Corns of currency

Corns of currency

Pepper has been used as currency, and legend has it that Attila the Hun demanded it as ransom from Rome. In 77 AD, Pliny the Elder wrote about how it drained the Roman Empire of 50 million sesterces (ancient Roman money) every year, and even today, it continues to be the most widely traded spice in the world.

Traditionally, being considered such a prized commodity in Europe, pepper was reserved only for the most exclusive Christmas cakes and cookies; and on India’s Malabar coast, which is its richest source, pepper, could be—and continues to be—found in every curry.

Black peppercorn is the most pungent and commonly found; the green variety is what you get when you don’t let it ripen and it works best with meats and seafood; white pepper is a cosmetic luxury, seen often in white sauces, white meats/fish and cream dishes; pink peppercorns are soft and ideally used whole in dishes such as salads or risottos, and even in desserts. We’re going with the most basic black version in the Sri Lankan fish vinegarthial—a beautifully light fish, with the pepper prominently spicing it up.


Fish vinegarthial


Serves 2

• 400g tuna

• 80g onion, chopped

• 4 green chillies

• 50g tomatoes

• 15ml butter

• 10g garlic

• 10g ginger

• 10g curry leaves

• 10g turmeric

• 5g black pepper, ground

• 150ml vinegar

• Salt to taste

• 150g cucumber, shredded

• 100g carrot, shredded


A colourful delight: Pepper is the main spice in this delicate fish recipe, which is also easy to make.

Source: Chef Publis, guest chef, The Imperial, New Delhi.