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Pink, it's like red but not quite

Monday, June 20, 2011

I often forget what dried goods I have stashed away in my kitchen. I keep a lot of these – left in their original packaging or transferred to glass bottles – in two large basket drawers in an island trolley, but the stuff sometimes get nudged into a corner or under something bigger and are lost from sight. And when you don't see something, you probably will not use it, right? 

I bought a bag of pink peppercorns more than a year ago, put it away and only found it a couple of days ago. As you can see in the picture below, the opening of the plastic bag the peppercorns came in was simply folded over twice and stapled, so I was surprised to find that the berries hadn't gone stale. In fact, they were still potent. 

Here's what GourmetSleuth says about these berries: "Pink peppercorns (Schinus Terebinthifolius) are from Brazil but are not a true peppercorn. They are actually the dried fruit of the Baies Rose. The berries have a sweet peppery flavour and are quite popular in French cuisine. Use in a vinaigrette or crush and use as a coating for a filet mignon or pork tenderloin."

According to Wikipedia, the American Food and Drug Administration banned pink peppercorns in 1982 because they were thought to cause allergic reactions. However, it was later discovered that the toxic berries actually came from another plant and the ban was lifted in 2005.

Pink peppercorns
It so happened, I was channel surfing and came upon Nigella Lawson in the process of making salt and pepper squid. While not a fan of her TV persona, especially in her later shows, I admit I'm okay with the way she cooks. I like fried calamari, but I am no fan of deep frying, so when I saw that Nigella Lawson uses only 1cm of oil when frying the squid, I decided to give the recipe a try, substituting the black variety she used with my pink peppercorns.

I don't know if it was my imagination, but I felt quite lightheaded after having just a couple of those squid rings. Pink is thought to have a happy effect, and as Aerosmith sang, "Pink gets me high as a kite" (the title of this post is also from that song), so perhaps I wasn't completely out of my mind.

The recipe says to bash the Maldon salt and peppercorns together using a mortar and pestle. I roughly pounded the pink peppercorns and then mixed in some flaky sea salt instead, before combining them with cornflour to coat the squid rings and tentacles. While frying, the squid still spit some hot oil at me, but I used long tongs and stood quite a way back from the stove so only my arms got spattered.

It was worth it. I wish I had a little fresh lime or lemon juice to squeeze over the squid after they came out of the hot oil, but they were still good without it. Don't forget to drain the used oil through a sieve to collect all those crunchy salt and pepper bits that floated off the squid when you put them into the pan they're delicious!

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