Peppercorns

All About Peppercorns

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History & Origins

 The King of spices, pepper is one of the oldest and most popular spices in the world. It is also the spice that steered the history of the world. Pepper is prepared from the berries of a perennial evergreen vine.  It is native to the damp jungles of southwest India’s Malabar Coast.

Pepper was one of the earliest items of commerce between Asia and Europe.  It was highly prized as a precious commodity, so much so, that when Alaric, King of the Goths, laid siege to Rome in A.D. 408, he was paid a ransom of 3,000 pounds of pepper, an amount worth a vast fortune in those days.  In 13th century Europe, peppercorns were used as a currency to pay taxes, tolls and rents, and many European towns kept their accounts in pepper. At times it was worth more than the price of gold!

Varieties

Green Peppercorns

These are occasionally available fresh, still on the long stem. Used particularly in Thai cooking, green peppercorns also compliment duck dishes and creamy sauces. Green peppercorns are available prickled in brine or vinegar, or freeze-dried.

Black Peppercorns

The unripe green berries are dried on mats in the sun and raked several times a day for a week until they are wrinkled and black.

White Peppercorns  

The ripe red and orange berries are packed in sacks and soaked for a week under slowly running water. This process rots the outer husk of the berries so that it can be removed. The husked berried are white peppercorns.

Not The Real Thing!

Pink Peppercorns

These are not true peppercorns but they have a pungency associated with that spice and are similar in size to peppercorns.  Native to South America, pink peppercorns are picked when ripe and dried or prickled in brine.

Szechuan Pepper

Again not true peppercorn, Szechuan pepper is the fruit of the tree of the prickly ash family. The rust-red berries contain bitter black seeds that are usually removed before the spice is sold.

Aroma and Flavor

Black peppercorns have a rich and earthly aroma and they taste highly pungent. White peppercorns are less earthly and not as pungent or rich as the black peppercorns.

The flavour of white pepper is cleaner, less rich and not as complex. Green peppercorns are lighter in flavour than the black peppercorns, but just as hot. They do not smell or taste as complex as the other peppers.

Szechuan pepper is pungent, with a hint of citrus. Dry frying will bring out the flavor, which is pleasantly peppery.

Pink peppercorns do not have a strong aroma until they are crushed, then they give off a faint sweet-peppery smell. Their flavor is sweet and slightly scented with only a peppery aftertaste.

Health Benefits of Peppers

 Black pepper helps in digestion and also serves as an appetite stimulant. Black pepper stimulates the taste buds to notify the stomach to increase its secretion of hydrochloric acid thereby improving the digestion of food once it reaches your stomach.  The stimulation of hydrochloric acid secretion in the stomach also reduces intestinal gas problems.

Black pepper is also known to have a great amount of antioxidant properties and it also prevents bacterial growth in the intestinal tract.

Interesting Facts

In Chinese natural cures, black and white pepper are good for cold, abdominal pain, upset stomach, vomiting of clear water, diarrhea and food poisoning.

  • Boil 30g sliced fresh ginger with 1g of ground black pepper in 3 cups of water until water reduced to 1 cup. Drink this amount 3 times a day for 1 day to stop vomiting due to upset stomach.

In India, some organic agriculture use ground pepper mixed with water to spray on plants as a natural insecticide. The same solution can also be sprinkled on areas infested with ants. And if you are having some tummy trouble, below is a traditional Indian recipe for anti-flatulence.

  •  Mix ½ tsp of ground black pepper, ½ tsp of ground cumin, ½ tsp of ground ginger and 1 cup (250ml) of warm water together into a drink.

Buying & Storing Peppers & Preparation

Pepper is best purchased whole, as freshly ground pepper is very much superior to the ready ground powder. Whole peppercorns keep their flavour indefinitely but quickly lose its aroma and heat after it has been ground. Peppercorns should be stored in airtight containers, away from sunlight.

