his vibrant, deep orange spice from the chilli family takes its name from Aleppo, an ancient city in northwestern Syria, famous for its cuisine. With a moderate heat that comes on slowly and allows its fruity flavour to shine through, Aleppo pepper lends authentic Middle Eastern notes to a range of dishes and is a great alternative to regular chilli flakes or paprika.
Capsicum annuum “Aleppo” comes from fat chilli pods that ripen to a burgundy colour before being salted, sun-dried, de-seeded, then crushed or coarsely ground. Because few seeds are retained in the process, Aleppo pepper is milder than regular dried chilli, but has a more complex flavour. It’s a little oilier and saltier, with earthy, smoky, raisin-like, slightly chocolatey notes. It has variously been described as similar to ancho chillies but a little more tart and spicy.
Aleppo (Halab in Arabic) has sat at the crossroads of several trade routes for thousands of years, and is considered one of the culinary meccas of the Mediterranean. The locally grown red peppers (now cultivated across Syria and Turkey) are used as liberally as Westerners might use ground black peppercorns.
Use Aleppo pepper in …
marinades, sauces, spice rubs, dips and dressings. Try it in place of regular crushed red chillies on pizzas, salads and in pastas. It looks great sprinkled on baba ghanouj, hummus or yoghurt, on barbecued meat kebabs or vegetable dishes such as zucchini fritters. Add it to a watermelon or potato salad for extra zing, and give a vegetable soup an exotic finishing touch by heating a pinch of Aleppo pepper in a knob of butter until the colour starts to bleed, then swirling the lot into the soup with a pinch of dried mint. If you can’t source Aleppo pepper, a reasonable substitute can be made with four parts sweet paprika to one part cayenne pepper. Store ground Aleppo pepper in a cool, dark, dry place.
Aleppo pepper goes with …
beef, chicken, lamb, seafood, eggplant, zucchini, potato, onions, garlic, chickpeas, bulghur, couscous, rice, legumes, pine nuts, preserved lemon, pomegranate, orange, herbs, yoghurt, soft white cheeses, mint, chocolate.