Grains of Paradise are the small, red-brown seeds of a cardamom-like plant. More irregularly shaped than true peppercorns, Grains of Paradise are also sometimes called Guinea or Melegueta Pepper, and can be used as an interesting addition to or substitute for black pepper.
Grains of Paradise originally came from along the Grain Coast, and are used in the cuisine of that part of West Africa, as well as in Moroccan cuisine. Shipped across the Sahara Desert by caravan, Grains of Paradise were a fashionable substitute for black pepper in the 14th and 15th century, though they are largely unknown in European cooking today.
Melegueta pepper / Grains of Paradise are used today in West African cooking, in the Moroccan ras el hanout spice blend, and to flavor beers and liquors. Some familiar-if-dissimilar drinks flavored with Grains of Paradise include Scandanavian aquavit, Samuel Adams Summer Ale, and Bombay Sapphire Gin.
Try Melegueta pepper for an adventuresome alternative wherever you use ground pepper or peppercorns. Grains of Paradise add a zesty flavor to sausages and braised lamb. Grains of Paradise blend beautifully with Tellicherry black pepper in your grinder to give a fresh twist to steak au poivre [pepper steak]. TV chef Alton Brown even used Grains of Paradise in his apple pie recipe!