My 1st post in the series on ‘lessons from the past’ I spoke about the might chicken tikka masala and how it came into being. I also hinted that I am going to speak about the king of spices in my next post so here I am sharing the early story of salts’ best friend and the most indispensible spice in every kitchen – pepper.
A pinch of pepper
Ever though that pepper, a spice which you almost carelessly throw into every recipe was once so precious that it was used as a currency? Yes pepper, a native to the Malabar Coast of Southern India, was used by traders during the middle ages as an important high currency tool for barter. There was even a time when pepper was worth its weight in gold.
For several years the western part of the world was oblivious to pepper, till Arab traders bought peppercorns from India and other Eastern countries to them. Initially, traded on the popular ‘silk route’ it made for a very high profit margin and the Arabs grew rich furnishing the Romans with pepper. To protect their monopoly over the pepper market the traders built false stories about the difficulties and dangers on the route to procure the spices.
Such was the craze for the spice that Roman grocers often blended juniper berries in with peppercorns to stretch the product and increase their profits. This pepper frenzy of the East finally got solved when English travelers discovered alternative trade routes to their beloved spice. Pepper probably changed the course of history by being the single most important factor in the European search for sea routes to the East. Eventually pepper plantations were set up in different regions across the globe and the precious spice became available to the common man during the 1800’s.
Black, white or the slightly lesser used green and red varieties of this magical pod have found place in several cuisines globally! The earthy spicy taste of pepper adds the necessary zing to any dish without taking away from the main ingredients.
Isn’t it funny that this spice which changed the entire course of history and without which colonial empires of modern history might not have existed, sits so calmly at every table today. It really lives up to its title of ‘The king of spices’
My experimental discovery
Pepper is used in most savory dishes, but sweets aren’t really supposed to have the kick of pepper in them. Well, I though why not, and went ahead and added a hint of coarsely crushed black pepper to a classic malpua batter and the resultant dish was mind blowing. The sharp, clean pungency of crushed pepper compliments the sweetness of this deep fried, sugar soaked traditional Indian flat bread brilliantly.
Here’s the recipe – Black Pepper Malpua Recipe – Enjoy this Indian Mithai in a different way.
Coming up next in this ‘lessons from the past’ series of accidental inventions, ancient discoveries and awesome evolution stories is something that was just chanced up as a byproduct from making butter.