Friday 10 February 2012

Winter Warmer

I don't really think of Winter as a season for peppers but Riverfords are amazing at the moment and keep turning up in my veg boxes.  They are so huge and fat and bursting with flavour that I could almost smell summer.  Admittedly, they come from Spain but when you are longing for a little bit of warmth, in this really cold dawning of February, a bit of sunshine from Spain can really cheer you up.  It's as close as a holiday as I will be getting this half term so I am embracing it with arms wide open.   

So fed up am I with Winter and my north facing back garden, which will not see a glimmer of sunshine until at least March, that I booked a holiday in Sardinia.  It is not until June mind but it did not stop me getting out all my favourite Mediterranean cookbooks to get me in the mood.  Flicking through Elizabeth David I could almost taste the Peperonata and before I knew it I was back in the kitchen.  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.


6 red peppers
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.

1 comment:

  1. I love peppers throughout the year. Along with tomatoes and onions they are the vegetables I could not live without and buy every week. I love the look of your peperonata.


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