23 March 2018
Pepper Menu - classifying peppers by their smells, flavours and food pairings.
MYSTERIOUS, SWEET AND SULTRY
Aroma: Warm and fragrant – cloves.
Flavour: Distinct taste of cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. A slight numbing tingling late on – nothing peppery.
Food pairing: Pork and veal pâtés and terrines, chicken, meat, grilled fish, pickled herring, aubergines, carrots, parsnip, squash, sweet potato, fruit pies or compôte (apple, pear), fruit salad.
Origin: Grown in Caribbean and tropical central America. 6-10m trees grown in “walks” (plantations). Picked in September-time when still green, dried on concrete platforms, turn to grey brown.
Aroma: Resinous wood, furniture polish and burnt tyres, then boiled sweets and hints of smoky Yunnan tea.
Flavour: Starts with dried broad beans followed by pleasant musky, boxwood flavour that is (perhaps) suggestive of pepper, but mildly bitter. No heat.
Food pairing: Crushed and add to soups or stews – meat and vegetables. In sweet coffee.
Origin: 20m evergreen tree found lowland rainforest and moist fringe forests of lowland savannah in west Africa. Pods picked when green and unripe, drying to dark-brown.
CHILOÉ PEPPER, Chile ②
Drimys winteri var. chiloense
Aroma: Candied fruit, cranberry.
Flavour: Spicy and bitter.
Food pairing: Grilled or barbecued meat, pork, steak tartare, stews.
Origin: Chiloé Island, Valdivian temperate rainforests, oceanic climate. The Mapuche use Chiloé like pepper.
Aroma: Light scent that is lively fruity and vegetal, with spiciness of coriander and pine, and herby blackcurrant leaves.
Flavour: Gentle and sweet at start, with pine-like woodiness and a hint of pepper, and a bitter ending. No heat.
Food pairing: Feathered game, pork, poultry, braised veal, butter sauce for asparagus and broad beans, chive-infused cheese, dark chocolate, chocolate pudding, sauces for langoustines, lobster, meaty fish and veal.
Origin: Pepper tree native to Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay. In autumn, white flowers and berries that ripen to bright red. Harvested when ripe, then dried, brined, or freeze-dried (the best).
KORARIMA (KURARIMA), Ethiopia ⑤
Aroma: Herbaceous and fruity, resin, hints of tobacco.
Flavour: Gently warming, fruity and hints of roasted caraway and herbs – long complex hot and spicy.
Food pairing: Stewed beef or mince, chicken liver pâté, grilled red snapper and delicately-flavoured fish, dark chocolate mousse.
Origin: Ethiopian pepper – type of cardamom. Endemic to Basketo region (2000m). Smallholdings in lower levels of humid forests. Picked when mature as pod reddens, dried in sun on bamboo racks. Seeds within pods.
PASSION BERRY, Ethiopia ⑤
Aroma: Exotic aromas, with notes of soft fruit – passion fruit, followed by raspberries and strawberries.
Flavour: Soft, velvety, fruity.
Food pairing: Sea bass and monkfish (baked or grilled), prawn cocktail, pan-fried vegetables, white asparagus or ceps, pear tart. In sweet coffee.
Origin: Shrub (1.5m) in tropical Africa, especially Ethiopia (1500-2000m). Smallholdings and allotments in Basketo. Used mainly as herb, in kuti (local coffee blend) and some berbere mixes.
WARMING, WOODY AND PEPPERY
GREEN PEPPER, India ④
Aroma: Fresh and lively, warm pepperiness – a hint of pine. Freeze-dried: no pine, herbaceous and minty.
Flavour: Fresh and frivolous direct heat. Toned down pungency vis-à-vis black pepper. Brined: hot, crunchy, but no pungency.
Food pairing: Grilled fish, terrines, chicken, duck, pork, red meat – pan-fried steak, beef carpaccio, pan-fried mushrooms (chanterelles, oyster mushrooms).
Origin: Oceanic, double monsoonal climate. Harvested unripe spikes (drupes) on India’s Malabar coast – heart not fully formed. Freeze-dried best, sun-dried good, brined popular.
Aroma: Peppery, warming, sweet roasted oily wood with lemony notes.
Flavour: Menthol clean and warming, with floral hints and spiced fruit, ending with penetrating cleansing taste – underlying umami meatiness.
Food pairing: Almost everything: game, poultry, red meat – steak, burgers, sausages, scallops, mashed potato, pan-fried vegetables, ratatouille, chocolate puddings, strawberries.
Origin: Harvested slightly unripe spikes (drupes), sundried with husk (pericarp), heart formed.
WHITE PEPPER, India, Indonesia, Madagascar, Malaysia, Vietnam ⑤
Aroma: Fresh peppery and camphorous, hints of damp sports’ socks. Can have a sharp pepper smell, but often too mild.
