Can You Handle the Heat?

Posted on: March 31st, 2010 Posted by

So hot, they have to be kept locked up.

The Scoville Test is named after the American Chemist Wilbur Scoville, he used this test to measure the Capsaicin found in chilies and the amount of water droplets it would take to eliminate the heat. Below are 10 chili varieties, from coldest to hottest. See which is the hottest you can handle.

Sweet Bell

Sweet Bells are the most common chili pepper and have no heat whatsoever, due to the lack of capsaicin caused by a gene that eliminates the substance in the Sweet Bell. Grown in America, sweet Bells are used in cooking to provide a sweet taste and texture. Using a blow torch, barbecue or any other open flame, the Sweet Bell’s can be blackened so the skin peels away.

Red Chile

Reaching five hundred to one thousand on the Scoville Scale, these chilies are the most common chilies in the world, adding small amounts of heat to food such as pizza. Grown around the world they vary from hot to subtly spicy. These chilies are used not just in food but in a variety of different ways. In India people use these chilies to ward of evil spirits by hanging them in houses and cars to fend of the Evil Eye. In medicine these chilies have analgesic properties to help with arthritis and diabetes.

Anaheim

Reaching between five hundred to two thousand on the Scoville Scale, but many varieties can reach near four thousand. Emilio Ortega bought the seeds from the chili to Anaheim, California in the 1900s. Dr. Fabian Garcia developed a hotter variety of Anaheim Chili over one hundred years ago to suit the tastes of New Mexicans.

Chilaca

Reaching between one thousand five hundred to two thousand five hundred on the Scoville Scale and sold in Mexico, United States and the United Kingdom. When these Chilies are dried they are called Pasilla chilies and lose a significant amount of capsaicin. Chilaca Chilies are often mixed with fruit and served with meats and fish.

Jalapeno

Reaching between three to eight thousand on the Scoville Scale, Jalapenos are a great chili to add heat without overdoing it. Jalapeno’s take just over seventy days to grow and can either be green or red when picked. Jalapenos are of Spanish origin but have become more commonly grown in Mexico and are named after the town of Xalapa (Jalapa). Jalapenos are used as a topping for nachos.

Serrano

Reaching between eight thousand to twenty three thousand on the Scoville Scale, these chilies can be found in Puebla and Hidalgo of Mexico. Usually green and red – the colours you expect from chilies – they can also be brown, orange or yellow. These are mostly eaten raw but could be added to different cuisines.

Arbol

Reaching between fifteen to thirty thousand on the Scoville Scale. This particular chili has some strange common names such as Rat’s Tail and Bird’s Beak, and is grown in Mexico. Arbols are often used to decorate wreaths when dried. They are bought in either fresh, dried or powdered form for use in cooking. Arbol is short for Chile De Arbol.

Chiltepin

Reaching between one hundred to two hundred and fifty thousand on the Scoville Scale, these native to the US chilies pack a punch. Commonly known as the Bird’s Eye chili, these small but powerful chilies grow on rocky slopes and are covered with shrubs. Wild birds eat these chilies. Most enthusiasts argue that these chilies should be placed higher than the Red Savina on the Scoville Scale, but this isn’t based of the amount of capsaicin found in the chili.

Red Savina

Reaching five hundred and seventy seven thousand on the Scoville Scale, these chilies use to be the hottest in the world until the winner was discovered. This chili was selectively bred to produce a hotter, heavier and larger chili. Growing not much bigger than a walnut, the Red Savina held the Guinness World Record for the hottest chili between 1994 – 2006.

Bhut Jolokia

Reaching around one million on the Scoville Scale, the Bhut Jolokia, or ‘Ghost Chili’ is the hottest you will find on earth. Compare this to tabasco sauce, which is between two to five thousand on the Scoville Test. Grown in India, Bangladesh and even Sri Lanka with the name changed to Nai Mirris (Cobra Chili). These chilies are used in eating competitions, including one where the contestant has to eat six chicken wings covered in a sauce made with these face-melting chilies!

