Saturday, October 2, 2010

Spices: How Much Heat?

Preference for heat varies widely by individual. Heat comes from red chili pepper (hot), black pepper (medium) and ginger (mild). Using all three adds not only heat but complexity. To reduce heat, you can drop ingredients (for example, drop the hottest ingredient, which is red chili pepper) or you can reduce the proportions. I like to reduce the proportions, while keeping the complexity. Black pepper, like salt, can always be added at the table.

These recipes are written with medium heat. Cut in half to reduce heat, and double to increase heat. With hot peppers, a little bit goes a long way. Use less than other spices like cumin and coriander seeds. Remember a typical dry goods to spice ration is 1 cup to 1 teaspoon.

How Much Heat?

  • Hot: 1 tsp
  • Medium: ½ tsp
  • Mild: ¼ tsp

Red Chili Pepper and Black Pepper, per 1 cup

Black pepper and ginger were the traditional ingredients for heat for thousands of years, and India traded black pepper with the Middle East and Europe from at least time of Ancient Greeks and Romans. Black pepper is native to India, while red chili peppers where introduced relatively recent from the New World. Red chili peppers are (considerably) hotter than black pepper.

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