Flavour: Full and pungent, sharp, hot and tingly, but less spicy depth than black pepper, end is bittersweet.
Food pairing: Roast chicken, red meat, beef or pork casserole, sausages, white sauces for meat, vegetables (cauliflower) and pasta.
Origin: Harvested fully ripe drupes that are yellow-red, with husk (pericarp) removed by retting (soaking in water). Best is Muntok (Indonesia) and Sarawak (Malaysia). “Coriander white” excellent.
RED PEPPER, India ⑥
Aroma: Woody, warming and clear sweet fruitiness.
Flavour: Moderate heat and pungent pepper-spiciness, with distinct sweet berry taste.
Food pairing: Grilled fish, terrines, pan-fried steak, beef carpaccio, pan-fried mushrooms (chanterelles, oyster mushrooms), pasta in creamy cheese sauce (cacio e pepe), salad dressing.
Origin: Harvested fully ripened berries with husk (pericarp) – heart fully formed. Slow drying maintains red colours and allows spiciness to develop.
Premier cru pepper
BLACK ALLEPPEY PEPPER (MALABAR PEPPER), India ⑤
Aroma: Peppery, woody, warming, sweet roasted oily wood aromas.
Flavour: Warming, floral, spiced fruit and cleansing – hints of mint. Umami.
Food pairing: Charcuterie, poultry, steak, scallops, pan-fried vegetables, ratatouille, chocolate puddings, strawberries.
Origin: Harvested on India’s Malabar coast; Alleppey better than Malabar pepper (bulked graded). Oceanic, double monsoonal climate. Harvested when fully ripened, mainly smallholdings.
Grand cru pepper
PHU QUOC PEPPER, Vietnam ④
Aroma: Spicy, wild and peppery, leathery, fermented cacao and fruit.
Flavour: Fruity and spicy pepper, with good heat. A touch of umami.
Food pairing: Game, seafood, beef in red wine sauce, sheep’s cheese, caramelized fruit.
Origin: Sandy soils, oceanic climate. Produced in very small quantities. Black with slight red colour.
FERMENTED BLACK PEPPER (PICKLED PEPPER), Sri Lanka, Vietnam ④
Aroma: Delicate peppery smell with hints of overripe fruit, slightly smoky.
Flavour: Juicy not crunchy texture; fresher, livelier pepper taste, with less spice and woodiness, fruitier and more direct heat.
Food pairing: Red meat, chicken, game, meaty fish, egg dishes, steamed vegetables, pineapple.
Origin: Harvested slightly unripe spikes (drupes), pickled with salt in husk (pericarp), heart formed.
BLACK TELLICHERRY PEPPER, India ⑤
Aroma: Spicy and peppery, citrus-lemon aromas that hints of humid woods.
Flavour: Warming pepper that is spicy, cleansing-menthol and floral with a lemon-citrus end. Umami – rich caramelized meat.
Food pairing: Poultry, steak, perch and pike, sweetbreads, egg dishes (eggs Benedict), pasta, fruit pies, goat’s cheese – Innes goat’s cheese brick.
Origin: Bold black peppercorns, harvested on Indian Malabar coast.
SMOKED BLACK PEPPER, India ⑤
Aroma: Rounded smoky smell, warm and peppery.
Flavour: Classic pepper taste with light smokiness, ending with cleansing menthol flavours.
Food pairing: Game, poultry, red meat – steak, burgers, cheese sauces, white sauces for pasta, chicken, fish or vegetables, omelettes, pan-fried vegetables.
Origin: Harvested slightly unripe spikes (drupes), sundried with husk (pericarp), heart formed. Smoked.
RED KAMPOT PEPPER, Cambodia ⑥
Aroma: Peppery with notes of fruit compôte of candied lemon peel and cherries.
Flavour: Peppery-spicy with hints of vanilla and candied lemon peel.
Food pairing: Steamed sea bass, hot smoked salmon, lamb, veal, chicken tagine, chicken liver pâté, Innes goat’s cheese brick.
Origin: Sandy soils, oceanic climate, PGI (Pepper Geographic Identification). Harvested when fully ripe, fixed by plunging in boiling water.
WHITE PENJA PEPPER, Cameroon ⑥
Aroma: Fresh, camphor and menthol that develops into musky notes and hints of caramelized meat.
Flavour: Fresh, that becomes wild and musky, then hot and spicy that blends with caramelized meat. Often underwhelms.
Food pairing: Baked turbot, game, chicken wrapped in bacon, red meat – rack of lamb or rubbed into belly pork, beef or pork casserole, pan-fried green asparagus, fruit salads.
Origin: Volcanic soils, small family run farms with almost all production done by local women, PGI.
