My pepper adventure continues…….
Red Long Pepper – the name brings to mind a chilli look-a-like but there is no resemblance whatsoever. For one thing, it is not a “berry” like the standard black, white and green peppers – and for another, it reminds me more of a caterpillar, a longish, thin beast, with slightly knobbly, dark skin. It is grown in the organic soils of Cambodia’s Mount Bokor and harvested when fully ripe before being plunged into boiling water to “fix” its specific properties. The flavour is hard to pin down: exotic and peppery certainly, although not overpoweringly so; quite fruity with a hint of honey; woody in some ways, and there is even a suggestion of chocolate, which is why Steenbergs of York recommend adding it to chocolate mousse, a combination which I have yet to test. Needless to say, trying to grind it in a pepper mill is a very frustrating and pointless exercise, so use a sharp knife to cut it into 1 cm lengths and then pulverise it in an electric spice mill to make a tawny powder.
Alijouke aux Carottes, a Tunisian “salad”, is a brightly hued purée which is normally served as part of a mezze selection. It is traditionally seasoned with typical north African spices such as cumin and coriander, but in this case I am using the Cambodian Red Long Pepper which jazzes up the carrots subtly and delicately, with an aromatic flavour which becomes increasingly intense with every mouthful.
Serves 6 as part of a mezze selection
700 g/1 1/2 lb carrots, scrubbed and sliced into 1 cm/1/2 in thick rounds
275 g/10 oz potatoes, peeled and cut into small chunks
1 garlic clove, peeled
60 ml/4 tbsp olive oil
15 ml/1 tbsp fresh lemon juice or to taste
2 Red Long Peppers, diced and finely ground in an electric spice mill
250 ml/8 fl oz/1 cup thick natural yoghurt, seasoned with salt – I use coconut yoghurt
10 pitted black olives, halved lengthways
Coriander/cilantro leaves, to garnish (optional)
Fine sea salt
Toasted pitta bread, tortilla chips, crudités or other accompaniment of your choice
Steam the carrots and potatoes until tender. Cool slightly then place them in a food processor, along with the garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, three quarters of the ground Red Long Pepper and some salt. Blend until smooth. Adjust the seasoning, adding more lemon juice if necessary – you are looking for a tang, rather than outright acidity.
Scrape the purée into a wide, shallow serving dish. Spoon over the yoghurt, scatter over the olives, garnish with coriander leaves and finally dust with the remaining Red Long Pepper.
Serve immediately with toasted pitta bread, tortilla chips, crudités or any other accompaniment of your choice.
The purée will sit happily for several hours, or even overnight in the refrigerator but the longer you keep it, the more delicate the pepper flavour becomes. Bring back to room temperature before serving.
Check out my other pepper adventure recipes: Black Venus Rice with Pomegranate, Mango and Passion Berry Pepper; Indonesian Stir-fried Prawns with Mango and Andaliman Pepper; and Tenderstem Broccoli with Ginger, Chilli and Timur Pepper