These are indigenous to the South American continent where they have been grown for their food and medicinal properties since at least 7,500 BC. They were taken to the subcontinent by Spanish and Portuguese trader in the 16th century, and replaced the indigenous pippali pepper, as they proved easy to grow.
If you use fresh chillies of any description-and there are a good many of them, you should wash your hands thoroughly immediately after chopping them, as they will irritate your eyes or other parts of your body if you rub your hands on your skin.
Christopher Columbus thought they were another type of black pepper when he found them growing in the West Indies. I guess he was surprised when he tasted one!
Now in India, you can see 2 chillies and a lemon hung over doorways to ward off evil. Also, if you burn them, they will rid the place of any evil that might be lurking. They are the food of the poor as they are really cheap, and can be eaten raw with chapattis as a lunch time meal. They are from the same family (Solanaceae) as the tomato and potato.
You can use these as an antiseptic gargle for sore throats, and we think they are good for the blood. They are used in creams in the West to relieve muscle pains.
Here we have ground red chilli pepper, which is just that, although while researching red chillies I found that some commercially produced ‘chilli powder ‘is mixed with other spices such as ground cumin. When buying the powder, go for the real, unadulterated stuff, which you may need to find in an Asian store.
PIRI PIRI SAUCE
12 red chillies finely chopped, with seeds
1 tsp salt
1 cup olive oil
a third of a cup white wine vinegar
a third of a cup whisky
3 or 4 garlic cloves, very finely chopped
Put in all ingredients in a glass jar with airtight lid and shake to mix. Leave for a month before using, but turn the jar upside down every day. You don’t need to shake it vigorously.
This has Taste and is a Treat.
This recipe is authentic. I was given it by a bar owner in a backstreet bar/restaurant in northern Portugal.