Here we use the word capsicums to mean the large, squat, mild peppers that come in red, green, yellow, orange and sometimes black. Sometimes they are called bell peppers or sweet peppers. For the recipes or methods included here you could also consider the elongated banana peppers as they also tend to be mild and sweet; they too come in different colours.
The versatility of capsicums as an ingredient is extraordinary, including stir fries, pasta dishes, salads, pizzas, antipasta, curries and stews. I sometimes wonder if the red capsicum is not the most versatile of all vegetables.
Here we give two recipes or methods: grilled red peppers and fried peppers. Once prepared they can be refrigerated for some days and used as required. In addition, it is very easy to coat or spray baby peppers or slices with oil and barbecue them or pop on a roasting tray in the oven.
Grilled Red Peppers
Many of us are now familiar with grilled or roasted red peppers. We place ours over a full flame on the gas hob and turn from time to time as each side burns. We use tongs to ensure that those sections left uncharred get their turn. We then pop the grilled pepper(s) into a paper bag or a plastic bag. We prefer to use a plastic bag as it is easy to scrub off the blackened skin later, but you have to be careful that a hot piece of pepper or the hot tongs don’t melt a hole in the bag. Fold the end of the bag over to seal in the heat and allow to sit and steam for 10 minutes or so. Then, rub the pepper(s) between your hands while inside the bag to remove as much of the blackened skin as possible. Then extract from the bag and try to remove the remaining charred bits. Try wiping with some paper towelling and using a paring knife to remove stubborn skin. At the same time try to retain the juices inside the peppers and set aside for another use. If you are really desperate you can clean by running under cold water. When you are happy that enough charred bits have been removed – it is OK to leave some on – pat the pepper(s) dry. Slice into segments, place in a bowl and cover with good olive oil. Refrigerate and turn from time to time. They last well in the fridge for some days. Use in your favourite recipe or serve as is.
Degree of difficulty: 2/5 (not difficult).
The basis for the recipe was given to me many years ago by the wife of the local Hampton greengrocer. It arose from the fact that she had for sale bags of baby red and green capsicums. The peppers ranged in size from an egg to a large lemon. When I asked her how to cook them, she said she would normally fry them in oil with some flavourings, a typical Italian thing to do.
The flavours are quite different to roasted peppers, but they are still very interesting. Peppers cooked in this manner are also very versatile. They can be served hot, warm or cold. They are delicious by themselves, as an accompanying salad, or used as a vegetable for a main course. They are excellent for a picnic. The sliced peppers and juices can be tossed through salad greens or pasta.
For this recipe you can use whole baby peppers or large ones cut into chunks. Use a mixture of colours for a more interesting result. The peppers can be reheated if required. They last in the refrigerator for up to a week.
- 1 kg coloured peppers (capsicums)
- 3 tbsps good olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 2 tbsps mixed herbs (for example, oregano, parsley or basil)
- salt and pepper
Wash the peppers and drain or dry well, otherwise the water will spatter in the oil. If using small peppers, trim the stalks back as far as possible but leave them sealed, with the seeds still inside. With large peppers, cut each into two or three pieces and remove the seeds.
In a large saucepan or casserole, heat the oil. Throw in the peppers and cook quickly for several minutes allowing to brown a little or to noticeably char, but stirring often to avoid burning. When the peppers are softened slightly, add the garlic, herbs, and salt and pepper, stir for one minute. Turn off the heat and place on the lid until required. Serve hot or allow to cool. Serves 4 to 8, depending on use.
Serve with your chosen accompaniment, and garnish with more fresh basil, chives or parsley if required. Serves 4 as a main course.
Degree of difficulty: 2/5 (not difficult).