The Cayenne Chili Pepper
The English say Chili, the Spanish say Chile…
… and a “chilli” is one of our favourite Mexican meals !
The reason we want to talk about the Cayenne is because we often don’t know if the chili we se to buy is hot or not ! Here in Spain, it’s not labelled according to its heat. We know the Cayenne is one of the hottest, so if we want the heat for taste or better health benefits – that’s the one we go for !
Wikipedia definition of the Cayenne pepper… it’s a type of Capsicum annuum
Here we go again ! It’s also spelt Capsaican in the U.S. The Spanish for Capsicum is Pimiento ! That’s what we see on all the spice jars here in Spain, and we always assumed that meant peppers ( think it does too 😉 .
Skinny, mostly red, long peppers… a bit wrinkled, and usually with a bent tip.
Wikipedia says “Capsicum annuum is a species of the plant genus Capsicum (peppers) native to southern North America and northern South America. … The species encompasses a wide variety of shapes and sizes of peppers, both mild and hot, such as bell peppers, jalapeños, New Mexico chile, and cayenne peppers.” It’s called Capsicum Anuum… because it’s an annual, i.e. yearly plant.
Chili seeds and Cayenne Powder
It’s so easy to use
We just sprinkle… but be very careful – it’s HOT! one, two or three shakes.
After drying and grinding, we find it lasts forever !
We use the chili flakes in cooking, you can make your own flakes easily from whole dried ones – just pop in the chopper attachment of a hand blender and blitz for a matter of seconds. Paul also likes to chop up a fresh one. its’ hot to touch so be VERY careful. We use gloves when chopping if we can, otherwise wash your hands straight away and don’t let your fingers stray as they may have hot chili on them. The heat comes from the seeds and the membrane of the chili pod.
So, Use the seeds if you want a stronger flavour. Sometimes you get the dried version with seeds included, sometimes they are filtered out.
We also us the powdered version a lot. It’s so easy to sprinkle on eggs, or anything ! Sometimes instead of the seeds, or, also at the end of cooking. It’s easy to add a shake or two of powder at the end, if you feel you have’t added enough during cooking ! I , Aoibheann also use the Cayenne powder in drinks, for spicy popcorn making, or when cooking small quantities so that the heat spreads around more easily.
Chili… the red hot healer !
Did you know also that the chili pepper such as cayenne has also been used for hundreds, possibly thousands of years as a medicine, and not just a herb or spice for cooking. It seems, just like the cocoa we are drawn to all these South American ingredients ! Apparently they were brought over to Europe by Christopher Columbus about 5 centuries ago.
It’s the Capsaican ( Capsicum ) in the pepper that gives most of the heat, and also, coincidentally that gives the medicinal benefits. So the more capsaican there is, the better it is for you, and the hotter the chilli is. It’s a fire that doesn’t let up and apparently it can literally incinerate a disease !
So what are the medicinal or healthy contents of Cayenne ?
My favourite herb and spice book called “Healing Spices” is my go to for all this kind of information. It tells you a lot about each ingredient and how it heals your body, as well as how to buy it and cook with it, and some cool recipes. I just eat it all up !
My book talks a lot about the Chile and the Capsaican in general rather than the Cayenne variety alone.
Here’s what I learned from the book:
Capsaican has been studied hugely and apparently the studies show it ‘s a :
pain killer…for arthritis, nerve pain, shingles, diabetic neuropathy, headaches, neck pain
fat burner… increases metabolism, decreases appetite, increases fat burning during exercise, dissolves fat cells, prevents the complication of obesity
heart-warming spice… preventing blood clots, improve cholestorol, reduce heart rate, prevent arrhythmias, reduce damage after a heart attack
cancer preventing… e.g. prostrate cancer, breast cancer
good for the stomach... for ulcers, indigestion
also good for type 2 diabetes, psoriasis
WOW ! How does it do this ? My wee bible tells me that capsaican contains a wealth of antioxident vitamins, and ounce for ounce a chile contains 9 times more Vitamin A than a green pepper, and twice as much Vitamin C as an orange. It’s also rich in potassium and magnesium.
I take all my chili advice with a pinch of salt, so to speak, but here’s some more relevant information from healthline.com, about the Cayenne pepper.
They say one tablespoon (5 grams) of the cayenne pepper contains :
- Vitamin A: 44% of the RDI
- Vitamin E: 8% of the RDI
- Vitamin C: 7% of the RDI
- Vitamin B6: 6% of the RDI
- Vitamin K: 5% of the RDI
- Manganese: 5% of the RDI
- Potassium: 3% of the RDI
- Riboflavin: 3% of the RDI
A sprinkle of goodness a day
Like so many natural ingredients it seems that they have been used as food medicine for centuries and so there are many modern lab tests run to see what the benefits actually are. It also feels like everything can possibly cure all our ailments from cancer to heart disease, lack of nutrients etc. However, no-one can ever seem to say for 100% sure it will cure something. So take it like a pinch of salt so to speak. A pinch of pepper can’t harm, can it ? At the same time it might help !
Paul and I love it in cooking.
Apparently it boosts the metabolism because it increases the amount of heat your body produces. So having extra heat inside that makes you burn more calories.
I (Aoibheann) take it in my morning tea or coffee sometimes to give it a kick – just a few sprinkles but apparently you can take up to a tea-spoon – ouch ! Maybe that’s why there are tinctures and tablets on offer instead.
I did find that it gives my metabolism a kick start for the day too. Not sure if the effect is wearing off but I don’t like to overdo things anyway. ‘Everything in moderation’ is the way i was brought up , along with ‘everything for a reason’ !
We’ve heard it can also help blood circulation, reduce appetite, increase a heart rate, reduce blood pressure, stop an external bleed – apparently – but we haven’t tried it for any of these. Also we believe it may only have a small effect, and your body may get resistant to it. So it’s not a miracle worker, but we think every little helps, and we like to use natural things in strict moderation of course.
So be responsible !
and… always seek medical advice, and don’t just do what we do ! Take it at your own risk and all that.
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Cayenne inspired food and drink
So where can you get the goodness, in your drinks or food. As we go on , we’ll post our favourite recipes for soups, eggs, chocolate and … well anything and everything we find that we love.
A little ‘simple living’ snack we have almost every day. It keeps us going late morning or early evening, and is a pretty good alternative to crisps !
We adapted this at maison mk by using home made moroccan harissa to spice up the popcorn. it was a real hit served with the rooftop sundowner cocktails at gastro mk.
- Put a medium pan on a hot ring –have a lid or top ready.
- Add 1 tablespoon oil
- Add 1 handful popcorn kernels
- Add 2 or 3 shakes cayenne pepper
- Pop the lid on and wait two mins till it starts to pop.
- Shake the pan every 30 secs until the popping dies down…within 2 mins or less.
- Take off the heat
- Add 1 teaspoon sugar ( or salt if you prefer) and shake to spread it around.
- Serve and enjoy.
Cayenne Tea or Coffee
- Make your coffee or make hot water
- sprinkle some cayenne ( 1 2 or 3 shakes from a small spice jar with little holes in it – start with 1).
- Stir in !
- Drink & Stir as you go as it doesn’t dissolve easily
We’ll make the recipes below clickable soon, to take you to our favourite little recipe finds ( or made up ones from us) as we post them. Watch this space…