Pride and honor of Şanlıurfa, isot pepper is a special produce that chefs go after today in the gastronomy world due to its extraordinary aroma and intensive taste even though it is not as widely used as flaked red pepper.
Also known as Urfa pepper, isot looks like something between bright red capia pepper and red bell pepper when fresh. Its dominant sweet aroma as well as its bite stands out.
You might ask ‘How come it’s purple-black as spice when it’s red when fresh?’ Making isot special, this color develops during two-stage drying process. After being picked, Urfa peppers are half- sundried for a day. It’s important that peppers are not thoroughly dried at first step. Afterwards, they are packed firmly in special bags and sweated all night. This way, natural oil in peppers can be preserved. The same process is repeated until peppers are dried and obtain their purple-black color. One of the natural characteristics of Urfa pepper is that it obtains a darker color as you keep repeating the same process. If picked the first day you get red, if picked the second-third day you get purple, if picked on following days you get black isot. Areas of usage of those three colors of isot are different in Urfa but the most ideal one is the darkest isot. Picked peppers are grounded, salted and added olive oil before used.
Isot has a peculiar natural, smoky taste. In fact, it is named after its smoky taste. The name ‘isot’ is derived from ‘isli ot’ (smoky herb).
Isot pepper has a bitter and hot taste that has smoky, sweet and earthy aromas. Its bitterness might be a little deceptive because first you get the taste of sweetness and slight bitterness. However, keep in mind that it has an increasing bitterness. Still, it offers a lighter but more long lasting bitterness than other types of peppers.
Isot is one of the main ingredients of kebab and çiğ köfte; a must for lahmacun (very thin Turkish pizza covered with seasoned minced meat and onions). It works very well with especially lamb recipes. It adds a very nice flavor to tomato-based salads, mezzes and roasted vegetables.
Since you can supply isot pepper only as ground, you should pay attention to its storage conditions. Keep it in airtight glass jars, away from light and heat sources to maintain its freshness. You can preserve it this way for up to 6 months.
You can put isot to the soups and stews to enrich them with both color and flavor. Actually, you can use it in every recipe that you use flaked red pepper since it enriches the taste.
You can mix fried eggplants or seasonal vegetables marinated in olive oil with yoghurt and isot, and obtain delicious mezzes. If you wish, you can add shredded parsley or mint leaves in or on it.
If you are open to new ideas, you might try adding a pinch of isot to brownie like some chefs in the world try. Its sweet, fruity notes make it go well with chocolate, vanilla and fruit desserts.