The Best Quick Self-Catering Veggie Eats

Posted on: March 28th, 2010 Posted by

It might look tasty but sometimes you need a bit more than raw veg!

Its true that travel broadens the horizons. Seeing new places and experiencing new cultures introduces us to different ways of life, and one of the best things about travel is trying out the local cuisine. However, if like me you are vegetarian, you’ll know that its not always easy to find a meat free meal when you travel. Being vegetarian, you have to learn not to be fussy, and as a rule I try to avoid problems in restaurants and live by the mantra ‘If there is a vegetarian option, I’ll have it”. It might not be my favourite meal, but nobody wants to be the person in a group of friends that makes everybody get up and move to another restaurant. Unless you go to a vegetarian restaurant, you are likely to find only one of three things to eat on the menu: a salad, a pasta dish, or a veggie burger. It can be frustrating, but if you want to eat fuss-free with friends, you just have to bite the bullet.

Traveling however, is a completely different matter! You may be visiting countries that have not embraced vegetarianism, maybe even a country that is opposed to it. I spent the last five months living in the south of France, and it was one of the most challenging times as far as finding vegetarian food goes. It was common for restaurants to have no vegetarian option at all and as a result I rarely ate out. When I had family over for a visit and we wanted to go for a nice meal, we walked from restaurant to restaurant asking if they were able to adapt a meal to make it vegetarian. I would have eaten anything, an omelette, a pizza, a salad, but we were refused several times and it can get a little bit soul destroying.

When traveling, it’s important to be organised if you want to eat well. Research your destination beforehand to see if there are any vegetarian or vegan restaurants – you’ll be surprised where they crop up. A great website for this is Happy Cow, which lists vegetarian restaurants and healthy shops all over the world. Remember to submit one if you find something and don’t see it on the list, it might just be a life-saver for someone else!

If you aren’t successful looking for veggie restaurants, you will need to learn a few phrases and some food vocabulary to help you out in restaurants or supermarkets. Sure, English is spoken in most countries, but you don’t want to get yourself into a situation where you are starving and you can’t read the menu. A little bit of research and a small notebook will put an end to those troubles, plus the locals will love it if you make an effort to speak in their language. A great website to check words is Word Reference, which also has a great forum where you can ask native speakers for phrases.

If all else fails and you decide to cook in your apartment or grab a quick snack in your hotel room, there are some tried and tested veggie snacks that should be easy to find and won’t break the bank. Try keeping something filling in your bag in case you have trouble locating a restaurant, bananas and cereal bars are great for this.

Snack Ideas

  • Veggies dipped in hummus or salsa
  • Fruit Salad
  • Cheese & Crackers
  • Salad bowl from a supermarket salad bar or deli counter
  • Cereal bars
  • Apple slices with peanut butter (peanut butter is high in protein!)
  • Tortilla chips with a bean dip
  • Coconuts – The Miracle Food

    Posted on: March 17th, 2010 Posted by

    When you think of coconuts, images of lush tropical islands spring to mind. You might eat coconut from time to time (probably in a curry!) or maybe even drink it in a cocktail, but how many of you consume it regularly and even know the extent of its uses? We’re going to take a look at the different useful parts of a coconut and explore its numerous benefits to find out why it truly is the miracle food.

    The coconut is comprised of the husk, or the outer shell, the meat (that yummy white part) and the water, which is obviously the liquid inside. Most people assume that the liquid in the centre is coconut milk, but it is in fact water. Coconut milk does exist, but to get it the meat and water must be boiled together (you learn something new every day!) Also extracted from the meat of the coconut is coconut oil. It really is a versatile fruit if ever I saw one!

