Grains of Paradise, or Melegueta Pepper, is not a pepper at all!
This pungent spice is a member of the ginger and cardamom
family and is native to West Africa. Medieval spice traders claimed
that these peppery seeds grew only in Eden and had to be collected
as they floated down the river out of Paradise. Clearly an early
Once crushed, the seeds release a citrusy aroma with hints of
jasmine and cardamom. If you bite into one, you’ll notice that
the gingery peppery heat slowly intensifies on the palate. Toasting
the seeds creates a nutty aroma.
Grains of Paradise should be crushed or ground to a powder before
adding to food. It can be used to season in a similar way to
black pepper, as a spice rub for fish or meat, and you can also use
it in fruit-based desserts and baking. Although little known outside
of Africa today, it’s increasingly used to flavour gin, beers and
Melon and Feta Cheese Salad with Grains of Paradise
Serves 4 as a snack, starter or side
1 ripe melon, such as honeydew or cantaloupe, cut into cubes
200g feta cheese, cut into cubes
1 tsp Grains of Paradise
a few mint or basil leaves
Dry toast the Grains of Paradise seeds in a small frying pan over a medium
heat for 2-3 minutes, until they start to darken in colour. Leave them to cool
for a few minutes and then coarsely grind in a pestle and mortar, nearly to a powder.
Arrange the prepared melon and feta cheese on small plates.
Sprinkle with the Grains of Paradise and mint or basil leaves and serve.