Peperonata

Peperonata is a Sicilian pepper stew and amazingly, for such a simple recipe, no two versions seem to be the same.  I add not only capers and basil but Balsamic vinegar to mine, just to really nail that sweet and sour kick, but I also leave out the tomato which is often present in other versions.  Use the best Balsamic you can, which not only means one obviously from Moderna, the home of  Balsamic vinegar but also one that has also been aged at least 12 years.  A decent one will set you back at least £12.00 for 250ml but it will be worth it.  You will not need very much and it’s mellow sweetness and integrated acidity will add an amazing depth and complexity to many sauces especially tomato based ones.

I love this pepper stew, not only on its own with a rocket salad but also with meat or fish, especially wild salmon or mackerel.  The acidity works really well to cut the oiliness of the fish.  All you need is a few boiled new potatoes and you have a little taste of much needed sunshine.

 Peperonata

6 peppers (red, yellow and orange are best)

Extra-virgin olive oil

1 red onion, peeled and sliced

3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

1 medium-sized bunch of basil, roughly chopped

A handful of baby capers

A splash of very good balsamic Vinegar (Aged 12 years at least)

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Start by slicing the peppers in half, scooping out the seeds and slicing into one-inch strips lengthwise. Now place a medium-sized heavy- based pan over a gentle heat. Add a tablespoon of the olive oil and allow to warm through. When the oil is warm but not hot, add the onions, a pinch of salt and sweat for 15 minutes, stirring from time to time.

Once the onions are soft and translucent, add the garlic and sweat for a further 10 minutes – the onions should not have browned at all. Add the peppers and stir to combine. Cook until the peppers are soft and almost falling apart; this should take about 45 minutes. Give the capers a good squeeze to get rid of any excess vinegar and add to the peppers. Drizzle with balsamic and season with freshly ground black pepper and salt.  Cook until the vinegar has the right sweet and sour balance.   Add the basil and taste for seasoning. Serve either warm or at room temperature.

 

Pimientos de Padrón

Another recipe full of sunshine. Padron peppers (pimientos de padrón) originally hail from Galacia and are a tapas favourite in Spain. Eating them is a bit like playing Russian roulette: most are mild, but every now and then you’ll bite into a wickedly hot one. Riverford grow them on their farm in France. Get them now, whilst you can and eat them quickly before the summer is gone.

Pimientos de Padrón 1

Pimientos de Padrón

200g padron peppers

olive oil for frying

coarse sea salt

pinch smoked paprika (optional)

Clean and dry the padron peppers, leaving them whole with their stalks intact. Heat a generous covering of olive oil in a large, heavy based frying pan. When the oil is hot and glistening, add the peppers. Depending on the size of your pan, you may need to fry them in a couple of batches. Keep on a high heat; turning occasionally until their shiny skins are wrinkled and blistered (you will notice they deflate too). Remove from the heat. Serve immediately in a tapas dish with a good sprinkling of sea salt. For a twist, add a pinch of Spanish smoked paprika.

Padron Peppers

Baked Peppers Stuffed with Timman Z’affaran (Saffron Rice and Lamb)

Frying off the lamb for my Moussaka, reminded me of a recipe I made years ago for my blog, Timmam Z’affran, which is an Iranian dish of saffron rice with fried lamb. You fry off the lamb mince for a long time until all the fat has rendered out and it becomes crispy, a bit like you might do with bacon. Then you added lots of fried onions, spices and saffron rice. The result is delicious but a little on the dry side. Then I came up with the idea of stuffing the mix into halved peppers and baking them for a while.

Baked Peppers Stuffed with Timman Z'affaran (Saffron Rice and Lamb) 3

The peppers added not only another dimension, but were juicy enough to add the moisture that the recipe was somehow lacking. All in all, I was pretty happy and served alongside some nice salad leaves, it made a lovely dinner.

Baked Peppers Stuffed with Timman Z'affaran (Saffron Rice and Lamb) 1

Baked Peppers Stuffed with Timman Z’affaran (Saffron Rice and Lamb)

Serves 2 hungry or 3 not so hungry people

3 large peppers (which ever colour you like)

100g basmati grain rice

½ tsp salt

a pinch of saffron threads

4 cardamom pods

Flaked almonds or pine nuts

Soak the rice for 30 minutes in plenty of water, Drain, Put the rice in a heavy bottomed saucepan and cover with two inches of fresh water. Add the salt, saffron and cardamom pods. Bring to the boil, turn down the heat and cook for about 10 minutes until the rice is tender and most, if not all, of the water has evaporated. Drain if necessary. Remove the cardamon pods.

For the lamb

500g minced lamb

3 brown onions, quite finely chopped

2 cloves garlic

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 tsp Ground Cumin or Baharat or Ras el Hanout

½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

Sunflower oil

A handful of freshly chopped coriander

Fry the onion gently in some oil in a large heavy bottomed saucepan on a low heat for 10 to 15 minutes. When the onion starts to caramelise remove with a slotted spoon. Add the lamb and fry fast until it is brown all over and crispy. You will need to keep breaking up the meet and stirring to ensure even cooking. Cook it until all the fat has rendered out and then drain it in a colander lined with kitchen paper to remove the excess fat. Return the onions and the lamb to the saucepan with a little more oil, the garlic, salt, pepper and the spices. Fry for a few minutes more. Add the rice and the coriander. Stir well. Preheat the oven to 180 C. Cut the peppers in half lengthways and remove the seeds, keeping the stalk attached to hold the pepper together. Stuff the mixture inside the pepper halves and top with flaked almonds or pinenuts. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes. Serve hot to warm with salad

Baked Peppers Stuffed with Timman Z'affaran (Saffron Rice and Lamb) 4