Monthly Archives: May 2015

Bar Tartine Pepper Pastes

Bar Tartine’s book of techniques and recipes came out in December 2014. I had it on pre order and it was delivered on the day of release. This means that at time of writing some five months later, not enough time has passed to finish a large proportion of the recipes in the book which can take six months to a year!

But some are almost ready; fermented Brussels sprouts have another eight weeks in brine, and the first of my pepper pastes will be ready in about six. Although I’ve been cheating with the pepper pastes from the beginning, tasting them, cooking with them and seeing how their flavors develop over time.

For me the fermented pepper pastes are by far the most interesting technique in the book. There are four different recipes covering sweet, charred, sambal and chipotle pastes, and although the recipes are very different they follow the same basic steps:

– Break down peppers/chillies plus other ingredients to a purée
– Add salt
– Allow to ferment
– Partly dry/dehydrate
– Allow fermentation to continue at low temperature

Some recipes use peppers, some add chili, some add extra ingredients like onions and garlic. Some call for burning and/or smoking the peppers before puréeing. Regardless of the extras the basic technique is the same and once you’ve figured that out you can let your imagination go.

I’ve made several versions including smoked jalapeño (hot as hell) and smoked sweet pepper with tomatoes (smoky & very acidic from fermented fresh tomato), but the best batch so far was made with long red sweet peppers, onions and garlic. burnt over coals, then smoked. It mostly follows the charred pepper paste recipe from the book but also smokes the peppers as in the chipotle paste recipe.

I adjusted the salt to 2% of the weight of the puréed pepper mix rather than quantity given in the book; the original recipe calls for 45g salt per 2.6kg of raw ingredients (1.75%), but as everything gets charred & smoked the weight loss will vary from batch to batch so a post smoking % of salt is more consistent and allows for a variable batch size.

This recipe uses an offset smoker but you can adjust it for whichever smoker you have. You don’t specifically need a dehydrator, if your oven can be set to 43 degrees this will also work but you’ll need to double the drying time.

You will need:

– a large amount of long sweet red peppers, halved and seeds removed
– 1 hot chili of your choice per 5 peppers, halved and seeds removed
– 1 red onion per 5 peppers, sliced into thick rounds
– 1 clove of garlic per 5 peppers, peeled.

Light a chimney of charcoal or briquettes and tip into your BBQ.

Arrange the peppers, chili and onion directly on the coals, turn occasionally until well charred. When nicely blackened move to the smoking chamber (or wherever you smoke in your BBQ) and repeat with the remaining peppers. When done close up the smoking chamber and add some wood/wood chips/etc to the coals (I prefer to use large pieces of wood as they smolder and smoke for longer). Smoke the peppers for 3 hours; in my offset smoker I use a metal pan of water as a heat diffuser to stop them burning.

The garlic needs to be cooked in some way. I found that peeled garlic cloves in the big smoker are impractical, so I use my stovetop smoker to hot smoke for twenty minutes. If you don’t have this option a ten minute simmer in milk will also work.

Once the peppers, chili, onion & garlic are smoked blitz them to a rough paste in a food processor. Weigh the resulting paste and stir in 2% by weight of salt (multiply total weight in grams by 0.02).

Move the paste to a large bowl, lay a clean sheet of cling film directly over the surface to stop mold growth and leave for ten days. Every day remove the plastic and stir the paste, smooth out and cover again with a clean piece of cling film. After two to three days the volume will increase as the paste starts to ferment.

Start to taste the paste around day eight, by day ten the paste should be slightly sour and more complex. When you’re happy with the acidity transfer the paste to a glass dish and dehydrate for 16 hours at 43 degrees until the paste is as thick as tomato purée from a tin. Transfer the paste to sealable jars and store in the fridge for six months to let the flavor develop & intensify.