It’s enough to make even the toughest of us panic…
You’ve just taken a big bite. You didn’t think it was going to be too hot. And then the burning feeling starts to build. And build. And build.
You brace yourself for the onslaught…
Or as Fergal would say… ‘Ouchies!’
I still remember my worst chilli burn like it was yesterday…
I was working in my first ‘real job’ as a young food scientist in the Kellogg Australia product development department and was out to dinner with a big group of friends. It was Friday night. We’d been at the pub for a few hours before heading in search of a good curry.
Squeezed around the table, it was noisy and the wine was flowing. Happy days.
Until the food came out.
I was starving and reached for what I thought was a lone green bean on top of one of the curries. I took a bite.
It definitely wasn’t a harmless green bean. My world closed in on the inferno in my mouth.
Luckily I knew what to do. (Food science to the rescue!)
And no I didn’t reach for the water. Or another slug of vino.
I knew better.
So I grabbed the raita, creamy yoghurt flecked with cucumber chunks.
I held the mixture in my mouth, swirling it around before swallowing and starting with more life-saving yoghurt.
Thankfully things calmed down in my mouth. And dinner went on.
Although I didn’t enjoy it because I couldn’t get over the fact that I’d been so stupid. When do Indian restaurants ever use a ‘lone green bean’ to garnish their beef vindaloo? It’s always a chilli. How could I be so foolish?
So why did the yoghurt work?
The component of chillies which makes them hot is called capsaicin and it’s only soluble in fats and oils. While water and wine may give momentary relief from the temperature difference, the capsaicin doesn’t dissolve and stays in your mouth causing all the pain.
Full fat yoghurt on the other hand, has enough oil to dissolve the culprit and move it on. Problem solved.
Of course it doesn’t have to be yoghurt.
Fergal recently had is own chilli experience when he rubbed his fingers on my chilli-infested chopping board and popped said fingers in his mouth. Luckily a big glass of cold milk sorted him out straight away.
But basically anything with some oil will work. Coconut milk or coconut yoghurt or even a mouthful of a creamy mild curry will do the trick.
What about you?
Ever had a ‘green bean’ chilli moment of your own? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!
Cajun Chicken in a Paper Bag
There’s something really magical about dusting cooked food in a spice mix just before eating. Not only do you get the beautiful spiced flavours, it also coats the chicken to give a slightly crunchy crust. So good and so little effort!
enough for: 2
takes: 15 minutes
450g (1lb) chicken thigh or breast fillets
3-4 tablespoons mayonnaise
1/4 large cabbage
3 green onions (optional)
3-4 teaspoons cajun spice
1. Chop chicken in to bite size strips. Heat a frying pan on a medium high heat.
2. Rub chicken with a little oil and salt. Cook chicken for 2-3 minutes on each side or until browned on the outside and just cooked through.
3. While the chicken is cooking, slice cabbage as finely as possible and toss in a bowl with the mayo and green onion (if using). Season with salt and pepper.
4. Divide cooked chicken between 2 plates and serve each person with a paper bag. Serve cajun spice in the middle of the table so each person can toss it in with their chicken.
5. Serve cabbage salad in the middle of the table.
6. Get each person to pop their chicken in their paper bag and add their share of the spice mix. Shake bag and eat spiced chicken with the salad.
Video Version of the Recipe.
no cabbage – serve spiced chicken with baby spinach or other salad greens on the side.
vegetarian – replace chicken with sliced halloumi or poached eggs. For the eggs, just serve on a plate and sprinkle with the spice (instead of tossing in the bag).
egg-free – use a vegan mayo for the salad dressing. Or replace with 1 tablespoon lemon juice and 2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil.
vegan – follow the egg-free suggestions and replace chicken with 1-2 drained cans of chickpeas. Warm in a little oil in a pan then serve with a paper bag and the spice as per the chicken.
no cajun spice – try another spice blend like moroccan, ras el hanout, pirri pirri or just use a little salt, black pepper and mild chilli powder (you won’t need as much as the cajun blend).
different meat – feel free to use chicken breast fillets, pork fillet or some plain pork sausages.
hot! – add a little chilli powder to your spice mix.