I am addicted to chillies. Did I mention that I love chillies? This love affair has been going on for around twenty-five years now. A bit of background here, this relationship did not start harmoniously or gently feeling our way by any means. Our introduction to each other was rather hurtful and very painful, and almost set us on the path never to be reunited again as I really did bite off more than I could chew and didn’t see the point of pursuing connections any further, the memory still resounds firmly.
I persisted though, and had no choice as the musicians and people I was associating with at the time were all big chilli freaks and was surrounded by all things chilli, constantly. If it wasn’t in the cooked dishes, it was on the side as sauces, in marinades, salads and even fried up till they were black and used as sandwich filler. (I never actually tried this, but an old flatmate used to cook this up from time to time, you had to vacate the premises because of the associated breathing difficulties).
Eventually, I started to introduce my taste buds with chilli correctly, in small doses and gradually. A resistance level to the pain must be built up with this fiery fruit, you need to feel your way with it. The pain threshold is now no barrier, I have reached the point where it’s no problem to consume large amounts and am no longer fearful, I am in love.
You see, chillies are actually physically addictive. They contain a compound called ‘capsaicin’ which is a natural chemical sending the burning sensation from the nerve endings in the mouth directly to the brain. Endorphins, natural painkillers in the body are then secreted causing a physical ‘rush’. This natural ‘high’ is what keeps us coming back for more, and just like any other addiction, you start craving higher doses the more you use it and your tolerance level builds. However, there is no evidence that eating too much chilli is unhealthy or ulcer causing and capsaicin is actually used in anti-inflammatory creams to treat arthritis and shingles.
Although, on the other extreme I would advise against entering into a chilli-eating competition any time soon. A greatly talented musician friend I have worked with over the years has recounted a story of this to me. The contestants were made to eat chillies during a few rounds, where after each had to open their mouths to show the chillies had been chewed up firstly, then swallowed and no water in between. The overall winner had to be hospitalised!
I think best to just stick with the Chilli Sauce for now. Or try this recipe for Chilli Oil, a great way of using them when you have a chilli bush loaded with fruit and not sure what to do with them all.
1 cup of Birds Eye Chillies (or more depending on your heat threshold)
3 cups of good quality olive oil
1) Pre-heat oven to 180 C
2) Spread chillies evenly in a roasting tin
3) Roast chillies for approximately fifteen minutes or until well roasted, but not completely black, cool slightly
4) Place chillies in a jar, pour in olive oil
5) Cover with glad-wrap and place in a dark cupboard for three days
6) Strain oil into a bottle and discard chillies. If it’s too hot, pour in some more olive oil to dilute.