This misunderstood spice packs a far bigger punch than most chilli powders. Cayenne pepper has a heat which builds, and at 30,000-50,000 it ranks higher up the Scoville Scale (measuring chilli heat) than Kashmiri chilli powder or paprika.
Cayenne pepper was particularly popular in the Edwardian era, when it spiked devilled kidneys or potted shrimp. Since then, cayenne pepper’s use has diversified, and it’s become a key ingredient for Eggs Benedict or a Bloody Mary. It’s a popular taco seasoning and is even used in desserts, like coffee parfait (see Raymond Blanc’s Kitchen Secrets).
Cayenne pepper can be used as a substitute for chilli powder, though you should scale-back the amounts, and expect a tingly, peppery heat. With regular use, it will become easier to gauge amounts, and soon this unsung hero of the spice cabinet will become one of the most used in your kitchen.
ALSO KNOWN AS: Capsicum annum
We import our cayenne pepper from India, which is one of the world’s top chilli producing countries. It’s the ideal climate – the heat-loving plants ripen in the sunshine, and are picked around August-September, before the first frost.
Cayenne pepper should be stored in a dark, airtight container, to prevent it from losing its colour and potency.
The most active ingredient in cayenne – capsaicin – has endless health benefits. It’s thought to boost the metabolism, help burn calories and satiate appetites. Studies also indicate that eating spicy foods on a regular basis may reduce mortality rates.