Chillies & the Canary Islands

I recently came across some hot sauces that piqued my interest. The sauces are exceptionally tasty, but what really got my interest levels up was they were created using influences from the Canary Islands and Andalusia in Spain. “What?” I asked myself, “I thought the Spanish don’t particularly like spicy food?”. So, how is it that these great tasting sauces were created using these influences?” It just didn’t seem to add up. So, to solve this mystery, I put on my detective’s hat. Chief Inspector Morich was on the case.

I decided the first step was to work out how Chillies had become part of Canarian cuisine.  It was intriguing that this group of islands, so far removed from where spicy food is usually eaten, had developed a taste for Chillies

At first, there was not much to go on, until I found a link between the Canary Islands and Christopher Columbus. This was important, because Christopher Columbus was responsible for introducing Chillies to the Old World. Before he brought Chillies back to Europe (from the West Indies), they were not known there at all.

The link was that Christopher Columbus used to replenish his fleets in the Canary Islands when he went on his discovery voyages. Bearing in mind that the Canary Islands had been a colony of Spain, I was convinced this bit of information could help me solve the puzzle.

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The use of Chillies in Turkish cuisine

Chillies  in Turkish cuisine

Chillies play an important role in Turkish cooking. Both fresh Chillies ( hot or sweet ) and a variety of dried formats in colours that range from black and dark orange to different shades of red find themselves in Turkish cuisine.   Chillies are used either pickled or as paste, added as an ingredient to dishes or served as a condiment that is sprinkled over food after cooking.  Examples of  Turkish cooking where chillies are used include  Biber Salcasi ( red pepper paste), Sirkeli Biber  (pickled chillies), Cilber (Turkish eggs with Chilli), Hunkar begendi ( Lamb stew with aubergine puree) and Bulgur Lahana Kapuska   (Meat stew with cabbage, bulgar and peppers) and finally, not forgetting, of course, the wonderful Doner Kebab with chillies and a Chilli sauce

Chillies are commonly used in Turkish cuisine,  in the form of red pepper flakes or "pul biber" in Turkish.  These flakes are  often sprinkled on top of dishes such as pizza, lahmacun (Turkish flatbread with minced meat topping), soups, and stews.

Chillies are also used in the following ways :

  1. In dips and sauces: Chillies are also used to add heat to dips and sauces such as muhammara (a dip made with red peppers and walnuts), acılı ezme (a spicy tomato and pepper dip), and cacık (a yogurt and cucumber dip).
  2. In meat dishes: Chillies are used in many meat dishes in Turkey, such as kebabs, meatballs, and stews. For example, "Adana kebabı" is a spicy kebab dish made with minced meat and red pepper flakes.
  3. In breakfast dishes: In some regions of Turkey, a traditional breakfast dish called "menemen" is made with tomatoes,

The use of Chillies in Spanish cooking

Chillies in Spanish cooking. Spicy Paella

The History Of Chillies in Spain

While Christopher Columbus’ 1492 misguided voyage to the West Indies had the result that Spain probably became the first country in Europe where Chillies were introduced, the Spanish people did not become immediate fans. Initially, Chillies were considered mere biological curiosities from the New World. They  were initially only grown in monasteries and botanical gardens for their ornamental properties, rather than for their use as a culinary ingredient.

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Chillies in Portuguese cooking

Chillies in Portuguese cooking. Piri-Piri prawns

The History Of Chillies in Portugal

While they were hugely instrumental in popularising Chillies worldwide - having introduced them amongst others to countries like India and Sri Lanka - the Portuguese are not particularly fond of spicy foods.  Except for the  Piri-Piri Chilli,  which can be found as a sauce or oil on many Portuguese tables, you are more likely to find mild bell pepper type Chillies in Portugal’s cuisine.

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