Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Spice it Up!

It's difficult to remember that chillies are not an inherent part of Indian cuisine and that in fact they came to us via the colonists, through South America. They seem so integral a part of our cuisine that it's hard to think of a savoury dish that doesn't use them. When we were in France, we used to find it very hard to find fresh green chillies ( really?), and chilli powder doesn't work for everything. So one day I decided to pick up these interesting looking chillies from the neighbourhood LeaderPrice - they looked like tiny little lanterns, with a pointy tip.

I was making Baingan bharta for dinner, so along with the eggplant, I roasted one of these - no point roasting too many before we know how spicy it is, I thought. We sat down to a rare meal of roti ( heated pita bread), masoor ki daal and bharta. One bite of the bharta and my husband and I were taking turns to stand under the kitchen tap and wash the volcano off our tongues!It turned out to have been a habanero - the spiciest chilli on the planet. Suffice it to say I handled it with kid gloves thereafter - using upto but not more than a 2 millimeter square!

I'm a moderate chilli-eater at the best of times, and don't really enjoy dishes which are too spicy. But a family friend from Pune used to send us a bottle of her Ranjaka - that's chilli chutney or an indian version of sambol - every year, and I was hooked onto it. It's been a while since she has sent us any, contact with Pune not being all that frequent. So a couple of weeks ago, when I spotted plump, juicy red fresh chillies at the mandi, I had to buy some to try this out for myself.

It's a rather simple recipe, and the result is as fiery as it looks. But it does go rather well with rotis, idlis, dosas...even buttered toast. Last week I added a spoonful to Stone Soup which completely changed the character of the soup - yummy.

250 gms fresh red chillies, with the stems cut off
2 tsp roasted fenugreek seeds
5 tbsp lime juice
Salt to taste

Just put everything into the blender and blitz to a fine pulp.

If you want the chutney to be fiery but not blow-your-head-off, try slitting the chillies and removing the seeds, as well as soaking them in cold water for half hour.
I unfortunately didn't and so have a large quantity of searingly hot chutney ( unfortunate because my husband and son won't even touch it) - which still tastes darn good. I actually roasted the chutney in hot oil for about half an hour, after I tasted the first output, which seems to have marginally mellowed the heat a bit. Not as explosive as the habanero bharta but about a 7 on the chilli richter scale!

Hey I bet this'd taste even better with garlic added to it - gotta try that next time.


Asha said...

I bought 3 Habanero once. When I cut them, my skin started to bur, threw them out and never bought them again!
Take care!:)

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