For most of my life, I have been a competitive chilli eater. When I start, I can’t stop. I eat chilli until my eyes water and my insides burn, just to see how far I can go. But in my middle ages, I’m happy to say that I have developed a more mature sensibility towards chilli, respecting the flavour of the chilli, rather than just chasing the heat.
Most of us usually regard chilli as fire and spice. But in doing so, we are overlooking the fact that the humble chilli is actually a fully-fledged fruit from the capsicum family, and hence, offers many of the flavour qualities of other peppers. Discovered in the Americas and widely varying in heat, flavour and use all over the world, chilli has the power to unequivocally transform a dish.
This salad is all about celebrating the mellower side of chilli peppers. Charring the chilli renders them sweeter and piquant, a flavour reminiscent of roasted capsicums. The feisty chilli flesh is harmoniously counterbalanced by the creamy buffalo mozzarella and lemon-scented crème fraiche. Feel free to use any fresh white cheese such as bocconcini, fior di latte, burrata or even chunks of ricotta. Make sure you consume this salad (as almost always with salads) at room temperature!
This recipe is from Hetty’s new book ‘Neighbourhood’ (RRP $39.99) published by Plum and available now from good bookstores and online here.