Monday 28 April 2008

Dried green peppercorns: try them in this pungent salt mix

If you have a taste for freshly milled black pepper, look out for whole dried green peppercorns. These are the unripened, dehydrated form of black peppercorns and they are milder and slightly fruiter, with a clean and sparky aroma - ideal for using in dishes where you'd like a mellow, peppery flavour without the aggression and throat-catching pungency of black pepper.

Dried green peppercorns aren't available in supermarkets in South Africa, but you will be able to find them at your local Indian spice shop (I've also seen them at the spice stand at the Rosebank Rooftop Market). Put them in your pepper mill and grind them directly over the food (I've put green peppercorns in both my grinders and have banished the black 'corns to the back of the cupboard, for use only in the heartiest of stews, roasts, pickles and potjies.)

These pale green, puckered little beauties can also be rehydrated by soaking them in wine, stock or water for an hour or so - a lifesaver you're fresh out of brined Madagascar green peppercorns and in the mood for steak with a creamy pepper sauce.

Here's a nice all-purpose flavouring salt-and-pepper mix, à la Jamie Oliver, using dried green peppercorns. This recipe makes a big quantity, but it keeps well in a sealed jar or tupperware box. Delicious with roast chicken, lamb chops and steak, in soups, stews and salad dressings, or sprinkled over potatoes before they're roasted.

Green Peppercorn, Rosemary and Lemon Salt

finely grated rind of 5 lemons
120 ml (8 T) dried rosemary (or fresh rosemary needles, very finely chopped)
120 ml (8 T) dried green peppercorns
1 cup (250 ml) flaked or coarse salt

Spread the grated lemon lemon rind and (if you're using the herb fresh) the rosemary needles on a baking sheet or chopping board and place in a beam of sunlight until dry (how long this takes will depend on where in the world you live. In South Africa in summer, an hour is enough. If you don't have many sunbeams, place the mixture in a warmish, well-ventilated area overnight, or in a warm oven or airing cupboard). Add the peppercorns and the salt and mix well.

Now grind the mixture to a coarse powder using a stone mortar and pestle (you'll need to do this in batches) or - even better - a coffee grinder. You can also grind the mixture using a liquidiser with a strong metal blade. If the mixture still seems a little wet, spread it out and allow it to dry completely before giving it a good final mix and decanting into a lidded jar or plastic container.
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