Dry roast the whole peppercorn in a wok on low heat to enhance its flavour before grinding and use within 1 week

Seasoning a Cast Iron Wok

 

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Seasoning a Cast Iron Wok

Use peanut or corn oil. Heat the wok for a few minutes until its entire surface is hot. Use a brush or a piece of cloth, brush a thin layer of cooking oil over its surface.  Tilt the wok from side to side, so that the entire surface of the wok gets the intense heat in order to burn the oil into it. After burning a few minutes all around, turn the heat off and let the pan cool completely to room temperature before beginning round two. When the wok has cooled, remove the excess oil in the wok with a paper towel. Turn the heat on high and let the wok heat for a few minutes until wafts of smoke can be seen lifting off its surface. Turn the pan from side to side and again and heat every inch of it to further burn in the first layer of oil. Then, brush in another coating and proceed as before to burn this second layer into the pan. After a few minutes, turn off heat and let pan cool.

Repeat the process 7 times, alternating heating with cooling, each time burning in the previous layer before adding another layer. Make sure to clean up excess oil that tends to collect in the centre of the wok before each reheating to prevent a thick, gel-like coating from forming there. After several coats of oil have been burned in, the wok will begin to turn dark, though the colouring may be uneven and splotchy. When the wok has developed  of a tacky, oily surface that does not look dry when heated up, you may begin to use it for cooking.

 

Avocado

 

Avocado

 History & Origin

Avocado originates from Central Mexico. It is also known as Alligator pear due to it’s rough, leather-like skin of an alligator and it resembles a pear.

Varieties

There are many varieties of avocado with their distinct shapes, sizes colours and flavours.

Hass Avocado – Available all year-round and has a rich flavor and creamy texture. It’s skin turns almost black when the avocado is ripe. This is the best variety by far for guacamole, but it turns a bit mushy in salads.

Fuerto Avocado – Florida Avocado – This is in season from late fall through spring.  It’s not quite as buttery as the Hass avocado, but its flavour is excellent.

Reed Avocado – This rather large and roundish avocado slips easily from the peel, and has excellent flavour and texture. It will stay firm even when ripe, not a good choice for making guacamole.

Nutritional Facts

The avocado has been known to contain higher fat content than most other fruit, mostly monounsaturated (which is a good fat). About 75% of the calories found in a single avocado fruit are actually monounsaturated fat.This nutrient packed fruit contains nutrients such as vitamin A, several B-complex, powerful anti-oxidant like vitamin C and E, Calcium, Iron, Potassium, etc.  It is rich in potassium and other essential minerals are iron and copper for the blood, phosphorus and magnesium. The sodium content in avocados and its low sugar content and absence of starch makes it an ideal fruit for diabetics and hypoglycemicsIt is also one of the richest sources of fiber among all fruits and vegetables. . It has been proven to help lower cholesterol level and increase your immune system.

Interesting Facts

Did you know…… ?

The Aztec called the avocado tree, ‘Ahuacualt’ which translates to testicle tree because the fruits grows in pairs and resembles the testicles. Virgin girls were forbidden to go outside during the harvest of these fruits.

Consumption Tips

To check if an avocado is ripe, press it firmly but gently. If you can feel it yielding to the pressure, it is ripe. The flesh is prone to enzymatic browning, it turns brown quickly after being exposed to air. To prevent this, squeeze some lime/lemon juice on it’s flesh. Do not refrigerate avocado before it is ripe! But once ripe, it can be kept in the fridge for up to one week unsliced. And once sliced open, do not keep for more than a day in the fridge.

Sweet? Savory?

The fruit is not sweet, but fatty, and its flavor is very subtly. The flesh has a smooth almost creamy texture. It is used in both savory and sweet dishes The avocado is very popular in vegetarian cuisine, as substitute for meats in sandwiches and salads because of its high fat content. Generally, avocado is served raw, though some kinds, including the common Hass, can be cooked for a short time without becoming bitter. One of the many dishes that can be whipped up by this amazing fruit is the very well known Mexican dip; guacamole, used as a spread on corn tortillas or toast, served with spices In the Philippines, Brazil, Indonesia, Vietnam and South India, avocados are frequently used for milkshakes and occasionally added to ice cream and other desserts. In Brazil, Vietnam, Philippines and Indonesia, a dessert drink is made with sugar, milk or water, and pureed avocado.