With flu season in full swing, we’re reaching for a nutrient-dense diet to help fight disease and keep body and mind at full capacity. It’s no secret we’re fans of a spicy hit in our tommy’s marg, but as it turns out, dialling up the chilli intake through winter can help ward off infection and boost our external glow, too.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, every organ responds to a specific flavour. The spicy flavour is said to correspond to lung energy and can expel wind and cold from the body due to its warming effects.
In a season where our respiratory system is threatened with environmental changes, and following years of COVID-induced isolation, our lungs need a little extra care this winter. Traditional Chinese Medicine considers the lungs to be the ‘first defence of the body’ – not unlike the concept of skin behaving as the ‘first line of defence’ from pathogens in Western medicine. On a side note – and by no coincidence – the skin is technically the body’s outer lung, and its pores are responsible for letting in or blocking out qi or pathogens. So, healthy lung function is crucial for healthy skin. Double tick.
When lung energy is not sufficient, impaired function can produce the common winter symptoms: colds, sinus problems, coughs, headaches, chills and body aches … Enter our little spicy friends! Chillies are said to have a warming action that promoted energy to move upwards and outwards to the body’s surface, moving qi, circulating the blood and dispelling mucus from the lungs.
On high rotation in the MAURIE AND EVE kitchen, this flavour-full chilli oil recipe works well on breakfast, lunch and dinner. Add it to eggs, pasta, and in a hot wok with broccolini for a healthy side dish. With the addition of antioxidant hero, ginger, it’s a winter pantry must have.
Thinly slice 10 garlic cloves; combine in a medium, heavy-based saucepan with 500ml of olive oil. Place pan over medium heat and cook, stirring frequently, until garlic is light golden (10 – 12 minutes). Place a fine sieve over a heatproof bowl and strain. Reserve oil and season garlic with fine salt. Set aside to cool.
Meanwhile, place 10 dried long red chillies in a small food processor and pulse until coarsely crushed.
Heat 250ml of oil in a medium heavy based saucepan over medium heat. Add crushed dried chillies, 10 thinly sliced long red chillies, 4 thinly sliced red shallots, 1 tbsp of caster sugar, 1 tbsp of salt flakes, 2 tbsp Maggie seasoning (don’t miss this ingredient!) and 30gm of ginger cut into julienne. Cook, stirring frequently, until chillies and shallots start to caramelise and stick to the base of the saucepan (15 – 25 minutes). Remove from heat and pour over reserved garlic chilli oil.
Using two forks, shred chilli mixture as it cools. Once cool, stir through crisp garlic then transfer chilli to a sterilised jar. Chilli oil will store at room temperature for up to 3 months.