Cape Town - Does cold get a bad rep? Is cold like the different kid in class, the one the other guys always pick on? Should we rather think of cold as something, well… cool? The way we think of eccentrics or risk-takers, the way we think of the straight guy who wears a pink shirt or the woman who thinks, to hell with the man’s world, I’m taking charge?

Take vodka, for instance. Vodka is best served iced, straight from the freezer. It doesn’t freeze, it just attains an icy zing. Vodka is so cool it’s hot. Cold can be seriously hot. Cape Town, let’s face it, is cooler than Joburg, even if they get much more hot weather up there and less rain. There will be trendy cappuccino hipsters in Jozi who would beg to differ, but offer them an air ticket to Cape Town and they’ll be here in a flash, hitting all the, er, coolest hipster joints.

Hipsters are cool, but are they hot? The right hat, worn at the right angle, up above a 5 o’clock shadow face – like I’m so cool I don’t always feel the urge to shave, dude – and just 12cm, give or take, above the jargon-spouting lip that sips the Vida e caffè latte ’cos like all the other coffee places are s**t bru and like they don’t chirp. How cool is a hipster? Really? It’s cool to conform, to copy the uniform? Nah. Cool is standing out from the crowd, not donning a uniform. Cool is daring to challenge the status quo, and that is hot.

Who’s cool in this world? Is Johnny Depp cool? Oh, yes. Because Johnny Depp was being Johnny Depp before he was even invented.

Are the Kardashians cool, or Paris Hilton? Like hell. The Kardashians are as cool as the kid in class who bullies the guy who always gets picked on. Reality stars are never hot, any more than the kid in class who always demands attention is someone that anyone with any more than half a brain would want to spend the time of day with.

All the ageing American women who think that to stay in the movies they need to succumb to Botox, are they hot? Nah. Diane Keaton is one who stood against the trend and defied Hollywood not to keep employing her in the movies. She’s made it a stock-in-trade of her later career to play genuinely ageing women. She gets a lot of work – there not being much competition left that didn’t choose the thick lip. Keaton made a hot choice, and she won.

Let’s hear it for the guy who walks up to the tank and sticks a rose in the cannon. That’s red hot. Let’s hear it for the guy who isn’t emasculated by having a woman as a partner who carries as much clout as he does in their professions. That’s red hot to any woman who isn’t pathetic enough to be happy to put up with a life spent in someone else’s shadow.

Let’s hear it for the originals, the mavericks, the ones who give the finger to the numbingly obvious. They’re super hot. They’re jazz hot. They’re chilli hot.

And chillies are not the mavericks of the kitchen repertoire for nothing. Chillies are cool. If carrots and peas and cabbage and onions are the well-behaved kids in class who always cross their t’s and dot their i’s, chillies cross their i’s and dot their t’s.

Kim Kardashian is a lumpen cauliflower compared with the sleek red chilli that is Johnny Depp. If Paris Hilton is a spoonful of the ubiquitous red chilli sauce – all formula, no substance – Diane Keaton is a habanero, an attractive package with a fiery secret. There is of course an exception to every rule, and that would be Cher, who is super hot and endlessly cool, no matter which way you look at her. (“Best through gauze,” says someone in the wings).

It’s the time of year, then, when it’s wise to start keeping chillies in the crisper to give a bite to the cold that’s closing in on us. Whether they’re fire-engine red or a cool green, their colour can hoodwink you into believing one is hotter than the other, whereas any chilli nut knows that the green can often blast your palate way more than one of the red varieties.

And who is cooler – the one who demands more chilli no matter how much has gone into the curry, or the one who appreciates the greater balance of flavour? The jury is ever out on that one.

So add one chilli to this curry, or three, as you prefer. I used only one, and it had loads of heat, bearing in mind that the masala I used is one that we had mixed in Durban and it is a hellish hot mix. On top of that, the spices include star anise, which has a nice kick.


Chilli-hot chicken curry with brinjals and baby onions

Serves 4

1 tsp each mustard seeds, fennel seeds, cumin seeds, cardamom seeds

2 star anise

1 stick cinnamon

3 tbs ghee (clarified butter)

1 tbs sugar

Chillis to taste, chopped

3cm piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, smashed and chopped

12 baby onions

2 cups water

1 regular can chopped tomatoes

1 heaped tbs masala (curry powder, Daisy)

Salt to taste

1 large brinjal

6 chicken breast fillets

Toast spices in a dry pan for a minute, tossing the pan so they don’t burn. Add ghee. When it’s melted, tilt pan this way and that so that all spices are covered by the fat. When the seeds start to crackle, add the sugar and stir. Add the ginger, garlic and chillies, simmer for a minute, then the onions. Simmer for five minutes, tossing the pan. Add 2 cups cold water and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook for 15 minutes. Add chopped tomatoes and masala, season with salt, cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Add the brinjals and chicken pieces and simmer until done, about 20 minutes.

Don’t try to appear too cool when serving it. That wouldn’t be hot at all.

Weekend Argus