When it comes to chillies, there’s only one for me, the scotch bonnet -the king of chillies! It comes in traffic stopping colours and livens every dish it touches.
I love it because it gives both heat AND a delicious fruity flavour. It brings a lively zing to sauces, stews and soups and adds something different to lasagne and shepherd’s pie. For me it’s a must in marinades. Hot peppers are a defining flavour in African foods.
In Ghana, we love it with onion and tomato, ground in a pestle and mortar, seeds and all, for a fiery, fresh salsa served with fried or grilled seafood. Hot, delicious and nose-tingling and I’m always going back for just one dollop more.
If you enjoy spicy heat, then this is the one for you. If you’re not sure how hot ‘hot’ is, you can always temper it with a dash of Worcester sauce or good old tomato ketchup.
The hottest part of the chilli is the membrane and seeds, so if you want the flavour without too much heat, simply hold down the scotch bonnet with a fork, slice it in half and scrape out the insides.
Chillies come in so many shapes, sizes and hotness. If I want a milder salsa, I use what we in Ghana call kpakpo shitor. These little beauties, I call ‘baby bonnets’, have their own distinct flavour.
Chillies are very high in vitamin C and can be used straight from the freezer, although fresh ones work better in garnishes. I like to buy my scotch bonnets from Afro-Caribbean and Asian food shops as they tend to be hotter than those from supermarkets.
Did you know Shitor (sometimes spelt shito) is a Ghanaian word for chillies? It’s also the name of a seriously fiery chutney with with dried chillies as the main ingredient. Some supermarkets stock it in their world food aisles and I like to think of it as the Ghanaian equivalent of mustard.
Check out A Plate in the Sun for more ideas on salsas, sauces and spice rubs.