Sunday, 15 June 2008

Feeling the Burn

This blog recently turned One. Anniversaries are naturally a time for reflection. Being part of the food blogging world has definitely changed the way I cook and bake. I learn so much from other food blogs (thank you!!) and that inevitably influences the recipes I use. The change that I am most proud of is my use of seasonal and local produce.

Buying Local and Seasonal Cooking
I never used to take much notice of this, but now, I really enjoy learning more about these ingredients and the best way to use them through various cooking techniques and recipes. Not only does buying seasonal and local taste better (and sometimes more economical), it also helps maintain a sustainable agriculture by minimising the environmental damage caused by transporting foods. We can also support our local farmers, and in some cases it means getting my hands on unprocessed fruits and vegetables.

Inspiration from the Markets
Visiting the local green grocers always fuels my culinary creativity. One such place that reminds me most of the “wet markets” in Singapore where I grew up is the weekend market at Sydney Paddy’s Market in Chinatown. I love being in the bustle of such markets, where one can still bargain. But it’s really less about the savings and more about the chase and acquisition of the produce. I much prefer this type of shopping high rather than shopping for Manolo Blahnik.

Speaking of getting high - regular readers and friends already know this - I’m a chilli (chile) junkie. Naturally, when I was at the markets recently, I was looking for my next hit. And look at these babies:

When I asked the lady what type of chillies they were, I didn’t quite catch what she said, but I knew I had to try some when she told me: “Very hot! Very hot! Cut it very small, don’t use too much.” Say no more! I grabbed a hand full. It felt like I had just acquired gold nuggets - I was so excited to return home with my prized find.

I always prided myself as being a very good chilli eater. I have never met a chilli that was too hot for me. Upon hearing my reputation, a few acquaintances (mostly guys) will inevitably proceed to challenge me to an impromptu chilli eating “face off’. On one occasion while having dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant, during a bird's eye chilli eating face off, I could tell that that the challenger was suffering - both his ego and his mouth - so I pretended to call it a draw. Of course we all know who reigns supreme ;-)

Back to my chilli bounty story: I made a terrible mistake when I got home. Without researching what type of chilli it was, I proceeded to chop up (fortunately, only the flesh) and sprinkled it liberally in my chickpea salad (recipe follows).

Oh boy.

What happened to me, I do not have words to describe. Tears instantaneously starting pouring out. I wish they were tears of joy. Something happened in my mouth, it was weird...I felt both pain and numbness. It didn’t feel good at all. And I did not get any sympathy from Quikong who just laughed at me and called me a "wuss". Ouch. I have to admit that this chilli was too much for me. I don’t know what hurt more - my ego or my mouth.

After some research, the variety I tried is probably a Hanoi Habanero. It’s similar to the typical Habanero [ah-bah-NEH-roh], but it has slightly thicker, juicer flesh. The Habanero is one hottest chilli (chile) in the world. Even a tiny piece of Habanero can cause “intense and prolonged oral suffering” (been there!). Underneath the heat is a “delicate plum-tomato apple-like flavour” (was in too much pain to notice). If you are curious about how the heat in chillies is rated, have a look here.

After removing the rest of the killer chillies from my chickpea salad, I have to say that I really enjoyed the rest of my lunch. It’s quick and easy to make and so flavoursome. A bonus: if you have it the next day, the flavours develop further. It can be eaten cool, so it’s good for the lunch box. The flavours are also not compromised when frozen.

Savoury Chickpea Salad (minus the pain)

1 can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
¼ red capsicum, chopped
1 clove garlic, smashed
½ small onion, chopped
fresh coriander (cilantro)
spicesto taste:
e.g. cumin, tumeric, sweet paprika, curry powder mix

To serve:
Salad leaves (baby spinach or Romaine lettuce)

Over medium-low heat, cook onions and garlic in a bit of olive oil (or ghee) till fragrant. Throw in the spices and heat through to release the fragrance of the spices. Add capsicum and chickpeas and cook till capsicum is tender to your liking. Throw in coriander (not need to chop them if you don’t feel like it, all parts of this herb can be used). Cool slightly and serve it on top of some baby spinach or lettuce.

Wrap it - Serve it in soft tortillas with some sour cream or yogurt.
Mash it – Serve with grilled chicken or prawns.

Other chickpea recipes from Life's Smörgåsbord's archives you might want to try:
Baked Chickpeas and Sweet Potato Patties
Chickpea and Pink Peppercorn Bread
Chickpea and Roasted Pumpkin Soup
Chickpea and Spinach Curry

This will be my contribution to the June challenge of “No Croutons Required”, hosted by Lisa’s Kitchen and Holler at Tinned Tomatoes. The theme for this month is “soups or salads featuring legumes because beans and pulses are an important part of a healthy vegetarian diet”. The deadline is 20th June, so it’s not too late to join in.


Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

Happy blog birthday, from one chile junkie to another! My blog turned two yesterday, so I know just how hard it is to keep blogging for a year. Congratulations!

Wendy said...

Happy blog birthday! I'm a bit of a chilli wimp. Love them but tend to make D taste them first! :)

Bellini Valli said...