    Coconut is, of course, primarily a food source. Not only is it incredibly tasty, but its also really nutritious and a great source of protein. The benefits don’t end there, not only can it feed our bodies but it also comes in rather handy for fixing a number of minor health concerns, as well as protecting the body and preventing health problems in the future. Got a sore throat? Coconut milk has been known to help sooth painful sore throats and can also help with stomach ulcers. Its not the most pleasant topic to talk about, but coconut has also been found to help with constipation or any kind of gas buildup in the stomach! Its wonders don’t end there however, coconut water is also great for kidney problems and coconut oil has been used for centuries to heal cuts, grazes, bites and burns.

    As well as health benefits, coconut can also be used to beautify. The oil can be used in facials with reported wrinkle-smoothing benefits, and if you’re having a bad hair day a home made mask of coconut oil can banish the frizzies and smooth split ends! Just make sure the oil is 100% natural virgin coconut oil and you aren’t putting any unnecessary chemicals on your face, after all, natural is best!

    Once you’ve made yourself beautiful with coconut you can concentrate on using the husk and the outer shell. The shell is often used to make bowls or drinking utensils and is perfect for all those cocktails you’ll be making! Surprisingly enough buttons are also made using coconut shells, so next time you button up that jacket you might have the humble coconut to thank!

    Finally, it has been said that coconuts would be the best tool for survival if you were unfortunate enough to find yourself stranded on a desert island. The husk could be used to build shelter or create tools, the meat is full of protein and would be an excellent food source, and if you couldn’t find fresh water to drink, the coconuts water would be an ideal replacement. Not only is coconut water 99% fat free, low in sugar and carbs, but it can also boost the metabolism and help strengthen the immune system. Of course, with coconuts around, you shouldn’t run into any health problems, but if you are unlucky enough to need medical assistance on a desert island, rest assured that coconut water can also be used as an emergency IV drip! Its completely sterile and isotonic, meaning the salts and minerals it contains have the same concentration as the human body!

    Cooking Without Cookers

    Posted on: March 10th, 2010 Posted by

    The cooker is a relatively new invention. François de Cuvilliés, a French architect, is often credited as the first person to invent a cooker. In the early 1700s, he put a box around fire and probably called it le cooker. What we now know as cookers – the gas and electricity types – came much later. It was not until the mid-1800s that gas prototypes were put on display, and later still before they became a feature of everyday life.

    However, as sure as dinosaurs had feathers, people had to eat before the 1800s. So what did they use? Here are a few archaic cooking methods from around the world, most of which are still in use today because they (whisper it) actually make better-tasting food than most cookers.

    Earth Oven

    The brutal daddy of all cooking methods, the earth oven, at its simplest, is a hole in the ground with a fire in it. You put the food on the fire, and cover the hole. They are one of the earliest signs of human settlement, and they are also the chief source of nourishment for Ray Mears. The earth oven has its own peculiar charm; it’s almost like watching evolution. The caveman, he sits there, and he has his open fire, but the meat just isn’t tasty enough for his liking. What to do? Dig a hole.

    Haybox

    The Haybox is the laziest of all pre-cookers. Food items that need to be cooked have to be heated to boiling point before they even reach the Haybox, at which point they are placed inside the contraption and insulated. The food, inside the Haybox, cooks itself through the residual insulated heat. Before you rush out and buy one though, remember that warm food is often bacteria-friendly. You have been warned.

    Hot Salt/Sand Frying

    Arguably the coolest cooking method ever devised, this involves filling a wok (easily the coolest cooking utensil, beating even the whisk) with either coarse sea salt or black sand and heating it. Once at the required temperature, dried food items such as egg in a shell or popcorn are buried in the salt, or peanuts are buried in the sand, until cooked. Used by street-side food vendors in China, and unlikely to be seen at your local Greggs.

    Pickling

    If one of the main purposes of cooking is to make food safe to eat by killing bacteria, then reach for the pickling jar. Food is usually pickled in brine or vinegar with a pH lower than 4.6 – plenty low enough to stave off any unwanted bugs. Another good thing about pickling? Okay then: pickling can actually make some foods more nutritious, introducing B-vitamins produced by the bacteria it kills. Please note – you cannot pickle a deep-fried mars bar.

