Exotic Ingredients

July 5, 2010 8:37 am by

Clockwise, from top left: smoked paprika, hazelnut oil, makroot and rhubarb. Photo: Courtesy of Purple Foodie.

Spanish smoked paprika is a popular ingredient in several popular Mediterranean recipes. The smoky flavour is a result of slowly drying the peppers over an oak burning fire for 10-15 days and hand turning them every few hours to create smoked paprika or Pimentón de la Vera. The brick red spice has a sweet, earthy taste and an intoxicating aroma.
Fun Fact: Paprika was brought to Spain from the Americas by Christopher Columbus. King Ferdinand loved it so much that word began spreading all over Europe. Today, the spice even has a Facebook fan page.
How can you use it? A tin of smoked paprika occupies a prime spot on my spice rack. I like to sprinkle it on just about anything to add a smoky flavour. It tastes especially good with hummus or roasted potatoes. You could use it in making paella or mix it up with some salt to have your very own flavoured salt. It’s also excellent when used as a rub for meats.
Where can you find it? Syren Smoked Paprika, Rs215 for 75g tin. At Godrej Nature’s Basket, Number 133, Hill Road, Bandra (W). For other locations, see here.

French Saveurs des Lapalisse  (they have a walnut variant too), is expensive, but the oil is extremely flavourful, which means just a little will go a long way.
Fun Fact: Turkey has only 1 per cent of the world’s human population, but accounts for over 75 per cent of the world’s hazelnut production. Because it is easily absorbed by the skin, hazelnut oil is used in toners and moisturisers, and is also thought to help prevent acne.
How can you use it? Hazelnut oil can be brushed on toast, drizzled over homemade ravioli or tossed into salads. If you are feeling a little adventurous, you can make your own version of homemade Nutella. I used a splash of it in a hazelnut shortbread recipe. Make sure you refrigerate it to prevent it from getting rancid too soon.
Where can you find it? Alfa, Irla. Rs525 for a 250ml bottle. Shop No. 5/6, Dadi House, IRLA Society Road, Vile Parle (W).

Also known as Keffir lime, the knobby citric fruit hails from South East Asia. The zest of the fruit, along with the more commonly available Keffir lime leaves, is an integral part of Thai curry.
Fun Fact: Makrut Lime is often used in Indonesian culture for its medicinal properties, and is said to strengthen the teeth and gums.
How can you use it? While not as juicy as local lemons, the zest of the fruit is intense in flavour and often used in curries, soups and stews. Like with all citric fruits, avoid the white pith as it is incredibly bitter. You could use makroot to make a cool drink (something like a limbu paani with sugar and water), but you will need a lot because the fruits are quite dry on the inside.
Where can you find it? Hypercity, Malad. Rs60 for four. Next to Inorbit Mall, Malad Link Road, Malad (W).

This tart vegetable has firm pinkish-green stalks that strongly resemble celery. Biting into a raw piece of rhubarb isn’t the most pleasant experience because you are hit by its sour notes and a strong vegetal after taste. When cooked however, the stalks begin to soften and the sourness gives way to a hint of intrinsic sweetness. The longer you cook it, the pulpier it gets, making it perfect for jams and spreads.
Fun Fact: Eat as much of the stalk as you like, but steer clear of the leaves: they are known to be poisonous. The oxalic acid in the leaves is toxic, though you would need to ingest 5 kilos of the leaves to feel the effects.
How can you use it? Jams, cupcakes, cakes, compotes, crumbles, stews, tarts—the possibilities are endless. One delicious way of enjoying rhubarb is to make a simple compote with a little water, sugar and vanilla. You can even try cooking them with strawberries, which will temper the sourness of the rhubarb. The robust stalks will transform into a delicate, silky sauce, which can be spread on toast or dolloped over a piece of cake.
Where can you find it? Godrej Nature’s Basket. Rs80 per kilo. Samarth Vaibhav Building, opposite Tarapur Towers, Lokhandwala Complex, Walawalkar marg, Andheri (W). For other locations, see here.

Shaheen Peerbhai is the author of popular food blog The Purple Foodie.