My spice of choice is the chilli. Red or green, the spicier the better!
When you think of chillies, they seem to be inextricably linked to the east- to India, to Thailand, to Sri Lanka. Where the food is as fiery as the temperature is high. So it came as a complete shock to me, when I found out that chillies originate from the New World….and that they were unknown to the rest of the world 500 years ago!
It was Christopher Columbus who brought them across the Atlantic.
Columbus set sail in 1492, for the Spanish Crown, to find an eastward route to Cathay and the fabulous treasures of the Indies. His mission: to find spices, gold and souls for Christianity.
What Columbus encountered was exotic new plants and vegetables, and colourful natives, but none of the spices that the Spanish were familiar with. In his desperation he named the milder cousin of the spicy chilli, “pepper” after that highly sought after spice of the orient.
This soup combines Columbus’ bounty– Red peppers and red chillies to make a delicious soup that says : Mission Accomplished!
Recipe slightly adapted from Eating Well:
2 -3 tablespoons canola oil
1 small onion, diced
4 large red bell peppers, halved lengthwise, stemmed, seeded and diced
2-3 fresh red chillies, stemmed and coarsely chopped
1-2 cloves of garlic, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom (optional)
1/2 cup unsalted shelled pistachios
2 cups vegetable broth or water
1 cup nonfat buttermilk
2 tablespoons whipping cream
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil
Preheat oven to 250* C. Prepare a shallow baking tin with foil.
Drizzle red bell pepper with a mixture of garlic, salt and oil. Lay on the tin in a single layer and bake for 20 minutes, or until the pepper is tender and fragrant.
While the red pepper is baking, fry the onions and chillies in a tbsp of oil, just until the onions are transparent. Add the cardamom if desired. Set aside.
When the peppers are done, cool until they can be handled, and peel off the charred skin.
Put the diced pepper into the saucepan along with the onions, add the shelled pistachios, pour in 1/2 cup of water and bring to a boil. The water only needs to cover the peppers and the pistachio.
When the pistachios are tender (about 7-10 minutes), take off heat and allow the mixture to cool.
Blend when the mixture has cooled into a smooth purée.
Pour back into the saucepan, add the rest of the water or vegetable broth. Add the buttermilk and reheat gently. Check the salt adding more as needed.
Serve in bowls with a swirl of cream and fresh basil and some fresh bread rolls on the side.