    Smoking

    Smoking cooks food by exposing it to the smoke from burning wood or plant materials. However, while it is an effective way of both cooking and preserving many foods, particularly meat and fish, it is contended by some that the process of smoking can introduce carcinogens into food, and that by today’s stringent standards, there may remain some harmful toxins after the smoking process. Tastes damn good though.

    Spitroasting

    Not that spitroasting. The one where you put a rod through an animal (the rod being the ‘spit’) before turning it in front of an open fire. Renowned for its juicy, tender results, the spitroast is the king of meat-cooking methods, whether it be the pig with the apple in its gob or the headless chicken with rickets that ends up on your plate.

    Tandoor

    A Tandoor is a clay oven inside which foods are lowered for cooking. The Tandoor is awesomely powerful – the clay insulates the burning charcoal or wood inside, generating heat of up to 480°C. As a result, it’s common practice to leave the Tandoor lit, as building the required heat can take a long time. The word Tandoori means ‘pertaining to the Tandoor’ and is the basis for many British nights out.

    The Perfect Gastro-Pub

    Posted on: March 2nd, 2010 Posted by

    It’s a comical thought that a non-alcoholic is writing an article based on what makes the perfect pub. Nostalgia that will help me through this. I used to drink. I also love eating a great meal. What better place to do so than the Pub. What would my perfect pub be?

    For me the definition of a Public House is mostly to do with what it was designed to do by the Romans when they first created them: a place to obtain refreshment. This was then turned into Alehouses by the Anglo-Saxons for a place to drink and discuss the goings on in the village (no strays would be found in my perfect pub). Bushes surrounded Alehouses back then; they were kept to be placed on top of a large pole as a sign the brew was ready. Tactful, I would say – nowadays there are signs with fluorescent lighting inviting you in to get your footwear extremely sticky.

    Pub signs of the UK pt. 1: The George

    The sign would also be of great importance in my pub. The words ‘Ye’ and ‘Cock’ have to be in there. I want to uphold the traditional look of the pub. Perhaps the ale that the pub is most renowned for could provide the artwork for the sign.

    The location would matter for me. As it is for me and no one else it would have to be in London. Even though the oldest pub is set somewhere in Hertfordshire, no one would want to go there for a social when they can go to the greatest city on earth and find the greatest pub on earth. An old backstreet in London, which from the outside would look rather small, but would function like an alcoholic’s TARDIS. There wouldn’t be a beer garden like the ones you find in the countryside, but a paved area outside with tables and chairs.

    Put signs of the UK pt. 2: The Doric Arch

    I think the only entertainment that I would have would be put on by one particular local when he had a few too many. Every local will know who he is and depending on the day, you know what mood to expect from this character (I name him Ralph). The only sounds apart from the voices of the people I’d be seated with would be pub songs sung by Ralph after a few too many. There was a time when gin played a great part in the life of a pub, getting you drunk and making you act erratic. It only seems right that my perfect pub has something of an element of danger to it. When it does kick off, Ralph will start sing his pub songs at a rather frantic pace, correlative to the amount of gin consumed by the locals.

    Pub signs of the UK pt. 3: The Hazelwell

    The perfect pub needs to be a gastro-pub in cash-strapped these times. Food is not the same as entertainment but it provides a key ingredient. I want to get away from that feeling of pub grub and snacks. Many will frown upon me eradicating the bar snack, but it’s my pub so they’ll have to live with it. The food will be traditional and old school. The food would be nothing fancy – traditional British food that will relate to the fine ales, wines and spirits being served. The ingredients will be from local suppliers, fresh and rustic. An east end tradition will be upheld in the form of vendors selling cockles, mussels, whelks and any other form of shellfish on closing time. Instead of eating at a local takeaway you can eat outside my pub.

    So there we have it folks – the perfect pub, or shall I say the perfect gastro-pub, one that allows you to enjoy the real definition of a pub. I hope we agree upon this. I’ll have a Pie and a Pint. Under the circumstances, it’s only right!