This week is National Vegetarian Week so I thought I would share some of my favourite veggie dishes with you – starting with these delicious peppers. They are a little bit retro; in fact the original recipe was from Delia Smith’s Christmas which was first published in 1994. But retro is good, right?
Over the years I have served these as a starter, for lunch with salad, as a main with some crusty bread and melted brie and as a side dish with meat or fish (ok so that’s NOT vegetarian).
They are sweet, soft, aniseedy (is that a word?) and juicy and everyone who has tried them has loved them.
The last time I made them was for my friend Lizzi and her husband Julian. I have known Lizzi for a few years now, we first met through work (not bun scuffle work; my real work, where I get paid!) when Lizzi applied to be an associate at evolution. She now runs a thriving training business of her own and we still work together occasionally, which is lovely. Somewhere along the way we moved from being colleagues to being friends and more often than not we can be found with coffee in one hand and cake in the other, talking too much to eat or drink anything.
As is often the way with a friend’s partner, we had met Julian, briefly, at one event or another but this was the first opportunity we had had to really get to know him. We had a lovely evening chatting about our shared passions for music and books and he introduced us to a very special Cornish red wine – what’s not to love?
I made the peppers as a starter because Lizzi is a yoga practising, 5:2 fasting, healthy eating, vegetarian – whereas I am not – any of the above. I hope this is a dish that met all our needs – it certainly met mine.
4 Large Red Peppers
2 small Bulbs of Fennel
1 tin Plum Tomatoes (14 oz)
4-5 tbsp Olive Oil
1tsp Coriander Seeds
1 tsp Fennel Seeds
Juice of half a Lemon
Salt and Pepper
Pre-heat the oven to 180 C / 350 F / Gas Mark 4.
Slice each pepper in half lengthways. Cut right through the green stalk and leave it intact if possible (because it looks pretty). Remove all the seeds and trim off any white bits. Place the pepper halves in a shallow roasting tin or casserole dish.
Drain the tomatoes and divide them into eight equal portions, put each portion inside a pepper half.
Trim the fennel and remove any tough, brown bits. Cut into quarters through the root, then cut each quarter in half so that you have 8 pieces from each bulb. Each piece should be held together at the root. Put the slices into a pan, add a pinch of salt and pour over boiling water. Blanche for five minutes then drain, carefully.
Once the fennel is cool enough to handle arrange 2 slices in each pepper half.
Drizzle with olive oil – use a pastry brush to make sure the sides of the peppers are coated with oil. Season with salt and a good grinding of black pepper.
Crush the fennel and coriander seeds lightly and sprinkle over the peppers.
Bake for about an hour until soft and beginning to brown. Remove from the oven and drizzle with the lemon juice.
Serve warm with some crusty bread to soak up the juices.