Piment d’Espelette

Friends from Brussels were staying last night and brought a fantastic present from the south of France – Piment d’Esplette or Espelette pepper, a specialty from the northern part of the traditional Basque country.

It comes in a cute retro jar and looks like coarsely ground paprika, but the aroma is much richer, like earthy, smoky roasted peppers. The flavour is sweet and tangy, warm rather than hot – paprika with punch. They suggested adding it early on to a slow-cooked tomato sauce, so I’ll give that a try. I’ve also had a look online at what this is used for. The producers run a great website in French (only at the moment), with a few recipes (several vegetarian, to my surprise), ranging from starters through to desserts. A little digging shows that this stuff is enthusiastically used in all manner of dishes – on meat, fish, in sauces, jams, pizzas, mustards, mayonnaise and chocolates. This spice also has the prestigious AOC (appellation d’origine contrôlée) status, so only peppers of the right variety from a designated local area can carry the name.

This sort of thing is one of my favourite gifts to give and to receive – unique little pieces of local culture, and the sort of thing that can bring back memories of a holiday or a place in flash. I like to keep an eye out for local ingredients when I travel as they all make welcome additions to the kitchen. I’m looking forward to using this in a few dishes soon!

8 Comments

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8 responses to “Piment d’Espelette

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  3. hopeeternal

    I love this ingredient and bought mine in Espelette when on holiday.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Espelette
    Its a fascinating place with large bunches of peppers hanging out to dry outside the houses – do go if you can! I remember sampling some expensive and amazing chilli flavoured chocolate.
    I’m always looking for new ways to use my Espelette pepper, so thanks!
    hopeeternal
    ‘Meanderings through my Cookbook’

    • Thanks – it’s an interesting spice. Not too hot, a bit like paprika with a bit of punch. I got mine from a friend come comes from that part of France, and my jar is very nearly finished. Have you got any favourite uses for piment d’espelette?

      • hopeeternal

        I tend to use Piment d’Espelette when I want a little heat but not too much and especially in anything I cook from the S E France/Spain Basque region. I am currently experimenting with salt fish dishes in a spicy tomato sauce: versions of the Catalan Bacalau and similar (not too far away geographically) and spicy mixtures of pasta, bacon and chorizo. Currently the only recipe I have posted which includes Piment d’Espelette is
        http://hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com/2010/11/25/spiced-vegetables-with-chick-peas/
        but I hope to rectify this very soon. It would certainly be the pepper I would try it if I was making a chocolate cake with chilli, if only for the memory of our holiday!
        h/e

        • Ha! That’s exactly how I use it in cooking as well! In fact, whenever I make a basic tomato sauce for pasta, I add a teaspoon of piment d’espelette, so you have the warmth but not too hot. I did try making a chocolate tart with piment and white chocolate. It was good, but I think it might be even better with dark chocolate – I must revisit that and report back.

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