ASHANTI PEPPER (LIKUOALA PEPPER, FALSE CUBEB), Congo ④
Aroma: Burnt hay, floral.
Flavour: Less peppery than black peppercorns – herbaceous, floral and menthol.
Food pairing: Grilled chicken, chocolate puddings, fruit salad.
Origin: Grows wild on vines up to 20m high. Picked by Bayaka people in north east Congo – Ituri rainforest.
ASSAM PEPPER, India ④
Aroma: Peppery woodiness, smoky, tobacco notes.
Flavour: Starts warming, slightly hot and resinous, then ends with drying numbness like Sichuan.
Food pairing: Feathered game, roast chicken, lamb or mutton stews, goat, eel, baked salmon.
Origin: Small oval spikes of minute fruits harvested unripe green then sun-dried to brown or grey-black.
CUBEB PEPPER (TAILED PEPPER, JAVA PEPPER), Indonesia ④
Aroma: Fresh pepper and spice, sweet resinous wood (eucalyptus or pine), smoky tea (Yunnan).
Flavour: Warming, camphorous and pine-like with some bitterness, but cooks to sweeter woodiness and hints of smoked black tea.
Food pairing: South East Asian dishes, pâtés, feathered game, roast chicken, lamb or mutton stews (tagines), sausages, goat, chutneys, mint chocolate mousse, fruit compôte.
Origin: Native to Indonesia. Small, tailed peppercorns. Harvested when green and sun-dried to deep brown-black.
TIMIZ PEPPER, Ethiopia ④
Aroma: Peppery, resinous wood, roasted herbs with hints of lemon.
Flavour: Hot and spicy, followed by long and complex exotic woody, peppery spiciness.
Food pairing: Chicken liver pâté, chicken, langoustine, fresh goat’s cheese, bitter chocolate puddings.
Origin: Endemic, wild-harvested in south-western Ethiopian Highlands (2000m). Dried on hearth of local tukul homes.
VOATSIPERIFERY PEPPER, Madagascar ④
Aroma: Strongly peppery and fruity base, with notes of wood, floral with hint of lemon balm/ lemongrass.
Flavour: Hot and spicy, followed by exotic woody, pepper spice.
Food pairing: Baked sea bass, grilled or roast chicken, fried mushrooms (oyster mushrooms), crunchy vegetables (carrots or courgettes), Hollandaise and mayonnaise, chocolate fudge cake and rich chocolate sauces.
Origin: Oceanic, tropical forests in south-east Madagascar. Grows wild on vines up to 30m, berries only at top on new shoots. Picked by Malagasy in June-August.
LONG PEPPER, India, Indonesia ⑥
Piper longum and Piper retrofactum
Aroma: Sweet fragrant woodiness that is slightly smoky – perfumed incense.
Flavour: Starts black pepper-like with hints of perfumed orris, followed by an intense, biting and numbing end. Indonesian long pepper is the more pungent.
Food pairing: Roast chicken, slow casseroled lamb, chutney.
Origin: Piper longum (India), Piper retrofactum (Indonesia). Spikes of minute fruits harvested unripe green then sun-dried to brown or grey-black. Largest is “Elephant Pepper”.
RED LONG PEPPER, Cambodia ⑥
Aroma: Lightly peppery – starts with leathery notes, followed by fermented cacao and honey mead (metheglin).
Flavour: Starts freshly-cut wood with fruity cacao notes, followed by an intense and fiery end.
Food pairing: Roast lobster, chicken glazed with honey, rabbit, pasta with beans (pasta e faglioli), chocolate puddings especially dark mousse, red wine sauces.
Origin: Volcanic soils north of Mount Bokor from small family farms. Khmer - daï plaï – means “short arm”. Harvested when fully ripe, fixed by plunging in boiling water.
HOT AND FRUITY
PAPRIKA (PIMENTÓN), Balkans, Hungary, Spain ②
Capsicum annuum spp
Aroma: Warm and fruity, sometimes with light smoke.
Flavour: Sweet fruit with distinct bitterness and picante warmth. Sometimes smoky.
Food pairing: Chicken, pork and veal casseroles, steak (goulash), fish, beans, broccoli, cauliflower, peas, rice, squash, sweet potato, tomatoes, egg dishes and white sauces as garnish.
Origin: Large fruit pods (20cm), colour from red to red-brown. No “paprika” pepper – comes from various mild capsicums.
CAYENNE PEPPER (PIMENTON), Worldwide ⑥
Capsicum spp (C frutescens)
Aroma: Sharp warmth, with hints of smokiness. Best has sweet notes.
Flavour: Direct heat suggestive of sweetness – often masked by its heat. Can be bitter.
Food pairing: Chicken, pork, veal, beef, meaty fish, prawns, egg dishes, aubergines, beans, courgettes, potato, rice, squash, tomatoes, pulses, tofu.
