Just working on a new range of Indian inspired products, first one has been made, Kingston Firecracker, a chilli relish. Anyway, whilst I was preparing a kilo of these fiery little devils I began to think about a conversation I'd had on Saturday with one of my customers. She wanted to buy some Garam Masala but was really unsure what to do with, I told her various ways of using it & the conversation got around to chillies. She wanted to use them but the bottom line was she was frightened of them, heard all sorts of horror stories so I gave her a little information.
Chillies can be wonderful little flavour bombs you just need to understand them, they add spice & heat but underlying that there can be a delicious fruitiness, a real depth of flavour. If you want to get really technical you can look at the Scoville Chart which will give you the heat scale for chillies but for most of us all you need is the information on the packs, 1 = fairly mild, 2 = medium, 3 = Hot & on it goes. A good shop should be able to give you guidance as well. Often the smaller the chilli the hotter it is.
If to begin with you're a little nervous about using them just do this. Get a fat chilli, red or green doesn't matter, these are normally medium heat, stab it a couple of times with a knife & then put that into your dish. After a little while taste it, enough spice for you, then take it out, if not leave it in for a little longer. An easy way to start. If you want to add chopped chilli remove the seeds & white pith, this is usually where the heat is. Don't feel that you have to add all of it just use a little at a time until you achieve the flavour you want, remember you can always add but not take away!!
Experiment with different varieties, each will add a different layer of flavours & you will soon find what works for you. Don't be afraid of them, yes sometimes it won't work. I remember a meal I made where we actually couldn't speak & were in some pain. The meal went in the bin, a lesson learnt, 3 scotch bonnets is too much!! If that happens yoghurt is much more effective than water.
I will end with 1 piece of very important advice, when chopping chillies either wear those CSI vinyl gloves or wash your hands thoroughly before touching any part of your body, believe me you will always remember the time you didn't!!