Congrats on your one year anniversary Nora. I think only a few chiles in this chick pea salad for me thank you:D

Hannah said...

What a delicious-sounding dish! I adore chickpeas, so I'll definitely bookmark this recipe. :)

winedeb said...

Don't those years just creep by! Happy Birthday Life's Smorgasbord! your new digs! Nice looking site Nora!
Those peppers are right up our alley, but I must say one has to be quite careful as those guys can really "get ya!"
I am still getting my blog act together. I will be back soon!

Lucy said...

Congrats, darls. One is a significant number, and you have come a long way.

Those chillies look WAAAYYY too hot for me! But the salad, well, that looks delish!

Love the new look. Love your new attitude. It will no doubt be a glorious second year for you.

Nora B. said...

Lydia - Thank you. I'm jumping over to your blog now. I hope my second year will be as great as yours.


Wendy - Thank you. Quikong is the chilli wimp in our relationship, so how dare he call me a wuss!


Val - Thank you! I didn't end up having any chillies after that painful first bite.


Hannah - Thanks. I like simple dishes like this, you'll be surprised how flavorsome it tastes.


Deb - I think you, Lydia and I should form a chilli club of some sort because I am on my own here. Quikong can't tolerate much heat at all.

I'm looking forward to your blog comeback!


Lucy dear, thank you for your comments and support. Your photography, writing and recipes have been a big inspiration for me. I'm still playing around with my blog's look.

Cookie baker Lynn said...

Oh, your poor mouth! I've heard of chilies raising blisters. I hope that didn't happen to you. The salad, minus the pain, looks very tasty.

Eva said...

Congrats, Nora! Although I'd expected you to celebrate with cake, I really like this chickpea salad. Should be eating more healthy these days, too, but been on a little cake-binge lately...

Anh said...

Nora my dear, I am so glad that u r back.. Inspiration for me really since I haven't had much time blogging lately.. Will have to fix it some days... :)

kathryn said...

Congratulations Nora, a year of blogging is a wonderful and marvellous achievement. Those chillies look gorgeous, but I'm a total heat wimp, so if they knocked your socks off, I wouldn't go near them. Best of luck for another year ahead of blogging.

Mike of Mike's Table said...

Congrats and happy birthday. I was hoping I'd recognize the chili as well, but no such luck. I'm also the type that will happily pop any pepper in my mouth--good to know that this one merits caution! Its a rare thing that I encounter something "too hot" for my liking, but man oh man, when I do, I know exactly what you mean--just tears, pain, occasionally visible burns (lol! like I was wearing lipstick), etc. And yet we come crawling back for more...

Lisa said...

I'd like to get my hands on some of those peppers, but I'll take your warning and use them sparingly :) Thanks for this entry.

Susan said...

I know the feeling of pain when one underestimates the wrath of habanero. I did it, too. Never, EVER again, as much as I love heat. I needed a respirator as soon as I cut the beast open, the fumes alone were killer. Chickpeas, on the other hand, can never go south for me. Love 'em.

Happy 1st Blog BDay, Nora. It goes quickly, doesn't it?

Nora B. said...

Lynn - Fortunately, I've never had blisters before, and I don't intend to get there. The salad was tasty, was amazed at how quickly it all came together.


Eva - I didn't intend for this to be my blog celebration post, but somehow it became that way. I might do a "proper" one another time, but perhaps it would be too belated by then. I've actually been cooking lots of interesting foods, but never enough time or lighting (it's always night time when I finish cooking or baking) to photograph them.


Anh dear, it took me a while to get back, and I even wonder if I am fully "back". I hope that you will get back to blogging soon, I miss all your photos, recipes and insights.


Kathryn - Thank you!! A year was tough, almost didn't make it. Although i did take a blog siesta for a few months... does that count? ;-)

These chillies really were too hot. I don't know what to do with the rest of them. Perhaps I should make chilli oil. Would be a shame to waste them.


Mike - Burns! wow, you definitely deserve a chilli warrior badge of something, you've been where I haven't, but I know what you mean about getting red (& swollen) lips, lol! Always happy to know that there are chilli addicts around, I feel so normal :-)


Lisa - These chillies looks so pretty and innocent, but don't be tricked ;-)


Susan - In retrospect, I should have noticed when I felt a sensation in my fingers as I was cutting the chillies...hmmm... I know for next time, there might be a next time, I tend not to learn my lesson when it comes to chillies ;-)

Yes, a year does come 'round quickly. It has been a fab journey. :-)

Kevin said...

That chickpea salad sounds good, especially with the hot peppers.

Big Boys Oven said...

hahahah this blog is sure HOT! with also a HOT babe owner! lol!

Patricia Scarpin said...

Happy blog birthday, darling!

KJ said...

hi Nora, I am a total chilli wuss. I sit there with my eyes and nose streaming, when noone else can even tell there are chillis in the dish. Hopeless!!!

Happy blog birthday.

Ivy said...

I saw your recipe from the round up. Although I am not used to hot chillies, it sounds delicious.

Rosa said...

Thanks for reminding me of those chickpeas I have soaking in my fridge! Happy first birthday - it's great to see that you're back from your break with a vengeance.