How to cook with peppers: The Currabinny chefs have the perfect recipes

How to cook with peppers: The Currabinny chefs have the perfect recipes

Pictures by Brid O'Donovan

We are very definitely in the Nigella Lawson camp of seeing very little point to ever using a green pepper. Let them ripen in the sun to yellow, orange and red, they’re sweeter and lose that flavour that can only be described as unripe.

There are of course specific culinary uses for green peppers and indeed some stay green even when they are fully ripe. One of our favourite dishes ever are Spanish padrón peppers, blistered and encrusted with flecks of sea salt but if we are just talking bell peppers, we tend to ignore the green ones.

Bell peppers or ‘capsicums’ are our most commonly used type of pepper so we will be focusing mostly on these, although the larger ‘sweet’ variety is becoming popular too, best eaten raw in a salad, it also works well in a seafood linguine complimenting the sweetness of the prawns.

A lot of people find capsicums indigestible, owing to their tough skins, which is more commonly a problem in less ripe peppers such as the green ones; another strike against their name I’m afraid.

To avoid these problems, choose nice colourful ripe ones, blister over a hot flame or oven until the skins are black and easily peeled off, leaving the pepper juicy, slightly smokey and much easier to digest.

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When cooking with peppers, they are rarely the main event, often being a filler ingredient, one that does to bulk out a ratatouille or mixed into a filo pie along with more noble ingredients. To us, this is a shame as there is much to celebrate about the pepper.

It has a taste which is deeply mediterranean (although originating in Mexico) with lashings of great olive oil, sweetened with intense heat, turning uninteresting crunchy flesh into something tantalising, rich and moist.

The three recipes we have included show how versatile cooking with bell peppers are. We mostly use the richest red ones we can find, but for the linguine, a trio of red, yellow and orange gives you a brilliantly colourful dish, especially if you also use as many coloured tomatoes as you can find also. The prawns might at first seem like the main point to this dish but it is actually peppers which do all of the work, giving texture, colour and flavour, tying the rest of the ingredients together. Peppers are the unsung heroes of this prawn linguine if you will.

The sandwich is simple, uncomplicated, it doesn’t need a whole lot of attention to blister some chopped peppers on a pan and stuff them into a roll with some pork sausages as a perfect grab and go breakfast or lunch on the go.

The muhammara is a relatively new discovery for us but trust us, this is the most heavenly sauce, much more intense than a pesto or a hummus, it combines elements of both with nuts, tahini and garlic blitzed together with skinless roasted or grilled peppers and pomegranate molasses.

Prawn Linguine with Red, Yellow & Orange Peppers

We make seafood linguine a lot and we have featured our crab linguine before which is made in much the same way except using cream.

Prawn linguine is probably up there in our top five dishes to make at home.

We tend to use a lot of peppers compared with prawns which become meaty morsels scattered into an intensely mediterranean sauce which is rich but also zesty.

For two people

10 fresh king prawns, peeled

3 large bell peppers, one of each colour except for green

2 cloves of garlic, finely diced

1 red chilli, finely diced

Handful of cherry tomatoes, mixed heirloom preferred, halved or quartered

A large handful of chopped parsley

Juice of 1 lemon

280g of linguine

2 tbsp of good olive oil

How to cook with peppers: The Currabinny chefs have the perfect recipes

Cook the pasta according to the packet instructions in generously salted water, until al dente.

Remove the stalks and seeds from the bell peppers and chop the flesh into a fine dice.

In a large frying pan, heat the oil on a medium high heat and add the diced peppers, chilli and garlic.

Sautee for six to eight minutes, stirring regularly until the ingredients are fragrant and softened. Be careful not to let the garlic burn. Add the prawns and cook for a further three minutes until they are pink. Next, add the tomatoes, season with salt and pepper and cook on a medium heat for another three to five minutes.

Add a little pasta water to make it more saucy if you wish before adding the drained pasta, stirring it well into the sauce.

Mix through the lemon juice and chopped parsley, check for seasoning and serve.

Muhammara

We were introduced to this sauce at a dinner party not too long ago by a friend. They had themselves come across the recipe online from Ottolenghi. We were struck by how unique and different this dip was compared to anything we had tried before.

Its flavours are all intense and punchy yet don’t clash with each other. When tasting it, you find yourself trying to identify the ingredients one by one as they hot different parts of your tongue.

There was definitely a strong garlic note along with something sweet, almost syrup like, good olive oil, lemons, smokey intense red peppers and more subtle background notes like cumin and walnut.

We were keen to rush home and make our own version which we have been trying to perfect ever since. Ottolenghi uses breadcrumbs which we omit in favour of tahini which gives a smoother texture and a toasty background note.

Instead of the tablespoon of chilli flakes we prefer to add just a teaspoon probably because we are wimps.

How to cook with peppers: The Currabinny chefs have the perfect recipes

3 red bell peppers

Juice of half a lemon

1 tbsp of pomegranate molasses

1 tsp of cumin

1 tsp of dried chilli flakes

2 garlic cloves, crushed

50g walnuts, finely chopped, reserve a little to sprinkle on top at the end

2 tbsp of good extra virgin olive oil

1 tbsp of tahini

Sea salt

½ tsp of paprika to serve

Extra virgin olive oil to serve

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees celcius. Put the peppers on a prepared tray and bake in the oven for 30 to 35 minutes.

When ready the skin should be blackened, take out of the oven and place in a bowl with clingfilm or beeswax paper over it.

When cool enough you should be able to easily separate the skin and seeds from the flesh.

Blitz the flesh in a food processor with the lemon juice, molasses, cumin chilli flakes, tahini and garlic. Add olive oil slowly as you blitz until you get a smooth red paste. Stir in the finely chopped walnuts, and scoop into a nice bowl, checking for seasoning, adding more salt if needed. Drizzle some extra virgin olive oil over the sauce and garnish with some chopped walnuts and a little paprika.

We like to eat this as part of a mezzo with hot pitta breads or flatbreads.

Sausage and Red Pepper Roll

We don’t fry sausages often as we try and be a little healthier by grilling them but this recipe definitely calls for good pan-fried sausages. We tend to make this quickly at lunch time if we have forgotten to make a proper lunch and need something as we rush out the door, late for something as usual.

There is very little to this recipe in terms of ingredients, we don’t butter the roll or put any condiments like relish in it, although these options are definitely open to you should you wish. We think the sausage, red peppers and red onions caramelised and softened in oil and pork fat is all you really need.

This isn’t at all healthy but sometimes you need something quick and a little filthy when you’ve worked up a hunger by procrastinating all morning until you will definitely be late for whatever engagement you have on that day.

How to cook with peppers: The Currabinny chefs have the perfect recipes

2 crusty french baguette rolls

4 good quality pork sausages

2 red peppers, deseeded and roughly chopped

½ small red onion, sliced thinly

1 tbsp of rapeseed or olive oil

Salt and pepper

Heat your oil in a large frying pan on a medium high heat.

Add the sausages, cooking them until brown all over, spitting oil and cooked through.

Remove the sausages and set aside on a plate.

Add the peppers and sliced red onion and cook in the pork juices and oil for 6-8 minutes until they are getting nice and caramelised. Remove from the pan and place on a plate.

Cut the baguette rolls open and rub them into the pan juices, stuff with the sausages, peppers and red onion and quickly run out the door, probably forgetting your wallet or house keys.

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