From his book, Gathering the Desert, Gary Nabhan describes a portion of the creation myth from the Cora Indians of Mexico's west coast as written by a Franciscan priest in 1673.In the narrative, God makes a man (Narama) and a woman (Uxuu) .
"Narama is the patron saint of salt, mezcal and chile. God made a fiesta and Narama is among the last to arrive. He comes naked and covered with salt. After everyone is seated, Narama presents himself at the table and takes salt from his face and sprinkles it upon the food. He then reaches down, and his testes turn into chile pods. He begins to sprinkle this spice on to all of the foods.This crude action annoys all the other patrons, who angrily scold Narama. To this he replies that if the others could provide the fruits, fish, fowl, seeds and vegetables that are the basic staples of the fiesta, why could he not provide something that these foods needed to be truly tasteful? He declares that there is nothing so necessary as salt and chile. The guests try the chile with the food and become enthusiastic. From that day on, they knew in their hearts chile would always be in their diet."
My first encounter with chillies was in our backyard in Cairns, in the far north of Queensland. As a 3 year old, the temptation among the custard apples, passionfruit, mulberries, guavas,and mandarins was always the bright shiny red fruit of the bird's eye chilli bush that I wasn't supposed to eat. Obviously I did ......unforgettable.
Chillies come from the Solanaceae (or nightshade) family. This family includes many important foods (potato, tomato, eggplant, sweet potato) and drugs (belladonna, and tobacco,one of the world's largest cash crops, ooh and Datura, which for Queenslanders particularly, may stir a few Timothy Leary experimental memories ). Part of this huge family is the Capsicum genus - where the chillies reside.
They are relatively easy to grow and are featured in many cuisines, too many to cover in one blog. And there's the medicinal uses, and uses in farming... next time.
Banana chillies, cut in half lenghtwise, stuffed with brandade, floured, egged, dipped in panko breadcrumbs and deep fried.
This next dish is on high rotation at my place at the moment. It works well in a slow cooker set on high,with the lid off, way reducing your gas or electricity use. Low oven in the Aga if you have one works a treat too.
Chilli Coconut New Potatoes
5 red Holland chillies coarsely chopped
2 bird's eye/ thai chillies coarsely chopped
5 shallots, coarsely chopped
2 fat cloves of garlic, coarsely chopped
1 stalk of lemongrass,tough outer skin removed, inner stalk, bashed and chopped
2 heaped teaspoons of tumeric
10 cm piece of ginger or galangal, sliced
1 teaspoon salt
800mls coconut milk
1kg tiny new potatoes
Bung the chopped chillies, shallots, garlic,lemongrass,tumeric and ginger into a food processor, and pulse into a nice fine paste, add a little water if it keeps sticking to the sides of the bowl.
Put the coconut milk into a large saucepan and simmer, gentle bubbles cracking the surface.
Wash and gently scrub the spuds then prick all over with a sharp knifepoint, so the flavouring penetrates.
Add the spice paste to the coconut milk and keep on a simmer for half an hour.
Then add the spuds, salt, and basil to the coconut milk, this can cook for up to 3 hours on a gentle simmer or put into a slow cooker or a casserole and into the oven on medium heat for the same amount of time. The sauce reduces into an unctuous spicy jacket around the potatoes. Best served warm or great cold, sliced into salads. Keeps for at least 3 days in a sealed container in the fridge.
Love Food X