Mar 4th, 2014
We are not ‘official’ vegetarians, but we eat very little meat. Having said this I am constantly on the verge of taking the plunge with the only things that stop me being a) I’m not sure I see the full logic of the move unless you go the whole hog (so to speak) and go vegan. b) I really like my Norfolk Bronze Turkey from the Blackface meat company which we have for Christmas dinner every year. Seriously good (and free-range organic).
So this is one of my all time favourite veggie recipes – slightly special as it takes a while to make. I was going to entitle it ‘Moroccan Peppers’ but it is not very authentic – just sort of generically North African. So I am sticking with stuffed peppers but also mentioning my first attempt at preserved lemons which I made after Christmas and tasted in this recipe at the weekend. If I do say so myself they have turned out pretty well – they are a lovely mid-golden colour with a strong lemon flavour. They are supposed to darken further if they are kept longer but I don’t see them getting much of a chance at that.
Take four large peppers, slice off the tops and retain. Remove the seeds, brush with olive oil inside and out (bases and tops). Cook in a hottish oven until semi-soft but still holding their shape.
Cook some couscous in a vegetable stock. You want enough to stuff all the peppers and have extra to pile in the centre of the disk – I never weigh things but I estimate about 3oz each – so 12oz couscous and approx a pint hot stock. Mix in a little olive oil and cover while making the rest of the dish.
Lightly fry a large onion and a couple of chopped garlic cloves in olive oil and add a tin of nice chopped tomatoes. Sizzle for a few minutes and then add two large handfuls of cherry tomatoes. Cook very briefly until the cherries start to soften slightly. If you like you can stir in some tomato puree – I am always being accused of using too much of this – so leave out if you are not a tomatophile. Season.
Lightly toast some pine kernels in a dry pan. Take a couple of handful of olives (either colour), chop roughly and add. I put in a few raisins and chopped dried apricots (at least as many as I can get away with because R claims not to like them). Then add a few strips of preserved lemon chopped very finely. Mix well.
Fluff the couscous with fingers or (less efficiently) a fork, and stir in the pine nut mixture. Add salt and pepper and if too dry a little more stock or olive oil.
Place the pepper bases in a large ovenproof casserole (one with a lid). Stuff each pepper with the couscous mixture and replace the lids. Pile the leftover couscous in the middle of the dish. Pour the tomato sauce over everything.
Put the casserole lid on and cook in the oven for about 40 minutes at 180 degrees until hot through.
Serve with garlicky flatbreads, hummus (homemade is best and much cheaper than premade) and a yoghurt dip. A green salad would also be good with them.