Life Table Talk

Saturday 30 August 2014

Stimulate the senses with chilli peppers

Stimulating the senses is just a snack away, but don't bite off more than you can chew

Susan Jane White

Published 01/06/2014 | 02:30

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Hot chili peppers
Hot chili peppers
Sweet Potato Fries
Sweet Potato Fries

Chilli peppers can sting lips to a sumptuous pout without the price tag of cosmetic surgery. Groovy, eh? Given that chillis also help raise blood pressure, it's the perfect ingredient to have up your sleeve on a date. (Be careful not to take me literally.)

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A compound found in this devious little vegetable has shown it to stimulate the release of feel-good endorphins, like a jamboree through the veins. These endorphins help to put out internal 'fires' by blocking inflammation in the body, numbing us of our day's aches or pains. (And tedious colleagues.)

Historically, chillis were not merely used as an aphrodisiac. They played a role in alleviating chronic pain and servicing circulatory problems. That's right, gentlemen.

Most notably, chilli fortified the chocolate drink that Montezuma the Great consumed to make his pulse dance, in preparation for visits to his concubines. No need for little blue pills. Beyonce likes chilli for its thermogenic properties, or to rev up metabolism. Several studies have found that enhancing meals with chilli increases both fat-burning and calorie-burning in the body.

In general, the smaller and more pointed the chilli is, the hotter the blaze. So be careful. To weather the flames, I find it helpful to sip a tablespoon of olive oil, or curse like a sailor. Greek yoghurt can be useful, too, but stay away from beer and wine.

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If slices of fresh chilli terrify your tonsils, try powdered cayenne chilli pepper. But be careful, if you get it in your eyes, it burns for ever.

Before a board meeting, a pinch of cayenne pepper, twist of lemon and squeeze of maple syrup shot back in a little water can help anaesthetise the boredom. Although it might also dangerously excite your circulation. Only one way to find out . . .

Barbecue-Flavoured Sweet Potato Fries

Sweet Potato Fries.jpg

Serves 4.

Sweet potatoes are king in our kitchen. Their luminous orange flesh houses some seriously good gear.

There's vitamin C and beta-carotene for rude immune systems, snazzy antioxidants to tackle hangovers, and vitamin E to keep your skin plump and delicious. And all in a spud!

You will need:

600g or 3 sweet potatoes

3 tablespoons coconut oil

½ teaspoon smoked paprika

¼ teaspoon ground cayenne chilli pepper

½ teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon coconut sugar, or sugar of your choice

½ teaspoon sea salt

Crank up your oven to 200°C, 400°F, Gas 6. Scrub each sweet potato under running water to remove any traces of dirt. Don't peel the skin or the fries will fall apart in the oven.

Chop the sweet potatoes into elegant fries measuring about 2cm (a bit less than 1in) in width. You'll need a large roasting tray, or two smaller ones. Tumble the fries on to the tray with some coconut oil and roast for 3 minutes. Then shake the tray to coat the fries evenly in the coconut oil, and bake for a further 15 minutes.

While the fries are doing their thing, in a bowl, mix the smoked paprika, the ground cayenne chilli pepper, the ground cumin, the coconut sugar, or the other sugar, whichever you are using, and the sea salt together.

Take the sweet potato fries out of the oven once they are cooked to your satisfaction. Sprinkle over the spices. Taste. It's like magical fairy dust.

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