Piedmont Peppers

This recipe is quite simply stunning: hard to imagine how something so easily prepared can taste so good. Its history is colourful, too. It was first discovered by Elizabeth David and published in her splendid book Italian Food. Then the Italian chef Franco Taruschio at the Walnut Tree Inn, near Abergavenny, cooked it there.

Ingredients

4          Red peppers, large (green are not suitable)

6          Tomatoes, medium in size, either English or Italian Plum

8          Anchovy fillets, drained

2          Garlic cloves, crushed

8 tbs     Italian extra virgin olive oil

2 tbs     Balsamic vinegar

Handful of basil leaves

Freshly milled black pepper

Preparation and cooking

Begin by cutting the peppers in half and removing the seeds but leaving the stalks intact (they’re not edible but they do look attractive and they help the pepper halves to keep their shape).

Lay the pepper halves in the lightly oiled roasting tray. Now put the tomatoes in a bowl and pour boiling water over them. Leave them for 1 minute, then drain them and slip the skins off, using a cloth to protect your hands. Then cut the tomatoes into quarters and place three quarters in each pepper half.

After that, snip one anchovy fillet per pepper half into rough pieces and add to the tomatoes. Peel the garlic cloves, crush and divide equally among the tomatoes and anchovies. Now spoon 1 tbs of olive oil into each pepper, season with freshly milled pepper (but no salt because of the anchovies) and sprinkle with the balsamic vinegar.   Place the tray on a high shelf in the oven at 180°C for the peppers to roast for 50 minutes to 1 hour.

Then transfer the cooked peppers to a serving dish, with all the precious juices poured over, and garnish with a sprig of basil leaves. These do need good bread to go with them as the juices are sublime – focaccia would be perfect. We often serve this as a side dish to go with a nice grilled Rib eye steak.

Variations

Can be done with different types of fresh tomatoes, baby plum or cherry tomatoes, but never with tinned tomatoes. The balsamic vinegar can be left out if desired, but I think the sharpness of the vinegar really adds to the dish (and the wonderful juices).

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