Origin: Small fruit pods (5-10cm), colour from orange to red. No “cayenne pepper” – from Tupi for chilli, kyynha. Uses various medium-hot capsicums or chillis mixed to medium-hot.
TINGLES LIKE PINS AND NEEDLES
MA KHAEN BERRY (INDIAN PEPPER, LEMON PEPPER), Vietnam ②
Aroma: Fruity with notes of refreshing medicinal herbs – sweet grapefruit and mandarins, then notes of lemongrass and fruity tea develop.
Flavour: Starts with fairly intense, fresh and acidic taste that becomes peppery with overtones of lemon-lime. Not numbing.
Food pairing: Turbot with oyster mushrooms, roasted lobster tails, roast duck, pork chops, chocolate orange cake.
Origin: Vietnam, unripe fruits harvested.
TIMUR PEPPER, Nepal ②
Aroma: Fruity and herby – lemongrass, ripe citrus fruits - pink grapefruit with floral notes.
Flavour: Gentle spicy warmth – initially minty and lemon-grapefruit, then bitter with cooling sensation.
Food pairing: Pan-fried scallops, pan-fried lemon sole, lobster in citrus butter, roast chicken with mushrooms, grouse, rack of lamb, quails eggs, sheep’s cheese, chocolate puddings.
Origin: Endemic to Mahabharat mountains (Lesser Himalayas) (2000m), thorny bushes (4m tall).
ANDALIMAN PEPPER (BATAKS BERRY), Indonesia ④
Aroma: Orange and bergamot – pink grapefruit or pink lemonade, then floral bergamot – a good Earl Grey.
Flavour: Starts with an almost sweet orange taste, that becomes black Kenyan or Rwandan tea with a fresh, lemongrass-Kaffir lime leaf plus a definite drying and tingling end.
Food pairing: Roasted lobster tails, scallops, gravadlax or poached salmon, salted cod (baccala mantecato or similar), veal casserole, white asparagus, fresh cheese – Loch Arthur’s Crannog (goat’s cheese), chocolate mousse, orange fruit salad.
Origin: Wild harvested on north Sumatra by Batak Toba people.
Aroma: Mildly peppery, then beech nuts, pine-needles and a subtle fruitiness.
Flavour: Initially camphorous and slightly peppery, with hint of fruit, then persistent numbing heat.
Food pairing: Chicken, lamb, aubergines, parsnip, squash, roasted root vegetables, tomatoes, couscous, risotto, fruit pies or compôte (apple, pear), fruit salad, spiced beers.
Origin: Seeds of 2½m perennial reed-like plant with yellow leaves, local to humid tropics of west Africa, mainly Ghana but south to Congo. Seeds come from fig-shaped, orangey fruit.
SICHUAN PEPPER, China ⑤
Aroma: Intense lemon-lime and kumquat, that becomes enchantingly floral and woody incense.
Flavour: Starts with pepper and ripe citrus, then tangy and bittersweet, with a lingering fresh tingling, numbing sensation on the tongue. Flavour is in the husk; roasting or dry-frying enhances.
Food pairing: Pan-fried green asparagus, French beans, duck or goose pâté, turbot, beef casserole, roast duck and pork, fried chicken wings, chocolate fudge cake, pineapple, strawberries.
Origin: Small berries, shrubs that have a crimson foliage. Initially green, that turn red-brown when ripe for picking, open gradually to release two seeds.
SANSHO PEPPER, Japan ⑥
Aroma: Starts spicy menthol then delicately floral and lemon-lime, with sweet Muscat notes.
Flavour: Initially sharp and tangy lemon-lime, then long fresh numbing sensation that hints of camphor and makes mouth water
Food pairing: Smoked salmon or gravadlax, lobster tails, poached salmon, eel and other fatty fish, poached chicken, grilled steak, panna cotta, fruit salad.
Origin: Wakayama prefecture. Orange coloured berries picked in July-August, sun-dried. Essential to shichimi togarashi.
Aroma: Sweet grass and pine woods, oily, turpentine, warming and hints of clementine.
Flavour: Intensely hot versus black pepper – pungent bite and numbing sensation like Sichuan pepper that persists; no pepper pungency. Leaves: herbaceous woody taste, with hints of lemon and a tingling mouthfeel.
Food pairing: Slow-cooked casseroles of game, beef and lamb, marinades for red meat, pulses, carrots, squash, rich egg/cream puddings (pana cotta, zabaglione). Best cooked – don’t add as pepper to cooked food. Leaves: salad dressing, omelettes.
Origin: Endemic to Australia – uplands of New South Wales, Tasmania and Victoria. Small trees. Berries harvested when ripe, dried or brined. Leaves used fresh or dried – best fresh.
⑧ Too hot
⑥ Hot, pungent
① Mild, sweet