For the tomato sauce
1 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic
400g can plum tomatoes
pinch dried chilli flakes
1/2 tsp caster sugar
pinch sea salt and grind of black pepper
For the stuffed peppers
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
3 fresh plum tomatoes, roughly chopped
100g Portabello mushrooms, finely chopped
salt and pepper
1 tsp dried oregano or 2 tsp fresh oregano
2 tbsp pine nuts
200g risotto rice
500ml vegetable stock
1 pinch of saffron (optional)
4 large peppers, red, green, orange or yellow
To make the tomato sauce: sweat the onion and garlic in olive oil until soft. Add the canned tomatoes, chilli flakes, sugar and seasoning. Cook gently for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool a little. Liquidise with a stick blender to a smooth sauce. Set aside.
To make the stuffed peppers: sweat the onion in the olive oil until soft. Add the chopped fresh tomatoes, mushrooms, oregano, pine nuts and seasoning. Continue to cook until the mushrooms are soft and most of the liquid has been absorbed. Add the rice, stir well and pour in the vegetable stock followed by a pinch of saffron and cook uncovered over a low heat for about 15 minutes. The rice should be slightly underdone and most of the liquid should be absorbed.
To stuff the peppers. You have two choices. You can either cut the tops off the peppers or you can cut length ways through the pepper and its stalk, as in the photograph above. Either way, remove the seeds and the the white pithy ribs from each of the peppers. Fill the peppers with the rice filling and replace the tops. If you have cut lengthways through the pepper just fill each half of the pepper. Place two or three tablespoons of tomato sauce in a small baking tray and sit the filled peppers in the sauce. Cover with foil and cook in an oven preheated to 200C/ Gas mark 4 for one hour. Remove the foil and cook uncovered for a further 15 minutes.
Cooking peppers and aubergine is a litmus test of how well a chef can cook. It is surprising how often these stalwart Mediterranean vegetables are served underdone.
Peppers and aubergine are best cooked by a combination of roasting and steaming to render them soft, followed by short a period of roasting to caramelise their juices and concentrate their flavour. Preheated the oven to 200C/Gas mark 4. Place aubergine and or peppers on a baking tray or a roasting dish with a lid and dribble with olive oil or a sauce. Cover the tray with a lid or foil and cook for about 20 minutes to allow the moisture from the vegetable to be released. This softens the flesh of the vegetables. Then when the pepper or aubergine is silky soft and almost cooked it can be uncovered to caramelise its juices and develop deep flavours. Allow plenty of time to cook peppers and aubergine.Forty minutes should do it.
Saffron is a very Spanish flavour but in truth not everyone likes it. So feel free to omit it from the recipe if you are not sure of this flavour. It can taste of the smell of pine needles.
I love sweet red, yellow and orange peppers for this dish but I also like the more peppery taste of green peppers. This is a vegetarian dish but a little sautéed chorizo, minced lamb or beef added to the rice mixture would be delicious too.
Credit: Thanks Michael for the lovely plate. You are a star.