The flavour of the week is Urfa biber. Urfa biber (also known as Isot pepper) is a dried Turkish pepper cultivated in the Urfa region of Turkey. It’s flavour can be described as smoky and moderately hot, with a undercurrent of sweetness reminiscent of raisins, tobacco, and chocolate. Urfa biber is technically a red pepper, ripening to a dark maroon on the plant. The peppers go through a two-part process, where they are sun-dried during the day and wrapped tightly at night. The night process is called 'sweating', and works to infuse the dried flesh with the remaining moisture of the pepper. This creates a color ranging from deep purple to a dark, purplish black. The dried chili has a higher moisture content than other peppers, such as Aleppo, due to this process. Though the flavour is reminiscent of smoked peppers, such as chipotle, it is only the plants’ natural smokiness that gives it this taste.
Urfa biber is less spicy than many other chile peppers but provides a more lasting build of heat. It was traditionally used in Turkey in meat and savoury foods but because of its fruity overtones it is becoming popular in to use in sweet dishes in North America. An excellent pairing with chocolate, and vanilla pairs well with the raisin-y notes.