A friend who makes chilli sauces once gave me a jar full of various exotic dried chillies, then gave me a concerned look and said “You do know how to use dried chillies, don’t you?”. I snorted and rolled my eyes a few times to imply that, yes, of course I did, how could anyone not know, but then sheepishly admitted, “No”.
And to be fair, most people would probably look at a dried chilli and make very little connection between this and a finished meal, but using dried chillies in cooking gives you a great resouce that unlike fresh chillies is always available. Some chillies such as Chipotle (dried and smoked jalapeno chillies) can just be thrown in the pot whole with other ingredients and removed at the end, but traditional Spanish chillies such as the Guindilla and Nora from Brindisa Spanish Foods in the photo above require some simple preparation before use, as follows:
Using Dried Chillies
1. Open up the chillies fully with a knife, and remove as many seeds as you can.
2. Flatten out each chilli, then toast it in a dry pan (ideally cast iron), pressing the chillies into the pan until the skin starts to bubble slightly, go a slightly pale red colour and become more pliable (taking care not to burn them).
3. When you have toasted a few chillies, put them in a bowl then add boiling water until they are well covered.
4. Leave for 15-20 minutes, after which the chillies should be soft and can be pureed into a sauce or chopped up as you would fresh chillies.
An alternative to the above is to follow steps 1 and 2 then grind your chillies in a spice grinder – hot paprika is made from Guindilla chillies using this process, and there’s no better flavour to add to a meal than your own freshly made paprika. These chillies are also used in my previous recipes for quick pesto.