French Farce…


Stuffed peppers have steadfastly kept their place in my pantheon of “least favourite dishes” As I grow older I have found  so many “least favourite dishes” that I am searching for a new duo of comparative and superlative to replace “lesser” and “least”; I have considered options such as”slightly lesser”and ” not quite least” but, as in my feelings on being tortured, degree is not as relevant as the generalisation. I don’t want to be tortured to any fucking degree at all…I just don’t want to be tortured. And I don’t want to eat mac and sodding cheese nor any form of invalid tuna bake that makes the urine scented corridors of retirement homes seem like  wild flower meadows  or even so much as let the tip of my toe cross the threshold of a Maccursedonald: which horrors are just the tip of a towering iceberg of offending dishes and culinary crimes amongst which is the previously mentioned “stuffed pepper”. Stuffing is an unpleasant enough word,which in culinary speak brings to mind the stale dried herb flavour of the pallid  lump, akin to a gobbet of ambergis, that is traditionally forced into the body cavity of the festive fowl on which so many hopes are heaped, all to be shattered as the overcooked, flat batteried bird is presented to a now seriously pissed and argumentative once happy family.But there are occasions when a light stuffing, rather than a full blooded shag, will do nothing but good for a pepper, particularly one that is to be roasted. I’m never quite sure why I buy those unpleasant nets or cellophane tubes containing a red, yellow and green trinity of capsicums. I think it must be that it saves me from going through the French supermarket ritual of personally weighing and price labeling one’s fruit and vegetable purchases whereas the pre packed option allows one to forego that particular trial. Had I been planning to make a ratatouille I would have carefully and individually selected each pepper and each other vegetable that I planned to use. Should a pepperonata have been on my mind, I would only have been considering the red peppers and so on. So the reason for this unlikely choice remains obscure and maybe it’s because I carry in my mind an image of burnt edged multi coloured peppers that lie drunkenly collapsed with the heat of cooking and the richness of the olive oil that they have greedily drunk which is linked to a remarkably simple recipe, appositely named “Baked Peppers for a summer lunch” and is to be found in Nigel Slater’s “Tender”.


There are slight differences between my dish and the recipe, one of which was forced on me, one contrarily added and one forgotten at the last moment. The peppers are halved, emptied of their seeds and other bits and laid in an oven proof dish. It is suggested that a few, halved cherry tomatoes are put into the peppers but, having no cherry tomatoes, I used some chopped tomato. Mr.Slater’s recommendation, that anchovies were to be left out, I ignored and took to be a misprint. There was no mention of scattering cloves of garlic in the dish ( I don’t know what the editor and type setter were doing, but certainly not their job) and the whole thing is then seasoned and drizzled ( a word that may well be entering the previously mentioned pantheon) with olive oil: cook for 45 minutes in a hot oven. Nigel recommends a clever idea of blitzing basil leaves with olive oil to pour over the cooked dish which I forgot to do and which sounds wonderful. I blame this omission on my full leaved, green and healthy basil plant that sits silently on the ledge OUTSIDE the kitchen window which, being out of sight, I forget to use on every occasion: on the other hand Basil has found his rightful place in the sun where he remains happy and, for the moment, unplucked.

About Food,Photography & France

Photographer and film maker living in France. After a long career in London, my wife and I have settled in the Vendee, where we run residential digital photography courses with a strong gastronomic flavour.
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39 Responses to French Farce…

  1. Sue says:

    Ah, I do love the way there is no mincing of words…we know where you stand on effing stuffing! And these peppers I know as Piedmont peppers, for some reason- anchovies and all. About the only way I do eat peppers, other than in Ratatouille…

  2. Mad Dog says:

    I’d be heading for the kitchen now (after reading your improved recipe), but for the fact that I’ve just stuffed myself stupid with scrambled egg on toast, streaky bacon and a drizzle of truffle oil 😉

  3. John harvey says:

    Brilliant. I love “flat batteried” and “misprint”

  4. cawleytanya says:

    Stuffed Peppers in Ireland have always drummed up horrific memories of cold, raw halved peppers stuffed with stodgy leftover rice mixture…

  5. Ha ha “….there are occasions when a light stuffing, rather than a full blooded shag, will do nothing but good….” Love peppers like this, I think Miss Delia Smith also has a version with shaves of fennel inside, very good indeed.

  6. I almost ordered a stuffed pepper for lunch in Sofia, Bulgaria today but opted for “giuvech”, lamb stew with vegetables which was very nice. But I still would not have minded stuffed pepper I think. ^^

  7. ardysez says:

    Such a laugh, Roger. I find that I have less tolerance for certain foods, or is that more fussiness, as I get older. Capsicum is certainly one that has to be carefully applied at precise moments. It overwhelms other flavours rapidly. I, too, don’t wish to be tortured to any—-degree either. Reminds me we used to lightly oil red peppers and a few other veggies in oil and cook them on the grill, very nice, and simple. I’ll bet the basil and oil would be nice on them too.

