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Back to Basics : Sustenance With Chic

Celebrating the Commonplace : The Flavors of Chillies and Coconuts

How we eat, how we listen, how we learn, how we work, how we love, how we govern, are in flux; undergoing dramatic, global, foundational shifts at every level of society. How we cook, and what we eat, impacts every other aspect of how we live, and who we are for better, or for worse. 

In recent years, as global commerce and interaction have significantly increased, so has physical travel across, and within, countries East and West. In addition, technology, and growing disposable incomes, have enabled affordable movement across borders, and access to people, talent and commodities that might not have been otherwise available in one’s home base.

Initially perhaps necessitated by career and work duties, these wanderings have also ended up capturing millions of new disciples to the borderless temple of international travel, eating, and living on any budget.

In many cases, naturally growing ingredients that in certain countries or parts of the world, have been staples in cuisine or other uses, are now finding favor in varied parts of the globe. This, is bringing international profile to a diverse set of fruit, vegetables, spices, and flavors, being studied, evaluated and utilized for everything from their color, to flavor, to growing methods, to health benefits.

Things that were once considered niche in use, or thought to be contained to particular parts of the world or cultures, now find global, mainstream acceptance, sometimes even within their original “home” countries. This, in turn, can encourage many farmers in developing countries with agricultural economies, to grow multiple crops on the same field, with the potential to significantly increase income.

Chilli-peppers, and coconuts, are two such examples.

Jonathan Swift, in “Cooking Poem: How Shall I Dine?” says,
On the table spread the cloth,
Let the knives be sharp and clean:
Pickles get and salad both,
Let them each be fresh and green:
With small beer, good ale, and wine,
O ye gods! how I shall dine.”

What’s So Hot About Chillies

A Continued Global Warming In Cuisine

Millions of people actively seek out the pain of hot chillies as a form of pleasure. The burn features prominently in more than a few of the world’s great cuisines, with more than a quarter of the world’s population eating hot peppers daily. More than 40 million tonnes of various kinds of green chillies ALONE, are produced across 7 countries. Britain, for example spends more than $50 million annually on hot sauce, and the amount is rapidly growing in the United States, with hot sauce sales estimated to be more than $1.4 billion in 2017, and exceeding $2.5 billion globally by 2020. The diet in the rich world is heating up. Hot chilies, once the preserve of aficionados with exotic tastes for cuisine from places such as India, Thailand or Mexico, are now a staple ingredient in everything from ready meals to cocktails.

Chillies are not necessarily just “hot”; they range in their heat index, and the multiple varieties of chilli peppers, both naturally growing around the world, and also being developed in urban and rural farms, are also colorful, flavorful, and good for you in range of areas. The benefits are derived from the key component in a chilli, which is capsaicin. These include, (based on various studies), positive impacts on reducing the negative effects of heart disease, obesity, tumors from colorectal and breast cancers, and high blood pressure. By disabling a part of the nervous system called “transient receptor potential vanilloid 1”, it can stop the body registering the pain caused by rheumatoid arthritis. It can also be used to help patients with multiple sclerosis, amputees, and people undergoing chemotherapy. With rather less scientific evidence, a capsaicin product is marketed as an alternative to Botox, a wrinkle-smoothing cosmetic treatment.

Tasteless, colorless, odorless and painful, pure capsaicin is a curious substance. It does no lasting damage, but the body’s natural response to it is self-defence: sweat pours, the pulse quickens, the tongue flinches, tears may roll. But then something else kicks in: pain relief. The bloodstream floods with endorphins—the closest thing to morphine that the body produces. The result is a high. And the more capsaicin you ingest, the bigger and better it gets.

A recipe from The Chilli Chic Home Gourmet (a unit of Employees Only LLP): Prawns in bhut-jolokia cream

This stir-fry has been inspired by a prawn dish from the Southern Indian state of Kerala, enhanced with the smoky, spicy, bhut-jolokia chilli from Northeast India.

Serves 2-4

3 tbsp coconut oil
10 curry leaves + 1 tsp mustard seeds + 1 large red onion, thinly sliced
5 garlic cloves, crushed + 3cm fresh ginger, grated
? ? tsp turmeric + ¾ tsp black pepper
5 Kerala bird chillies (or to taste) + 75g fresh coconut, grated
500g raw and peeled king prawns
2 slices of pineapple, chopped into wedges
1½ tbsp fresh lime juice
½ tsp salt (or to taste)
½ tsp of bhut-jolokia chilli sauce (or to taste) [Can be purchased on-line or from any gourmet grocery store]
200 ml of fresh cream (small tetra pack)

1 Heat the oil in a frying pan over a medium heat. Add the curry leaves and mustard seeds. When they crackle, add the onion. Cook for 8 minutes, or until soft and starting to brown.

