The Power of Black Peppercorns
Peppercorns can be harvested at various stages of maturity as they ripen from green to red. The stage at which a peppercorn is harvested is what gives it its unique flavor and name.
Green peppercorns, for example, are picked while still unripe and green in color. They have a mild spicy flavor and a soft texture on the palate. Green peppercorns are a cornerstone of European-style cream sauces, but they can be difficult to find in Indonesia as they are rarely used in local dishes. Next up are black peppercorns, which are produced by picking the berries when they are half-ripe and just about to turn red. They are then left to dry, which causes them to wrinkle and turn black.
Finally, white peppercorns are picked when they are at their ripest point and then immediately soaked in brine or sait water to remove their dark outer shell, leaving only the white pepper seed. Both black and white peppercorns are easy to buy locally.
My favorite of the three is the black peppercorn. Its romantic fragrance and wonderful, warm spicy taste can add a new dynamic to almost any dish. To get the best flavor, buy whole black peppercorns and roast them in a dry pan for two to five minutes to release their full flavor and essence. When they cool, grind them in a mortar or pepper mill.
This weeks recipe is a black pepper-crusted prawn dish served on a bed of mixed greens. Its a dish that really puts all the best qualities of the black peppercorn at center stage. You can add some volume to the meal by serving it with aside of mashed potatoes or steamed rice. Enjoy!
Black Pcpper-Cru tt ed Spicy Prawns with Mixed Salad
If you cant eat shellfish, replace the prawns with chicken breast, beef tenderloin, fish fillet or grilled tofu. Serves 4.
8 or 12 large prawns (2 or 3 for each person); 3 tablespoons of freshly ground black pepper; 3 tablespoons of lime juice, 4 tablespoons olive oil (2 tablespoons for the marinade and 2 tablespoons for pan-fryingyour prawns); 1 teaspoon sait; any mixed salad (mixed greens, chopped fruit and edamame work nicely); extra virgin olive oil and lime dressing (which you can find a recipe for in my column “Easy Homemade Salad Dressings,” available on The Jakarta Globe Web site).
1.Pull the head from the body of each prawn and remove the outer shells while keeping the tails intact. Make a cut along the spine of each one and discard the dark vein. Pat the prawns dry with a paper towel.
2.Add the prawns to a mixture of lime juice, olive oil and sait. Set aside to marinate for 5 minutes.
3.Remove the prawns from the marinade and pat half dry with a clean paper towel. Spread the freshly ground black pepper on a plate and then lay each prawn on the plate until they are completely coated.
4.Heat oil in a frying pan and add the prawns one at a time. Cook each prawn for 3-4 minutes on each side, depending on the size and thickness. You should get a seared pepper crust without burning the prawns.
5.Prepare the salad greens. Divide the salad between four plates and place the prawns on top. Drizzle with salad dressing and serve.
Petty Elliott has been writing about food and conducting classes and cooking demonstrations for more than five years. Her book on Indonesian cuisine, “Papaya Flower,” was published in 2009.
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