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.