Enjoy the peppery heat of Horopito - New Zealand's native bush pepper tree. Use as a gourmet alternative to any other pepper, as a meat rub, or seasoning to vegetables.
Horopito is a very slow growing plant and takes 5 years or more of growth before it can be harvested, and the leaves have traditionally been used by the Maori people.
100% dried wild Horopito: Our Horopito is currently harvested from wild New Zealand forest bordering a national park.
I am going to make this very clear right from the start that pepper is my favourite spice to add to meals because it packs a bold flavour punch and you only need a small quantity of it to get a robust taste. The packaging of the Forest Gourmet Horopito bush pepper is a little translucent 12-gram pouch that allows you to see the ground up flakes from the front and has very little information other than what it is and realistically that is all it truly needs as I have said before - less is sometimes more. I tore open the pouch and opened the resealable tab and took a pinch of the Horopito then proceeded to taste it by itself to gauge how profound the peppery flavour would be and was surprised to find it is subtle but still carrying a nice heat to it. It has a very leafy texture which I was expecting and a nice earthy vibe which gives it that fresh feel to it.
I decided that we would make homemade burgers for dinner and took out 500 grams of beef mince and combined it in a bowl with the Horopito bush pepper and another Forest Gourmet product of Kawakawa flakes, mixed it well with some bbq sauce and egg then portioned it out into five burger patties. I cooked the patties and then placed them onto the buns adding cheese, pickles, coleslaw, and a peach and mango chutney all atop of the patties. I broke a piece off the patty off one of my burgers to try by itself and was very pleased with the flavor that the Horopito and kawakawa flakes had provided as it had a rich earthy pepper taste to it that complimented the meatiness very well but was not overpowering, which turned out to be very popular with the children too.
My eldest daughter decided to try some added into her tomato soup as she is also a fan of pepper and she said it was tasty but didn't have as bold of a pepper flavour as she would have really liked. Probably the only flaw I found with this is that it is great for people who want a peppery taste that isn't too pronounced but for someone like myself I really like to season my dishes with quite a strong peppery flavour and to get it using Horopito would mean I would really have to dose something with it to get the same effect that a little bit of black pepper could do.
Horopito pepper is great for adding to dishes if you want a subtle light pepper flavor to it which is perfect for younger children but for myself, I think I will stick to the ground black pepper. It would also be great on dishes or meats that you want the pepper taste but don't want to compromise or lose the flavour of the dish as I have made the mistake in the past of adding a bit too much pepper onto a great piece of steak and regretting it.
Horopito is the perfect partner for egg dishes. It does not have the sharpness of black pepper but looks good and has the advantage of being kid-friendly. A real plus when you are catering for a group that includes children who complain about pepper being too hot. Horopito has that lovely almost-peppery effect but with a more diffuse flavour, and it brings out the best in many egg and vegetable dishes.
As our boys (aged five and seven) were staying the night, I made scrambled egg for all of us for breakfast, and let them help themselves to the horopito as I know from experience that little ones are more likely to eat the food in front of them if they have put it on their own plates. Both of them were cautious, but when they saw me putting plenty on, they were a little more adventurous. None of us used salt as the horopito has quite enough kick on its own, and salt can of course mask other less intrusive flavours. Anyway, the boys both loved it and so did I. I did not tell them that it was also known as bush pepper as that might have swayed their opinion, but Mr Seven saw the label and said it must be a new kind of pepper as he liked it!
Over the next few days I tried it with various other foods - canned tomato soup (normally very boring but a little horopito sprinkled on top made a huge difference); pan fried fish in butter which looked a million dollars once I had added some finely chopped red capsicum and a good pinch of horopito; and, my personal favourite, a dish of prawns tossed in garlic butter and horopito. That last dish was so flavoursome that I had to scrape the pan to save every scrap of butter and pepper! It was becoming increasingly clear that this is a condiment which is highly versatile, deserving of a place in every kitchen.
The one item I had not tried it with was a meat dish, so I thought it might go well with a chicken supreme. This is a casserole dish which includes chicken pieces and a creamy sauce, and whatever else happens to be available - especially if the additions are also light in colour. I had leeks and chicory, so I included both in the casserole as well. Although this dish tastes wonderful, it can look somewhat boring - especially if it is being served with mashed potato or white rice! Once it was cooked, I topped it with a mixture of white breadcrumbs and horopito; the dish was then left under the grill for the topping to brown. Success! Not only did the dish emerge looking absolutely beautiful, it tasted divine as well. The horopito was a perfect addition; it brought out the creamy flavour and ensured that every last morsel was used up - resulting in a clean casserole dish and a very happy family!
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