Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Basilicata Sweet and Sour Peppers

As a rule, I’m not much keen on stuffed peppers, but the ones Mum makes at Christmas are very special. This is an old recipe from Dad’s village in Italy where the home grown peppers were stored in big pots of local vinegar so they’d last the whole year. Dad’s mum taught my mum how to make them and now she’s shown me. They’re a proper labour of love and take the best part of a day to prepare. And anchovies with honey are a bit of an acquired taste.

Serves 8 as a starter
8 smallish red peppers
300ml malt vinegar
olive oil for shallow frying
250g fresh white breadcrumbs
handful of roughly chopped parsley
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
small cup of small sultanas soaked for 5 minutes in water
splash of olive oil
2 x 50g cans of anchovies in oil, roughly chopped
splash of balsamic vinegar
2 - 3 tbsp clear honey
1 - 2 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
2 cans chopped plum tomatoes
few fresh basil leaves

Take the stalk and core out of the peppers but keep them whole. Salt lightly and and splash some vinegar inside. Place in a large bowl and pour over the rest of the vinegar. Leave for 6 hours - 2 days.

Make the sauce: cook the onion in a little olive oil for a few minutes until softened then add the garlic and cook for a few seconds more. Add the tomatoes and basil and using a handheld blender, whizz until smooth. Simmer for 20 minutes.

Mix together the stuffing ingredients with some salt and pepper. Drain then peppers and stuff. Heat a splash of olive oil in a large frying pan and fry the stuffed peppers until the skin blisters then peel it off and discard it.

Sit the peppers upright in the tomato sauce, cover and simmer gently or bake at 180C/Gas 4 for about 1 1/2 - 2 hours.

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