On a spice route

Excellent with phulka or steamed rice, this mushroom dish can also make a sandwich filling

There is something magical about pepper, known to most of us as kali mirch. Historians tell us that this chilli is native to our land known as marich before the Portuguese brought with them the red variety from the South American continent. Few recall that it was once considered a precious commodity and was used, at times, to pay the ‘king’s ransom’ or high enough rent to the landlord. It was recognised as the Queen of Spices, and many believe launched the Spanish-Portuguese armadas to explore the spice route in its quest.

The Italians mill it fresh on the table to drizzle over myriad dishes enhancing the enjoyment of its wonderful aroma and delightful taste. We have always wondered why we, in India, never introduced such a culinary ritual. Pepper is used in many savories both in the East and West, and in India, pepper is used in some sweet dishes too. So ubiquitous is the black peppercorn that one tends to forget that it is available in green and white variety as well — each with a unique identity and allure.

Most of us have enjoyed the ‘melody in a single key’ played by kali mirch in kali mirch ka murg; the vegetarians seeking to experience similar bliss in kali mirch ka paneer.

We tinkered with the recipe and came up with khumb kali mirch — a variation on the mushrooms in white sauce theme. Do try it out. Excellent with phulka or steamed rice, very useful as a sandwich filling.


Khumb Kalimirch

Button mushrooms 400g
Black peppercorns 1tbsp
(freshly ground coarsely)
Red chilli powder ¼ tsp
Maida 2 tbsp (level)
Butter 2 tbsp
Milk 1cup
Salt to taste

Wipe mushrooms with a moist cloth and slice into halves or quarters. Line a non-stick frying pan with a thin film of oil and stir fry mushrooms for three to four minutes. Remove and keep aside. Dry roast the maida, stirring briskly for a minute, and then add butter steadily. Don't let the maida brown. Reduce heat and pour in the milk in a slow stream - stirring briskly all the while to ensure that no lumps are formed. Put in the pepper and salt. Place mushrooms on a shallow platter and pour sauce over them. Simmer on low flame for a minute and relish hot, or at room temperature. Garnish with a whole red chilli.