Sunday, 30 October 2011

Samurai Salad

Insalata Mista con Pecorino Fresco, Pomodorini, Miele & Pepe "Sansho"
Mesclun Salad with Saignac Cheese, Cherry Tomatoes, Honey and Sansho Pepper

Okay- I admit- this is not a real recipe, it was more of an excuse me to use the Sansho pepper I bought last night. I went to the wonderful Kulinart trade fair in Frankfurt- conveniently located at the end of my street in an old refurbished train station- trés cool! Amongst the many interesting things- people, foods, ingredients.... the most incredible was the last thing that I discovered before leaving... the magical, mystical Sansho pepper!

This Japanese spice is not even an actual pepper, it is in actual fact a berry. And the incredibly aromatic part of it is the husk of the dried berry- the seed inside is very bitter... and is actually removed by hand! So amazing! Hence the relatively hefty price- but I just had to have it.

So how does this stuff taste? I would describe it like this. Imagine your tongue has stopped working. You can't taste anything. So you go and visit a mad Japanese professor and tell you of your woes. He straps you into a chair, puts clamps on your jaw to keep your mouth open and administers electric shocks to your tongue until all of your taste buds start working again. And then, whilst they are working, he sprays lemon into your mouth to heighten the sensation. That's kind of what it tastes like! Lemony, zingy, intense, aromatic and otherwise indescribable... it really is something you have to try for yourself! Oh and it is quite possibly not to everyone's- but for me it was a revelation!

The charming merchant explained to us that there are 2 harvests of the Sansho berries- one in Spring and the other in the Fall. The Spring crop is very mild and the Autumn one, very intense... no special prizes for guessing which one I bought! It is best used on fatty foods- pork belly- that kind of thing- or fatty fish like salmon or eel. At the trade fair, they had cubes of cheese that you could dip into the Sansho to test it. So when I got home, I decided I was not going to wait till the next time I have pork belly or eel on my menu- but to improvise and do SOMETHING, just so that I could try it straight away...

The salad then, was an excuse for me to use a relatively high fat goat cheese, together with honey and cherry tomatoes for some sweetness and a quenching juiciness to counterpoint the incredibly zingy Sansho... the leaves were also more of an accompaniment to make the experience milder. And do you know... the combination was wonderful! As a dressing, I used a tiny pinch of my Salt of the Earth and a drizzle of sesame oil. The Sansho did the rest- and how! This salad was like a Ninja- sneaking up on you and catching you unawares... and I loved it! I hope you will love it too!

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