In a nutshell: Also known as Guinea pepper, this intoxicating spice can be used like sparingly like pepper or added to spice blends and soup and meat stews.
Grains of Paradise (Afromum Melegueta) is a rare, peppery spice from the same family as ginger and cardamom. Also known as maniguette, melegueta pepper, alligator pepper or Guinea pepper, this west African spice is most commonly cultivated in Ghana and Nigeria. Its fruit bears seeds not unlike those of black cardamom, but much larger and paler. Greatly prized by European chefs in the 18th century, it slowly lost popularity in modern times, and is now rarely seen outside of Africa.
Grains of Paradise are surprisingly peppery, with a gentle but lasting burn. Their fragrance is at once floral, peppery and camphorous, with citrus tones.
In Africa, Grains of Paradise are used like black pepper, ground into soups, onto meats and simmered dishes. In the Middle East and North Africa, they’re often added to spice blends, like Ras-el-Hanout. Grains of Paradise is also used to flavour alcohols like gin, aquavit and pastis. We like them on barbecued foods, or even (sparingly) on a chocolate dessert.
About Épices de Cru
Épices de Cru began in 1982 as a catering partnership between Philippe and Ethné de Vienne. Their mission was a kind of “cooking pot anthropology:” learning the secrets of family cooking around the world and applying these techniques to the needs of hungry Montrealers. The secret, they learned, was spices. Over the last two decades, Philippe and Ethné have searched for the world’s best spices, accompanied by their children, Marika and Arik. The de Viennes believe in direct sourcing spices: visiting growing regions, spending time with growers, and developing personal relationships that last decades. In 2004, they officially opened their first spice shop in Montreal’s fantastic Jean Talon market– it’s since become a mecca for foodies from all over the world. I first visited in 2008 and have been buying and using their spices on a regular basis ever since that first exciting visit. They steadfastly maintain that they do nothing original, only facilitating the exchange of culinary common sense from one place to another. But, what they do is simply quite brilliant - by providing us with the finest quality ingredients, and their superb spice mixes, we can all experiment with unusual spices and recreate delicious recipes from around the world.