A pipkin of pepper

With four colours to choose from, peppercorns have surprising health benefits – and more sophistication than a sprinkle of the salt cellar


Black pepper, along with salt, is added to the majority of recipes, but I rarely give its nutritional value much thought. After all, besides a cursory grind or two of a peppermill, there’s not much more to say. But I do remember it fondly as one of the first signs that my childhood tastes were becoming more sophisticated as I went from despising the yucky black stuff to feeling as proud as a peacock asking for a peppermill in a restaurant, even if it was to use over a plate of spag bol.

I rarely give out to my loved ones for putting pepper on to food before tasting it, but I find it frustrating if anyone seasons their food with salt before tasting it. It seems presumptuous and foolish and I can’t help but think about horses bolting out of salty doors.

But pepper is different and in this recipe, the pepper really becomes the star of the show. Because of the quantities involved, I felt that looking at its nutritional component might be interesting – and it is.

I assumed that pink, green and white peppercorns all came from the same plant, but in fact pink ones are the odd ones out as they are from an entirely different plant. They are also flakier and more easily crushed, as they have no solid inner part.

Green peppercorns, on the other hand, are picked earlier and aren’t oxidised or dried out like the shrivelled black ones. We use these the most, along with white peppercorns which have their outer, black husks removed before drying.

Manganese, vitamin K, copper, iron and fibre are all present in decent enough quantities of two teaspoons of black pepper and this revered spice is also renowned for its carminative, diaphoretic and diuretic properties – meaning, respectively, its gas-releasing, sweat-promoting and urination-encouraging properties. The fact that black pepper is working so hard to create these chemical reactions in your body makes the vast quantities of it in this Peposa or hunters’ stew even more appealing. Kids may find the amount of pepper too much, but most grown-ups will love it.

The buttermilk and kale mash would go happily with everything you can think of, so lovely, green, satisfying and tangy, without oodles of butter and cream, and would be an ideal supper to have with a fried or poached egg perched on top, if you have no more stew or just want a very satisfying veggie supper some night.

I would leave the goat’s cheese out of this recipe if serving it with the beef, but instead would scatter a little Parmesan or pecorino cheese on top.

The quantity of spuds in the recipe is quite large, but I figure you could make it and serve it with the stew on night one and then serve a veggie version of it the second night, with the aforementioned egg as accompaniment, or just a few blobs of goat’s cheese, some wilted spinach – and the TV remote.

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