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Chickpea, Roasted Pepper and Egg Salad With Cubeb Pepper

My pepper adventure continues...... Cubeb Pepper is also known as Tailed Pepper, for obvious reasons – a small, somewhat wrinkled black brown berry with a tiny stalk attached. It is native to Indonesia and is harvested when still green before being dried in the hot sun. The first taste was decidedly medicinal and bitter and caught rather abruptly in my throat. My second attempt was more cautious and allowed me to explore the other essences and aromas hiding behind the initial intensity. Steenbergs of York describe them as fresh pepper and spice, sweet resinous wood such as eucalyptus or pine, smoky tea, camphor. And yes, I found them all floating across my palate, and while these depictions make Cubeb Pepper sound rather aggressive and perhaps over-assertive, judicious use of the ground berry, both raw and cooked, results in a fascinating combination of flavours. A quick bit of further research on the internet revealed that Cubeb is popular in the cuisines of North Africa, so I am combining it with very Moroccon chickpeas in this recipe, where it adds a whisper of exoticism and spicy warmth. I have cooked some of it with the vegetables, to mellow its hard edge and bring out its sweetness and hints of nutmeg and cardamom; and then added it raw to the tahini dressing to accentuate its freshness. While it is possible to grind Cubeb Pepper in a standard pepper mill, it is rather hard work so I prefer to use an electric spice grinder. CHICKPEA, ROASTED PEPPER AND EGG SALAD WITH CUBEB PEPPER AND TAHINI DRESSING Serves 2 as a lunch dish, 4 as part of a mezze selection 1 large red pepper, about 200 g/7 oz, seeded and cut into pieces about 2 cm/3/4 in square 75 ml/5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil 175 g/6 oz red onions, peeled and sliced 1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed 7.5 ml/1 1/2 tsp ground Cubeb Pepper 5 ml15 ml/1 tbsp dark tahini 150 ml/1/4 pit/2/3 cup thick natural yoghurt – I used coconut yoghurt 1 x 400 b/14 oz tin chickpeas, drained and rinsed 100 g/4 oz cherry tomatoes, halved – a mixture of red and yellow looks pretty 15 ml/1 tbsp capers, rinsed, squeezed dry and roughly chopped 20 g/3/4 oz black olives, pitted and halved 30 ml/2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley 30 ml/2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander/cilantro 2 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and quartered Mixed salad leaves (optional) Fine sea salt Start by roasting the red pepper as this can be done well ahead of time. Preheat the oven to 180oC/350oF/gas 4/fan oven 160oC. Place the pieces of pepper in a small ovenproof dish, drizzle with 15 ml/1 tbsp of the oil, sprinkle with salt and bake for about 40 minutes, until soft and slightly blackened at the edges. Allow to cool and set aside until needed. Heat 15 ml/1 tbsp of oil in a small frying pan and add the onions. Cook over medium heat, stirring regularly, until translucent and slightly softened. Stir in the garlic, some salt and 5 ml/1 tsp of Cubeb Pepper and cook, yet again stirring regularly, for a further four or five minutes. Whisk the tahini and half a teaspoon of Cubeb Pepper into the yoghurt and add salt to taste. Place the red pepper, onions and garlic, chickpeas, tomatoes, capers, olives, the remaining olive oil and the herbs in a roomy bowl. Season well and mix gently. Line a large serving dish with salad leaves and pile the salad into the centre. Garnish with the egg quarters, drizzle with yoghurt and serve, with the remaining yoghurt on the side. See also Tunisian Carrot Purée with Red Long Pepper; Tenderstem Broccoli with Ginger, Chilli and Timur Pepper; Indonesian Stir-Fried Prawns with Mango and Andaliman Pepper; Black Venus Rice with Pomegranate, Mango and Passion Berry Pepper; and Pepper Sorcery and Magic.

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