Thursday, March 20, 2008

When life gives you peppercorns: make salt and pepper lotus chips

O.k., so hopefully that title made you laugh. But it's the truth. For the past two Christmases, my sister's mother-in-law, who is very lovely and generous, has sent me the most amazing little gifts a foodie would adore. Two years ago, I received four different exotic sea salts and a little wooden case to store them in. Last year, I got an assortment of nine peppercorns, ranging from the more common (black pepper) to the most exotic (Sichuan peppercorns) (incidentally, did you know they were banned in the U.S. until fairly recently?). What's one to do with all these wonderful peppercorns? Well, lots of course. And the obvious would be a wonderful peppercorn-encrusted tuna or perhaps a steak with pepper sauce. And then I thought about pepper oil - wouldn't that be neat? But then, of course, flipping through Donna Hay, (and sorry to be boring given that she produced the last recipe too) there it was: salt and pepper lotus chips.

If you can find lotus root, you're in business. I managed to find some in the local Japanese grocery store (and of course, got sucked into a cartload of other items while I was there). Then, it's just a matter of slicing them thinly, frying them in some vegetable oil, and tossing them in a wonderfully fragrant spice mixture of salt, Sichuan peppercorns, dried chillies and star anise. They are very beautiful and delicate-looking and they pack quite a punch.

P.S. I'm contributing a series of photographic kitchen tours (in Manhattan) to Apartment Therapy's great kitchen-related site, "the kitchn." Check out the first one here.

Salt and pepper lotus chips (from Donna Hay Magazine, Issue 37)

2 tablespoons sea salt flakes (note: I thought perhaps they were a tad salty, consider reducing this and adding additional salt in the end to taste)
1 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns
4 small dried chillies
3 star anise
vegetable oil for deep frying
1 kg (2 1/4 lb) fresh lotus root, peeled and thinly sliced (note: keep slices in acidulated water until frying: they turn color easily)

Place the salt, Sichuan peppercorns, dried chillies and star anise in a small frying pan over high heat. Cook, stirring for 2-3 minutes or until aromatic. Remove from the pan, place in a small food processor and process until combined. Set aside.

Heat the oil in a large deep saucepan over medium heat until hot (~350 degrees F). Deep-fry the lotus root slices in batches for 2-3 minutes or until golden and crisp and drain on absorbent paper. Place the chips in a bowl with the salt mixture and toss to coat. Serves 8.

I'm submitting my peppercorn photo to this month's "Click" event which has a theme of "metal". Feel free to jump over and vote after all the entries are received on March 30th.


bee said...

lovely click. have you tried baking these chips? they turn out great.

Anonymous said...

I like how the paper liner gives the appearance of an aura around the lotus chips. Love the peppercorn image - the spoons are really beautiful. I will vote as soon as we are allowed to.

Marianna said...

wow, lotus root! where on earth am i supposed to find that?! I think that even if I go to a Japanese food shop it might be tough to find any! What does it taste like when fried? great photos (as usual)

Sabra said...

Thanks Bee. I had a look at yours, those look yummy too. Baked is always healthier : )
Thanks Amy!
Marianna: It's pretty common in Asian grocery stores. I called ahead, but found it at the first store I tried. I should have mentioned, you can also use frozen (thaw first and slice in half if too thick was the advice DH gave). It tastes really wonderful - it's a little sweeter and more flavorful than potato and very delicate. A little hard to describe. The spices are very powerful and add a ton of interesting flavor.

Helene said...

Great idea and the balance of colors in the pictures is great. There are a lot of spices and food items banned in th US that other cultures use daily and that bugs me to no end!!

Simones Kitchen said...

I had never seen lotus roots before untill very recently... I am kind of new still in the whole food "business" but I love it! I am definitely gonna try and see if I can find them anywhere here although I have my doubts. i love the spoons you used for the pepper shot. It looks great!

La Tartine Gourmande said...

Look lovely and refreshing, just ready for spring!

Cannelle Et Vanille said...

Gorgeous, absolutely gorgeous! Your photos are so bright and crisp!

Meeta K. Wolff said...

Lotus root! I have tried those on a few occasions but as we do not get them in Germany have not had a chance to make them often. have to see if I can get them here in Dubai - will ask my mum if she's tried it.

I just love the picture for click - perfect!

TBC said...

I love the shot of the peppercorns!

SteamyKitchen said...

gorgeous colors and textures!

Anonymous said...

Love your contribution to "click". :)

NĂºria said...

Sabra, I just discovered your blog through your picture at Jugalbandi's Click Event... It's beautiful!!! I'm immediately adding it to my favourites :D

Coffee and Vanilla said...

Delicious! :)
I finally found this root and I made it!

Thanx for sharing this recipe, Margot

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