Chile Dreams / Ngaa Moemoeaa Hirikakaa

or… how to wile away an afternoon instead of working on your current writing project.

The finished product
The finished product

This week is Te Wiki o Te Reo Maaori, hence my attempt at dual headings.  The macrons don’t seem to always display that well, so in same cases I’ve reverted to double vowels.

My Road to Chiles
Tāku Ara ki Ngā Hirikakā

From the day I first tasted a pickled jalapeno on a pizza, I’ve always loved chiles. Very early on I was a member of a chile pepper Usenet newsgroup – this was back in 1994/1995, and a time when the internet as we know it now, was still in its infancy.   You weren’t able to browse gazillions of web pages then, nor purchase unusual chile seeds online.  A friend sent me some Habanero seeds by snail mail, all the way from the US.  Of course, it was probably illegal to do this, but I didn’t think about such things back then, I was just so keen to try them.  I nurtured the precious plants under plastic in my (then) Dunedin garden.

Habanero
Ngā Hirikakā Tino Kakā

The Habanero is still my absolute favourite pepper.  In my opinion, it is the most floral and fragrant of them all and I love the heat.  I use Habanero everywhere; in curries and pickles, sauces and pastes, even in a Hot Martini! 🙂

A chile plant in July at South Head.
A chile plant in July at South Head.

I have grown Habanero, Jalapeno, Serrano and other assorted peppers continuously, since moving to South Head. In fact, my plants are still bearing chiles, out there in the cold, wintry conditions… They are so prolific that by the end of a season, I get somewhat lazy about harvesting them.

Keeping Chiles for Later Use
Hei Rokiroki ngā Hirikakā

My usual practice has been to pick the chiles when they are fully ripe, wash and dry them thoroughly, then freeze them whole.  This is an excellent way to store these jewel-like fruit as you can just take one out and slice off a chunk when you need it.  The problem is, we can never keep up with eating them and there are bags of them in the freezer – some going back a couple of years.  They don’t seem to deteriorate.

This year I thought I’d try preserving some by drying. I’ve seen those neat little jars in home ware shops – the ones with a glass body and a stainless steel screw-top lid with holes. Dried chile is such a beautiful colour, how nice it would be to have our very own flakes or powder, to use as a condiment.

Drying Chiles
Hei Whakamaroke ngā Hirikakā

Chilli peppers strung up in the barn.
Chile peppers strung up in the barn.

I wouldn’t say that my technique was completely successful.  I diligently harvested a mixture of Habanero and Caribbean Red Habanero, threaded them on strings, and strung them up in both the barn and the hot water cupboard. I kept a few back to use fresh – they were in a rourou on the bench, then forgot about them.  Amusingly, a few weeks later, I noticed that these were starting to dry quite well, so I put the rourou into the hot water cupboard as well.

dried chiles

Today I decided it was high time to do something with these peppers. Every time I went to put some linen in the cupboard, I had to push it behind the chiles rattling on their strings.  Interestingly, I discovered that the peppers that had dried the best, i.e., had no mouldy-looking discolouration, were actually the ones in the rourou.

The End Product
Te Mea Whakamutunga

flakes

I discarded any that didn’t look good enough for my high standards (!)  This reduced my stock by at least 50%.  I then trimmed the stalks off the others and nuked them in my blender/grinder.

The result is a lovely HOT product – a chili powder/flake, which will be ideal to sprinkle on foods, or to add at the cooking stage – IF YOU DARE.  I was using a pastry brush to sweep out the last powdery residue from the grinder – didn’t want to waste any – and inhaled some. Yowsa it was hot, and I coughed for about five minutes.


Recipes
Ngā Tohutaka

Hot Martini

This is the recipe that we use, but I can’t find where I sourced it, unfortunately.

  • 60 mls gin
  • 7.5 mls Dry Vermouth
  • Splash of aromatic bitters
  • Slice of Habanero chile to taste
  • 3 green olives

Habanero Martini

I also found this recipe on the net. It sounds much hotter – perhaps we’ll check it out tonight.

Ingredients

  • ½ habanero pepper
  • 60 mls agave tequila
  • 15 mls dry vermouth
  • Ice

Instructions

  1. In a cocktail glass muddle the habanero to release some juices. Do not pulverise. Keep the pepper in the glass, or remove it for a (slightly) lesser heat.
  2. Combine over ice the tequila and vermouth. Shake well. Then pour the mix over the muddled habanero.

If you are interested in chiles, here is a useful link Chile Pepper Varieties

The Habanero Martini recipe is borrowed from PepperScale’s site – lots of neat recipes there.

Kō tēnei Te Wiki o Te Reo Maaori!

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