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Cooking with chilli peppers

The Ultimate Insanely Super Hot Chilli Pepper Cookbook
By Michael Harwood
Publisher: Page One

The title says it all. If youíre a chilli fan, youíll find every dish imaginable made with your favourite spice. It starts off with an introduction to working with chilli - preparing, roasting, drying, preserving and storing.

Then it launches into the whoís who in the chilli world, from jalapeno to birdís eye chilli, from cuzco to manzano and the really hot Madame Jeanette, also known as Surinam yellow. If you didnít know your chilli species, you will after reading this chapter.

The recipes are divided into seven chapters: starters and soup, superhot salsas, marinades and pastes, fish and seafood, meat and poultry, vegetables, sizzling pasta and rice and drinks and sweets.

Yes, you heard right, even the desserts are fiery hot. Within these pages are recipes from all over the world and each recipe is graded based on the degree of hotness. The prep time is also stated up front, so you can choose your dishes based on time available.

My favourite chapter is the one on salsas, marinades and pastes. It teaches you how to make delicious pastes from scratch, such as the harissa paste from Morocco, red and green curry paste from Indonesia, chilli peanut dressing, spiced tomato chutney, Mekong curry paste, sambal oelek, Indian-style aubergine relish and more.

In most Asian cooking, basic dishes are enhanced with tasty condiments at the side, so you will find it handy being able to whip up some authentic tasting pastes from the recipes in this section. The pastes in this section are also used in various recipes throughout the book.

As you go through the book, youíll see that not all hot fiery dishes come from Asia, as Western dishes feature heavily. Try the Creole-style mixed fish, known as jambalaya, made famous in New Orleans, or the classic Southern jerk dishes. From the West Indies come the very interesting Pepperpot, a hearty, spicy meal to be enjoyed by the whole family. The pork and chorizo chilli is interesting, very Californian, very delicious.

Vegetarians will enjoy the Indonesian gado-gado and the spiced potato cakes from the vegetables section. Always wanted to learn how to make dhal? Try the Dal Deluxe recipe, together with the pepper and black bean rice.

Even our very own Char Kway Teow makes an appearance, and the finished product looks appetising indeed.

Now for the dessert section. Those sceptical about spicy sweets at the end of the meal, may be converts when they read this chapter. The mandarin, lemongrass, chilli and mint juice just about gets you salivating, while the chilli, avocado and lemon muffins seems absolutely mouth-watering. When the Spanish conquistadors brought chocolate back to Mexico, they birthed the delightful combination of chilli and bittersweet chocolate, manifested in the form of chocolate and chilli cupcakes.

And if thatís not enough to set your tastebuds tingling, how about a shot of vodka in the vodka, chilli and chocolate chip cupcakes. Wash everything down with Mayan hot chocolate, as served by Juliet Binoche in Chocolat, or the refreshing spicy papaya and chilli smoothie.

Photography is beautiful throughout the book, effectively showing you how your dish should look like. The recipes are simple and easy to follow, requiring quite basic cooking skills. Any cook would be happy to have this in their arsenal.