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The Basque Food ABC’s: E is for…


E is for…Espelette! This tiny town in Iparralade, the north (also known as French) part of Basque Country, is renowned for its special red pepper. Although the town is mostly empty now, and largely run for tourists, the pepper continues to be harvested and hung to dry on the picturesque walls of the traditional Basque villas.


Once dried, this pepper is often ground and used as a spice, much as you would use cayenne or black pepper. It packs a bit of heat.  It is an essential ingredient in local dishes like axoa, a stew of veal and braised peppers. As Spanish and Basque cuisine has caught on in anglophone cultures, you can often find it on menus in England and America (piment d’espelette aioli, for example).

There’s even a party held in the village every year (this year it falls on October 27 and 28), which includes a blessing of the peppers, pelota, and feasting.  It’s another unique and useful tool in the Basque culinary toolbox.