Today, it’s a rare menu that features dishes seasoned with long pepper, but this sweet spice used to be much more commonly used in medieval and renaissance kitchens than the familiar black corns we use today. However, long pepper is enjoying a resurgence as more people come alive to its sweet, complex flavours blending hints of nutmeg, vanilla, cinnamon and cardamom: a sweet, pungent spice that is perfect not only for savoury dishes, but also makes a beautiful addition to fruity desserts. And on goat cheese it’s simply sublime…
Long pepper was likely the first pepper that was ever used in European cooking, and it was still popular even up to the 16th century, when its pine-cone like catkins could be found in every shop, while black pepper was sold at 12 times the price. But by the early 1700s, it had all but disappeared from kitchen cupboards, thanks most likely to the appearance of the chilli pepper whose fiery spiciness knocked the sweeter, more refined tastes of the long pepper aside. Other peppers were also easier to keep as long pepper’s humid nature made it susceptible to spoiling in damp European kitchens.
Long pepper never went out of fashion in Asia though, where it is still commonly used in Nepal, India, Indonesia and Malaysia. In Cambodia too, it’s regularly used as a flavourful addition to soups and grilled meats.
For those in Europe, with plenty of pears, rhubarb, plums and cooking apples that are perfect for stewing to warm up cold winter days, long pepper is delicious when mixed in with heavy cream, brown sugar, fresh vanilla seeds and a pinch of cardamom, then dolloped on top of the fruit before you devour the lot.
Alternatively, use it to give greater depth to meat marinades and stews, especially for lamb, or grind it out over a slice of creamy goat cheese for a glorious piece of culinary alchemy.
You’ll find long pepper among the range of Khéma Essentials condiments, on sale at delicatessen counters in Khéma Pasteur and Khéma La Poste.