2 Add the ginger and garlic. Cook for 5 minutes, then add the turmeric, black pepper, chillies and grated coconut. Stir in the prawns and pineapple. Cook for 4 minutes, or until pink. Add the lime juice and salt, and stir for 30 seconds. Add the bhut-jolokia chilli sauce and the cream, give it a final stir and taste as needed, then take off the heat.

3 Serve in an appropriately sized clay-pot, with toasted onion crisps.

4 A chilled bottle of Shiraz Rose will complement the very flavorful bites of this dish. 

Coco-Loco Over Coconuts

From Bad boy to Superstar

Everyone wants more coconuts, from consumers who believe that they are very healthy; to processors who need copra as an industrial input; and to farmers who want to take advantage of higher prices.

This versatile fruit has thousands of uses in the food industry from baked goods to hydration products. The last five years have seen a major boost in popularity for coconut oil and coconut water. With the support of celebrities and immeasurable mentions through lifestyle, diet, fitness and cooking media, everyone seems to be talking about coconuts. While coconut butter has long played an important role in the health and beauty industry, industry leaders have taken the call of the coconut to heart, determining new ways to use coconut in foods, drinks and personal products. Niche coconut products are surging in popularity. Most young coconuts used to be consumed in their local regions as refreshing drinks and snacks. But in recent years they’ve been touted to have vast health benefits, from supporting weight loss to treating dementia, and they’ve been adopted by mostly affluent consumers with a special fervor.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, coconut milk and water now make up more than 30 percent of overall global coconut consumption. The coconut water business in the US has surged in value from a few million dollars a decade ago to nearly $800 million in 2015. Globally, the coconut water industry alone is on track to generate more than $4 billion in revenue between the period 2015 and 2019. Coconut milk sales are escalating rapidly too: in the US, coconut milk sales rose 35 percent last year to approximately $27 million, and in the UK they grew 67 percent. It’s not just drinks: virgin coconut oil has also become more popular. After being shunned for over a decade for of its high amounts of trans fat, consumers have embraced the fresh pressed version as a “superfood.”

The foodie movement is also bringing these recipes into home kitchens. Whether seeking out healthier ingredients or chasing unusual flavors, consumers are demanding more coconut and coconut products than ever. As we go into a New Year, the trend continues, with this tropical fruit inspiring flavors and provide health benefits for a growing number of consumers around the world.

A recipe from The Chilli Chic Home Gourmet: Coconut ice-cream with spiced pineapple

Although you can eat the ice-cream by itself, the pineapple adds a lovely contrasting acidity to the coconut’s cool creaminess.

Serves 4

300ml fresh coconut milk
1½ tbsp dried coconut shreds (leftover from the strained coconut and water)
300ml double cream + 5 egg yolks + 150g sugar + 1 tbsp butter, unsalted
1 medium pineapple, peeled and sliced into 8 wedges
2 tbsp honey + 1 tbsp lime + 2-3 cloves, to taste
2 or 3 drops of lavender extract on each serving [optional; Can be purchased on-line or at any gourmet grocery store]
50g ground or finely chopped pistachios to decorate (optional)

1 Pour the coconut milk, dried coconut shreds and double cream into a saucepan. Warm until hot, but not boiling. Take off the heat and leave to cool for a few minutes.

2 Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks with the sugar until pale yellow. Add this to the cream, whisking constantly. Return the mixture to the saucepan and heat very gently, stirring, until it comes together to form a custard. Take off the heat and transfer to another bowl to cool down.

3 When cool, churn in an ice-cream maker until frozen and place in the freezer. If you don’t have an ice-cream maker, put it in a plastic tub and pop it in the freezer. Whisk vigorously after 45 minutes to break up any ice crystals, and then again every 45 minutes for 2‑3 hours, or until frozen.

4 Meanwhile, make the spiced pineapple. Melt the butter in a large frying pan over a medium heat. When hot, add the pineapple wedges. Turn them every 2 minutes, until they start to caramelise and brown. Add the honey, lime and cloves. Stir-fry for another minute and take off the heat.

5 Serve the clove-spiced pineapple alongside a scoop of coconut ice-cream; add the drops of lavender extract on the ice-cream, and scatter liberally with ground pistachios.

6 A glass (or two) of Premium Port will complement this dessert nicely. 

“Life is not complex. We are complex. Life is simple, and the simple thing is the right thing.” — Oscar Wilde

Chilli Chic is the “how we eat” brand of Employees Only LLP. Chilli Chic, identifies, and delves into one key food ingredient, that “completes” and circles the lives of those we are interacting with. In many cases, these may actually be specific spices and chilli peppers, but not necessarily so, as they also focus on unique cooking methods. The photographs used have been conceived and captured specifically for Chilli Chic, by Jordan Cabot. (@jordancabot on Instagram). 

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