green chillies are normally chopped and added directly into the pan, red chillies are dried and either added whole, or powdered. Kashmiri red chilli powder is well known for its colour – it adds a mouth-watering depth of red to recipes and a very slight smoky flavour but no heat. Also commonly used are green Anaheim or Poblano chillies which are short, plump, and mild – these are normally served stuffed or fried as a side dish,the recipe for which will follow in the next post :)


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