Whenever we are in Istanbul, I make a point of buying several hundred grams of biber salçası, a popular red pepper paste available in both hot (aci) and sweet (tatli) versions. It keeps in the fridge in a sealed container for weeks and weeks; just make sure that you label them correctly because when the Turks say hot, they mean HOT! This is a great condiment, especially in the winter when a couple of tablespoons of the stuff will transform a robust winter soup. If you can’t make it to Turkey, I’ve included a recipe for the paste below; obviously we are not able able to sun-dry our peppers on our rooftops as Turkish women do, but oven roasted peppers are not a bad substitute. The second recipe here (shown in photograph) is for my Turkish biber salçası and yoghurt dip, a great accompaniment to succulent roast vegetables and gutsy salads featuring bulgar wheat and other pulses.
biber salçası (red pepper paste)
3 long red Romano peppers, de-seeded and sliced in half
3 long red chillies, de-seeded and sliced in half (use less if you want a sweeter paste)
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to your taste
How I make it
Heat an oven to 200C.
Place the peppers and chillies on a baking tray and roast them for around 20 minutes, turning them once, until their skins are blistered and charred. Remove from the oven, place in a bowl, cover with cling film and set aside to cool for a few minutes.
When cool enough to handle, peel the skins away from the peppers and roughly chop the flesh. Scrape the flesh from the chillies with a knife and place in a blender with the peppers. Blend to a smooth paste. Add the lemon juice and season to your taste.
Place in a sealed container and keep in the fridge. This doesn’t keep as long as the paste I buy in Turkey but there are plenty of ways you can use it; as a marinade, for example; on top of pizzas or simply spread a thick layer on sourdough bread and eat with tangy feta cheese.
Biber salçası & yoghurt dip
1 tbsp biber salçası
6 tbsp of Turkish or Greek yoghurt
2 tbsp of extra-virgin olive oil
How I make it
Mix together the biber salçası, yoghurt and oil.
If you’re feeling fancy, serve scattered with chopped pistachios.