Know your pepper

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Know your pepper

The soulmate of salt comes in many guises; each with its own distinct appeal. Whether your dish needs complexity or heat, these hot little numbers are nothing to sneeze at


The seeds inside black peppercorns, white pepper is the culinary comeback kid, currying favour yet again for its milder, yet more layered, earthy flavour. It elevates simple pleasures such as fresh avo, mashed potato, scrambled eggs and even home-made vanilla ice cream to star status.

TRY: Thai red coconut chicken curry


Also known as Java pepper or tailed pepper, the dried berries taste similar to allspice and black pepper, but are more bitter. It adds an aromatic, nutmeg-like twist to bakes like gingerbread, lends floral notes to gin, and is essential in Indonesian curries and the North African spice blend ras-el-hanout.


We’ve all experienced the wonders this savoury saviour can perform in classics like steak au poivre, but it’s also great for adding smoky, spicy complexity to sweet treats like shortbread, chocolate brownies and masala chai.

TRY: Balsamic risotto with cauliflower and crispy sage


Not technically a “true” peppercorn, the ripe, dried berry of the Brazilian pepper tree has a sweetish, sharp, floral flavour ideal for fruit salads, poached plums and baked chocolate desserts. It’s also a fine foil for fresh fish dishes.


Available in dried and brined form, green peppercorns are essentially unripe black peppercorns. They have a fresher, less sharp flavour than their black counterparts, and sing in traditional creamy green peppercorn sauce and steamed veggies and salads.

TRY: Thick-cut rib-eye with mushroom and green pepper sauce


The heat associated with peppercorns is derived from a compound known as piperine; not to be confused with the spiciness from chillies, known as capsaicin.

Annette Klinger Article by: Annette Klinger

Woolworths TASTE’s features writer maintains that almost any dish can be improved with butter and cream. She’s a stickler for comfort food, especially German treats that remind her of her late grandmother, such as pork schnitzel with sauerkraut and spätzlen. She is a voracious reader of food magazines and recipe books, and instinctively switches over to the cooking channel whenever she checks into a hotel or guesthouse.

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