Waitrose & Partners Weekend Issue 627

40 1 DECEMBER 2022 Weekending ORLANDO MURRIN THROUGH THE MILL Peppercorns can bring dishes alive in the kitchen ‘I had a pepper grinder with rabbit ears that you squeezed. It worked well until an ear snapped off’ Have you heard that expression, ‘pepper flies’? A friend toldme about it years ago and to this day, when I reach for the pepper mill, I findmyself puzzling over it. I think what it means is that ground pepper is very light, and – unlike salt – will be caught on the lightest breeze. Even thinking about this brings on a sneeze. Nowadays, one is more likely to grind pepper fresh from themill, so unless you’re having a picnic on a windy beach, it will probably stay where you put it. Another possiblemeaning is metaphorical – pepper is an elusive seasoning, so catch it when you can. There’s nothing like it to make a dish look appetising and ready to eat, with a hint of spicy excitement at first bite. To capture this sense of immediacy, add it on the way to, or at, the table. It’s the signature of good cooking. Inmy lifetime, I’ve been through a dozen pepper grinders, including a battery-operated monster that I donated tomy auntie Sheila (who loves it) and one with rabbit ears that you squeezed in one hand (which worked well until an ear snapped o ). If you find your pepper mill starts to lose its grip – you’re turning and turning but not much comes out – it may need servicing. Empty out the peppercorns and brush the action with a small sti brush (never water). Peppercorns won’t grind properly if they’re damp or slippery, as some cheaper ones can be. Try with fresh peppercorns before deciding it’s time for a new pepper mill. This advice comes from the engineers at Peugeot. Last month, I recommended the salt mill from their Nature range (turned frompieces of wood that would otherwise be discarded during themanufacturing process) and I love the chunky look somuch I’ve now bought amatching pepper mill. A few years ago, there was a craze for filling transparent mills with amix of black, red, green, white and pink peppercorns. This gives a lively flavour, though go easy on the pink (which are froma di erent plant) and tend to clog. My current craze is for single variety peppercorns, such asWayanad or Tellicherry, both produced in India. These havemore personality than regular, and a spicier, more intense flavour profile. If you’re a pepper aficionado, youmay wish to explore some of its hotter cousins. Cayenne often crops up in recipes, but I find it a little crude – and if your hand slips, that’s dinner ruined. I prefer chilli flakes – dried chillies crushed and roughly ground. Over the past couple of years, these have earned a place at the stove. I’m constantly adding a pinch when I think something needs jazzing up. Beyond that, I direct you to steenbergs.co.uk, where you can discover the wonders of Sichuan peppercorns, long and smoked pepper, and esoteric delights such as lampung, andaliman and chiloé berry peppers. Gesundheit! Orlando’s Two’s Company: Simple, Fast &Fresh Recipes For Couples, Friends &Roommates (Ryland, Peters & Small) is out now. orlandomurrin.com ‘If you’re planning a drinks party, I would allow half a bottle of wine per head, plus some beers – if you’re worried about running out, ask the drinks specialist in your local Waitrose about sale or return options. Have at least one non-alcoholic choice too. There are so many good ones now, there’s no excuse to fob the nondrinkers o with sparkling water!’ MIKE NORTH Partner & drinks specialist, Waitrose Peters eld Waitrose aims to ensure that its festive meat-free o erings pack their full quota of comfort and joy. Take the supermarket’s Vegan Layered Mushroom Parfait. It’s so tasty that it has been approved by experts at the Good Housekeeping Institute. They carried out blind tastings to select their favourite Christmas products and named the smooth, savoury mushroom spread as Best Vegetarian Starter and Best Budget Starter. “The light and airy mushroom mousse is seasoned with a crack of black pepper and herbs to enhance the earthy avour,” judges commented. Try it on sourdough rusks or Melba toasts, served with crunchy radishes and cornichons. It’s got to be parfait Simply adding pepper to a dish can provide somuch joy