Cheese, garlic, (pancetta) and mushroom-stuffed peppers

IMG_2256It’s a universal truth that green peppers are the work of the devil. Red peppers, however, are the food of the gods. And stuffed, they’re even better.

Today I felt like something that combines mushrooms, garlic and cheese, and I also had some pancetta in, so I made a veggie version and a meaty version. And ate both.

What to use – serves 2

– For the meaty version use 150g diced pancetta (75g pp)

– For the veggie version use everything else, just leave out the pancetta

2 red peppers

100g of rice (50g per person)

200g of mushrooms – use any kind you like – I used closed cup

A squeeze of lemon

2 tablespoons of olive oil

2 medium garlic cloves

80g grated parmesan and another 20g to sprinkle over the top (50g per person)

Handful of parsley – chopped

For the salad

Handful of wild rocket each (I am not sure what makes this different to the tame kind)

8 cherry tomatoes

An avocado – half each

Drizzle of olive oil

Drizzle of balsamic vinegar – not a thin acidic version, use a rich syrupy version – I use this

How to use it

Halve, deseed and remove membrane (white bit). Drop into a pan of boiling water for 2 minutes. Lift out and put into a bowl of cold (iced if you have it) water to stop them cooking further.

If you like crisper peppers, you can leave this stage out altogether.

Once you’ve taken the peppers out and put them in their ice water, add a bay leaf to the boiling water and add your rice. Brown rice usually takes about 25 mins to cook.

Add the pancetta to a small frying pan. You don’t need to add any oil. Cook on a medium heat until it’s crispy but not burnt. You’ll need to give it the odd stir. Will take approx. 5 mins.

Chop your mushrooms into small pieces – will be mixed in with the rice and stuffed into the pepper so about 1cm square max really. In a separate frying pan add the olive oil and bring to a medium heat then add your mushrooms. They should sizzle a bit. Crush and add your garlic to the pan and stir well. Cook for a couple of minutes – stir frequently – don’t let the garlic brown. Turn off the heat.

Drain your peppers and put into the dish you’re going to use to bake them.

Drain your rice and let it dry for a couple of minutes. Then add it to the frying pan containing the mushrooms and stir it all together for a minute or so so the rice absorbs the garlicky oil. There’s no need to turn the heat back on for this.

Scrape out the mixture with a spatula into a mixing bowl. A good quality rubber spatula is a life-changing thing. It’s also great for cooking. Ha ha. Don’t waste a drop of the oil. If you’re using pancetta, add that, the parsley, the grated parmesan, and a squeeze of lemon juice and combine.

Scoop the mixture into the peppers, and push in quite firmly. You should have a really generous portion depending on how big your peppers are. Then add another generous sprinkle of parmesan over the top. Put in the oven at 185 (fan) for 25 minutes.

I ate this with a rocket, avocado, basil and cherry tomato salad, drizzled in olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

The results

I would use a good pinch of salt in the veggie one if I made it again. And I’d top both versions with cheddar rather than parmesan I think to get a softer gooier topping. The parmesan didn’t brown and looked a bit insipid (though tasted fine). The salad provided a really good balance – a bit of fresh greenery and sweetness to go with the savoury quite dense pepper filling.

Mmm rating: mm mm mm

Cost per person: £2.70 veggie; £4.40 meaty

Calories: 550 veggie; 770 meaty

What to listen to while cooking: Etta James – At Last

What to watch while eating: An episode of Vikings – power struggles, adventures in boats, great hair, and there’s a Skarsgard in it.



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