Q. When is a peppercorn not a peppercorn? A. When it’s pink.
Pink peppercorns are actually the dried fruits of a shrub, Schinus molle, also known as the Peruvian peppertree and sometimes from the related species Schinus terebinthifolius, or Brazilian pepper. They are not related to our usual black, white or red peppercorns and – a word of warning – come from the cashew family so can potentially provoke anaphylaxis in anyone with a nut allergy. (Thank you, Wikipedia.)
For the rest of us though, they are an interesting addition to the kitchen cupboard. They have a very mildly peppery taste, combined with a fruity sweetness, and can be used with much more abandon than regular pepper. Chew one and see, they’re quite soft. If you’re unsure, go for the smaller quantity given in the recipe but personally I’d go for broke.
I used them to give an aromatic crust to a couple of pork chops … an easy way to tart up a quick mid-week supper. You can de-glaze the pan with wine or cider for a quick sauce, serve the chops with apple sauce or, as I did, half-melt dollops of herb jelly over them. I felt they benefited from that extra touch of sweetness.
Pork with Pink Peppercorns
2 pork chops, preferably free-range
Olive or rapeseed oil
2-4 tbsp pink peppercorns, lightly crushed
A good grind of black pepper
Salt to taste
A splash of white wine or cider to de-glaze the pan or a dollop of herb jelly
About 30 minutes before you want to start cooking, remove the chops from the fridge. Slash the rind every 2 cm to stop them curling up as they cook.
Rub with a little olive oil and press the crushed peppercorns into the meat on both sides, then season well with freshly-ground black pepper. Cover and leave to come up to room temperature.
Put a heavy frying pan on the stove on a medium heat (not too hot or you’ll burn the peppercorns). Season the chops on both sides with salt. Using tongs, crisp the rind by standing them on their side, then cook for 8-10 minutes, depending on thickness, turning every couple of minutes.
While they’re resting de-glaze the pan, if you wish, with a swoosh of hooch. I melted over soft-set garlic and rosemary crabapple jelly instead. Or push the boat out and do both, you mad, reckless creature.