    • They work well like that…I know what you mean about them taking over. I do like pepperonata which is very taken over by the flavour of peppers as it’s the whole point…I do make that quite often..very good cold with good bread:)

  8. Francesca says:

    The Italian word ‘ripieni’ is a much nicer word that stuffed, which literally means re-filled- although in the case of peppers, I like them also only partly refilled too. Both garlic and anchovy are necessities, basil leaves at the end are nice too, but I love a thin slab of fetta cheese on top of these- especially if it’s Persian marinated Fetta. I serve this dish often enough in red pepper season- Its my little desperado dish.

    • That’s a perfect description of the “lightly stuffed” approach…I’d like to know more about the Persian marinated feta..

      • Francesca says:

        Persian marinated fetta fetta marinated in olive oil, assorted herbs, garlic ans so on. When the fetta is extracted , it is oily and soft and tastes of those added things. It is sold commercially in Australia but is easily made at home. I love it on top of large flat mushrooms, with a sourdough breadcrumbs, another version of ‘ripieni’.being better than stuffed.

      • I know the stuff you mean now…little jars full of cubes of feta with herbs and oil…very good indeed…I always thought it was Greek…but the Greeks and Persians liked to have a go at other….Marathon is a good example:)

      • Eha says:

        So agree with Francesca: I live semi-rurally and the foodie post code for my area does not ring bells! Yet enticing tubs of Persian feta coming from 4-5 different firms are always on the s’market fridge shelves . . . we are very lucky here . . . and I am old enough to remember the Anglo days of ‘meat, potatoes, and three veges’ 🙂 !!

      • I remember those days only too vividly…but we all ended up quite healthy:)

  9. Eha says:

    I just cannot believe that in food-holy France one can also buy ‘three colours arranged neatly in a bag’!! And in spite of the fact that your mind seems to have been on other matters than cooking capsicums, at least in the first part of the post, must admit I do like that very simple pepper recipe to be tried soonest . . . . actually I love peppers: but that may be because I seem to live on Asian stirfries during busy periods and one simply cannot make one without some still crispy capsicum peeking at one out of the inviting pan . . . 😀 !!!

    • Agree about the stir fry, but a long time since I’ve done one.Re the tube of peppers..there IS a huge range of vegetables here, yet foolishly I chose the one crap option:)

      • Eha says:

        Lots of love for the weekend Milord! A ‘stirfry’ is probably the easiest dish for a foodie to shine!! PLEASE do not be boring [oh no, definitely not you !!!!] – just throw gorgeous fresh things into your pan/wok, whatever!! AND have fun!!!! Let go!!!! And I LOVE peppers and I honest to injun have one of those packs in the fridge for the weekend!! My very best to your wife and yourself and whoever live in other parts of your house . . . wish I was there !!!

      • Now this may surprise you, Eha, or maybe not. As a young man, Terence Conran took me under his wing and I photographed most of the early Habitat catalogues. When he opened the Kings Road branch he was also launching the Wok in London ( c.1973) and I not only took the pictures but also wrote the stir fry recipes that came with the Wok…I’m no stranger to a stir fry:)

    • It’s my fault, Eha. You cannot be offered a better selection of perfect vegetables than that which I find here…yet I picked the tricolor tube…I throw myself on the mercy of the court:)

      • Eha says:

        Oh sugar and spice and all things nice, Roger ! Two incredible ‘bits’ in getting to know you better! Not the least bit surprised!. Just ‘enlightened’!! Hmmph: 1973 in London: methinks Milord you were a wee bit before ‘my time’ in every day!!! Not in age: just in knowledge and experience!! ‘The Habitat’ – I still get it every day . . . . . .

  10. I love your writing! I do like stuffed peppers, but not with oodles of limp rice, which seems to be the usual diner fare. Your take on lightly stuffed peppers with a diff is something I’m going to aspire to!

  11. I never thought to serve pepper this way. I do like ‘accent’ anchovies. A new taste bud experience. I look forward to this new adventure. And…I am always excited to see what new delights you bring -a feast for our eyes and taste buds!

  12. Perfect example of less is more!

  13. Great inspiration of yours as a light summer dish. Yet here in California it is so dam hot, that I hardly heat up my stove, as for grilled bell peppers, but I happen to have some fresh one’s, so I better prepare them early morning.

  14. Pingback: French Farce… | City To Country Magazine

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