Chillies and bell peppers have become a pretty standard ingredient in our homes these days. Whether you choose the sweet, mild, or hot varieties, they all add colour, texture and a delicious flavour to almost any meal.
Capsicums originated in Mexico and South America and then apparently crossed the oceans with Christopher Columbus on his way back to Europe from where they made their way across the rest of the globe.
Back in the day, bell peppers were used only occasionally in meals and mostly as decorative plants for gardens, whereas hotter peppers were used in salsas and powders to spice up meals.
Capsicums are packed with Vit C and Vit B6, so other than throwing a few green peppers into a salad and chucking a spoonful of chili into a curry, here are a few easy ideas to try:
Using bell peppers
- Slice into long slender strips to add to roast vegetables or as a topping on pizza.
- Slice the top open and remove the core and seeds. Stuff the peppers with a mixture of cooked quinoa, mushrooms sautéed in red wine and a sprinkling of parmesan.
Using hotter peppers
- Make salsa using fresh chilli peppers. Mixing something sweet, like pineapple, with a hot pepper creates a lovely flavour. Salsas are a quick and tasty substitute for gravies, dips and ready-made sauces which are usually high in salt and preservatives.
- Take your braai to gourmet levels by making your very own pimientos del piquillo – cook hot, medium or mild peppers on a braai until the skin starts to blister. Remove from the heat, remove the skin and serve the soft flesh with a dollop or two of garlic or stuff with a soft cheese.
- Make sauces with a bit of a bite by using small amounts of freshly sliced peppers or their powders. It’s better to add these at the beginning and to taste the sauce throughout the simmering process.
Paprika and Cayenne pepper
- Paprika can be sweet (dulce), medium hot (agridulce) or hot (picante) and if stored correctly, will retain its colour and strength for a long time. Ground cayenne pepper is also readily available and only needs to be used in tiny amounts. Add either of the above to stews or soups, use as a rub on fish and chicken, or mix some into baked dishes such as lasagne.
Get your children to help you make salad in a pepper:
- 1 red bell pepper, cut open at the top, core and seeds removed
- Some pitted olives
- 1 tablespoon finely grated carrot
- 1 handful of lettuce, shredded
- ½ round of feta, crumbled
- 1 T red wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar
- 3 baby tomatoes, sliced in half
- 1 tsp poppy seeds
- Some fresh chopped chives
Mix the ingredients and place in the hollowed out pepper.
Garnish with the chives and a little more crumbled feta.
Not sure what to try for dinner tonight? Give KAUAI’s new Thai Green Curry Bowl a go – it’s a hearty green chicken curry with the added fresh flavours of pineapple, red pepper, carrot and spring onion with brown rice.