Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Chilli - heat the mouth and burn the kilos.

Chilli Seedling
I've been a bit of a piggy for the past month.  There were loads of functions and picnics and drinks with nibblies and alcoholic beverages on offer in the lead up to Christmas.  And I declined no sparkling bubbly or cheesy morsel that was offered.  Then there was Christmas - feast, feast, feast, feast.  Just when I thought I was back on the straight and narrow along came New Year.  I was not invited to any midnight partying.  I have young children and a partner who's a musician out working.  I was sitting at home alone feeling sorry for myself listening to the fireworks and partying by everyone else all around.  What better time to turn to comfort food than a lonely New Year's Eve?  Actually, I'm not being truthful.  A lovely friend with kids the same age took pity on me and invited us to dinner as she has each New Year's Eve for the past three years.  Following that feast I went home, put the kids to bed and feasted alone a teeny bit more.  So now I'm feeling rather floppy around the belly and in need of less bubbly and more water and less cheesy and more veggie.

So, I was browsing through a cookbook Eldest Monkey Boy gave me for Christmas - Jamie Oliver's 30 Minute Meals (which I thoroughly recommend) and I was inspired to try a salad with chilli.  I don't much like chilli.  Rarely cook with it - especially since the monkeys have come along.  I think since I'd been over-indulging I was now craving something spicy and fresh and a salad with a dressing made from a smidge of fresh chilli, mint, lemon and a touch of olive oil sounded very appealing.  It was fantastic.  I've made a variation of it for several days in a row now.  I've made it with smashed cherry tomatoes and rocket, I've made it with noodles and I've made it with long, peeled slithers of just cooked, young zucchini straight from the garden and broccoli and beans and... I just can't get enough of it.

My Italian neighbour had a bezillion chilli plants growing several weeks back and he offered some to me but I declined.  We never cook with chilli they'd go to waste and I didn't want to take up precious veggie patch with something we wouldn't eat.  He insisted that I take a bowl full of his chillies instead.  So I did and I sewed them into a long chilli string and hung them on my kitchen window.  And for the past few days I've been snipping off a dried chilli and using a bit of it in my recipes.
Well, bonus - I consulted with my nutritionist sister about chilli and guess what?  This new-found love  might just be helping me burn those extra Chrissie kilos.
NutriNic says:  "Chilli boosts heat production in the body, raising your metabolic rate, so chilli can help you burn higher amounts of kilojoules after eating it." 

Cool.  So when I was next speaking to my Italian neighbour and telling him that I now wish I'd accepted his offer of chilli plants several weeks ago, he thrust a pot of about 20 teeny chilli seedlings in my hands and ordered me to plant them.  No worries that we're into Summer and it's probably too late - try.  Some might die, some might grow.  So I have.  I couldn't plant them all but I have found a few patches of sun behind the new chick coop and we'll see.

Here's one of my favourite ways with this chilli dressing with a salad-veggie concoction inspired by Jamie Oliver's book.
Warm Pasta Salad with Chilli Mint Dressing
Selection of salad veggies I used:
•  rocket
•  tomato (chopped)
•  broccolini
•  zucchini (in long slices done with a peeler)
•  100g pasta
For the salad dressing
•  5 or so springs of mint
•  zest and some juice 1/2 lemon
•  1/2 small chilli (or to taste)
•  2 tsp olive oil
•  salt & pepper to taste

Cook the pasta and allow to cool a little.  Cook any of the veggies that need cooking (eg broccolini) and also allow to cool until just warm.  Finely chop the mint and chilli and place in a large bowl.  Add the zest and 1 tsp of juice from half a lemon.  Add 2 tsp of olive oil and salt and pepper to taste.  Add all the veggies and pasta, mix and serve.


  1. Chillies can burn calories? Wow thats easy because our local food have lots of chillies in them.Hope you have lots of chillies in your garden soon.I love Jamie's recipes, quick and easy to make!

  2. Yep. I'm just getting a tongue for chilli. Do you grow chilli too? Any tips appreciated.

  3. I tired everywhere to get his book today and its all sold out everywhere. I will try the Book Depository. Love your blog. Donna

  4. Oh I didn't know I was so lucky to get it before Christmas. I reckon it's a great book Donna. Although the other night I tried doing a whole meal (changing things a bit to make it vegetarian) in the half hour with guests coming and of course... my food processor broke! I had to make pesto and smash tomatoes and stuff all in my mortar and pestle. And I made a huge mess and got a bit snippy and needed a big glass of wine. Needless to say it didn't take 30 minutes.


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