Ask Me Anything: Hot to cook with & without peppers & how to become an influencer
Very relatable dilemmas, answered!
Have you got a burning question for me?
I receive a lot of interesting questions. From requests for Jamie Oliver & Akon’s contact details to lipstick recommendations, “how to write a cookbook?” to recipe ideas, restaurant and travel recommendations, especially across Africa. Most amusing questions about my dog’s silky and shiny hair have also been welcomed, as those who know me well, know how much I adore my boy Tuppence. We are one of those “people who look like their pets”, I am not ashamed to admit that.
Each week, I will share an ASK ME ANYTHING post, like this one, where you can drop your questions in the comments section. As many questions as possible will be answered weekly, via the newsletter, with priority given to questions from our paid club members. I love receiving your messages, and I thank you for taking the time to send them. Sometimes I am able to answer immediately, sometimes it takes me a week or even months later, because there are just so many of them. So I thought, what better way to communicate than through the Cook with Lerato community here?! The sky really is the limit, darlings! Ask me anything!
This week, I answer questions about one of my beloved vegetables, peppers! And a very interesting question, “How can I become an influencer? I assure you, my responses will be most applicable to you. Pepper lover or not, real life influencer or not! I hope you find my tips useful.
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Got a burning question? Leave your questions in the comments below.
Your two most common pepper questions!
Help! Too hot to handle.
Hi Lerato! I'm new here but wondering about peppers. As someone who loves the various tastes of peppers but struggles with the heat, what do you recommend for me to incorporate them into cooking while not killing my tongue? ~ Zach
Zach, thank you for this brilliant question. Your question implies your struggle with chillies. The heat of the particular chilli being used and the size of your dish will determine how warm your dish will turn out. I typically use one scotch bonnet blended into a curry for 4-6 people and that’s hot to me, tolerably hot. When used in a pot of jollof for 4-6 people, with all the rice, tomatoes, aromatics and stock used in that one dish, the chilli ends up mildly hot and often , simply warm.
How to tame the heat
Zach, thank you for this brilliant question. Your question implies your struggle with chillies. The heat of the particular chilli being used and the size of your dish will determine how warm your dish will turn out. I typically use one scotch bonnet blended into a curry for 4–6 people and that’s hot to me, tolerably hot. When used in a pot of Jollof for 4–6 people, with all the rice, tomatoes, aromatics and stock used in that one dish, the chilli ends up mildly hot and often, simply warm.
How to tame the heat
One of the best ways to use chillies and enjoy their flavour and warmth without the heat is to poke or slice into them and simply drop into your stew. Cook for 15 - 20 minutes for the warmth of the chilli and remove. So as not to forget the chilli inside the stew, you can add in the final 15–30 minutes of cooking. I have witnessed, heard and read of quite a few occasions of desperate milk drinking, after knowingly or unknowingly gobbling up a whole scotch bonnet, especially one left at the bottom of the pot.
Once removed, use the cooked chilli to make a quick chilli oil by finely mincing and mixing the chilli with about 100-150 ml of good oil. Could be with cold pressed avocado or rapeseed (not canola) or extra virgin olive oil. Crush in a good pinch of sea salt and whisk in a bowl or shake it up in a jar. Keep refrigerated and use within 4–5 days, or store in a freezer proof container. Use as a dipping oil or to add warmth or heat to other recipes.
Enjoy the wonderful textures of sweet and mild peppers, such as bell and Romano with a little chilli flakes, chilli powder or smoky cayenne in various dishes. 1/8 - 1/4 teaspoon in an omelette, in a yoghurt and herb dip. 1/2 tsp in a curry for 4 people. The more you experiment with them, the more confident you will become when deciding how much chilli you can tolerate, and in what dish.
Pepper Intolerance. What to do?!
So excited to have this amazing book! I am intolerant to peppers, but have no problem with paprika! Would there be a pepper substitute for these amazing recipes? Thank you in advance! ~ Hayley.
There are a few things to consider when swapping ingredients. First, consider what the original ingredient adds to the dish, do you really need a replacement and if so, work your way around how best to replace it as closely as you can. In Africana, many of my recipes call for Romano peppers, blended into purées for curries, stews and soups, stir-fried or sautéed with onions and aromatics, roasted and even used as a cheat for that rouge from palm oil. Red peppers add texture, colour, sweetness and warmth to many recipes. For texture, I’d recommend mushrooms, shaved or sliced carrots, although these are much sweeter. Aubergines, green beans, and courgettes are also excellent swap with varying degrees of crispness depending on cooking method. For flavour, I’d recommend sweet paprika, often just called paprika, as Hayley mentioned above. This will add colour and a depth of flavour to your dish, similar to roasted peppers. Many of my recipes will specify paprika, smoked paprika or hot paprika. I recommend you taste the paprika first to be sure of how warm or hot it is before using. Get used to the produce that you have on hand and that which you use regularly.
The unexpected, yet common question!
How can I become an influencer? ~ Anonymous
I did ask you to ask me anything! Upon receiving this message, I thought, “How would I know?” I am still writing the response to the “How to become a published author” question(s). ✍🏽 I even made a cheeky video in response.
A French journalist recently described me as a chef and ‘influencer’! Much to my chagrin. And then the penny dropped. I may not be an algorithm obsessed content churning machine, however I am an influencer, and a bloody good one, in what I like to call, ‘real life’! You most likely are too, or can be one too, on and beyond social media.
I can confidently assume that this question is referring to being a social media influencer, a title, career or lifestyle that I never aspired to. However, not having the blue-print to becoming an influencer in the realm of social media does not mean I don’t know the responsibility of having influence on social media and in real life. Thanks to many years of work and passion, I have a voice, and thanks to you, it is growing stronger each day. Our community keeps growing, slowly and steadily. Some people build so much on social media and forget to build any impactful & memorable contact or experience with & for others in real life!
Do you educate, inspire, and empower anyone through your daily words and actions? If so darling, you are already an influencer! You’ve just got to fuel those words and actions with passion and purpose, and then acknowledge the validity and responsibility of your influence. When you carve an impeccable niche out for yourself and own it with great zeal, the universe will notice, and you will be amazed to see where life will take you. Each of us has a voice. The question is, how do you want to use yours?
A question for you!
What is the one dish that brings you back to the happy days of your childhood?
I asked you this question in last week’s letter along with a recipe I am very proud of, loved by the one and only Nigella Lawson and with quite the extensive list of variations in the Cook’s Tips. I also answer quite a number of your questions from meat cuts to plant-based alternatives, alcohol free version and slow-cooker/oven variations. It’s a whopper. Read here!
I hope you find today’s answers useful. Share your thoughts and don’t forget to ask me anything!
Lots more to come!
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