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
• tomato (chopped)
• 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.