Best ever stuffed peppers
Oh the guilt. Albatross round my neck, dammit! This won´t do. I feel guilty enough about enough things, to have to add a blog to the list. So finally I drag myself to the computer and here I am. I feel I´m fobbing you off with a photo of my cooking notebooks, but that pepper is the illustration I did ten years ago when writing doen this recipe, so at least I´ve done some archival effort.
We had a visit from Pille and K. of Nami-nami.
Not that that´s an excuse. I´m just mentioning it. We had the best four days of food related talk, and of eating and tasting and cooking and sightseeing, and it was wonderful and fun. But the retribution wasn´t long in coming, and I had to work, and so I hung up the apron and lived on toast for the rest of the week. Do you beleive that? No? Well, it´s almost true. I also had a lot of pollen chocolate, and yogurt with sea buckthorn muesli. Perks of having friends in the Baltic, you see.
Anyway, I´m going to post a recipe for the peppers Pille and Kristjan had at my parents´. These peppers are the most wonderful thing ever, and if I haven´t blogged about them before, it´s because I´ve never cooked them before, and it feels a little bit like cheating.
The thing is, these are the special, for-guests-only, best-in-the-world stuffed peppers, and they are only made at home, by Escolástica, when the occasion merits. It´s never entered my mind that I, your humble self, can ever come close to the effect.
However you, labouring under no such a heavy weight of tradition, can have the recipe and go ahead and made these beauties, thereby making friends and influencing people. Here they are.
You need as many red peppers as will comfortably fit the tray in your oven. Here in Spain it´s very usual to find red peppers the size of rubgy balls, and those aren´t very good, since you can only fit four, and one of the beauties of this dish is the ease of portion control. You don´t want the petite Dutch cricket ball type, either. Try to find ones that are the size of a tea mug. Am I making sense? I feel not. Anyway. The perfect type of pepper will have ten or eleven snugly nestling side by side in a standard oven tray.
Ground meat, 600 gr. We like a mixture of beef and pork.
One green pepper, one onion, one 1/2 tin of tomatoes, 2 cloves of garlic, 1 bay leaf.
Two cups of rice. At home they use parboiled, and much as it pains me to say it, it´s wonderful in this dish. It´s the only time I don´t mind parboiled rice, but of course sticklers go with any long grain variety that gives you confidence.
Heat the oven to 170ºC
Take your biggest frying pan and fry the mince for a few minutes, until it´s no longer pink. Set aside.
Now make a sofrito, which, as you know, consists of chopping finely your onion, sauteeing it in plenty of olive oil, adding the chopped green pepper, waiting a bit for it to wilt, and then throwing in the tomatoes, bay leaf and garlic (I add a good handful of sugar too). When it has reduced to a fragrant dark pulpy mess, it´s done. You should probably make it salty, as the peppers will be unseasoned.
Now add the meat and the rice, and turn to coat well. You want a homogenous mix, and you want to rice to be nicely coated with all the flavorings and oils.
While the sofrito reduces, you can spend the time cleaning the peppers, which you do by carefully cutting round the stem, and keeping that bit; then cleaning the inside of seeds and that white membrane thing. Be careful and don´t break them.
Now fill them with the mixture. Go easy. They should be filled more than half but less than three quarters, as the juice from the peppers will make the rice swell. Put the stem lids back on.
Coat them with a slick of olive oil, put them on their sides and bake them for an hour. Turn them over (careful now! go easy and use a couple of very wide spoons), and bake for another hour.
At the end, they will be sticky and glossy, charred in places and smelling so good that you will want to eat them all.
Don´t forget to dip your bread in the oily dark goo at the bottom of the tray.