Before it dwindles entirely, Happy Easter Foodies! My free long weekend this so called spring has been pretty untraditional with curries and excessive amounts of exercise and so far not a sniff of chocolate. Weird perhaps, but unforced and relaxing it has been. I have, however decided to finish off this Easter Monday in an entirely traditional fashion with a dodgy film (The Mummy Returns) and one of my favourite dinners, a girl needs to get her treats in somewhere.
Oddly enough I’m not a fan of raw peppers, they are always slightly winky and repeat on my like a catchy Lady Gaga tune but twenty minutes in a hot oven and you are blessed with a sweet, squishy and wholesome loveliness of a vegetable which complements so many of my favourite other hot foods, like pizza, pasta and couscous.
Despite taking no more than half an hour to cook, being less than 450 calories per serving (yes, really) and very easily vegetarian or veganised this is a lovely hearty dinner, savoury and satisfying and a great finish to a cold day. I wont spoil the experience by going on about how good it is for you either, but it really is. Just make it and enjoy it.
Boomboom Stuffed Peppers
Serves 2 as a main or three as a starter
3 large sweet peppers of any size
Olive or sunflower oil for frying
1/4 tsp chilli flakes
1 small white onion
3 cloves of garlic
1 large handful fresh watercress
*optional* finely diced cooked ham or chicken
100g dry couscous
Fresh or dried thyme
Salt & Pepper
Start off with a hotish oven- about 180C. Halve the peppers vertically, removing and discarding the seeds, stem and pith. Place in a large roasting tin (don’t crowd them!), drizzle with olive oil then into the pre heated oven. Set the timer for ten minutes.
Put your dry couscous into a bowl with plenty of extra room, a good crack of black pepper and the leaves from your thyme- you want about half a teaspoon if fresh, a little less if dried. Cover the couscous with roughly double the volume in freshly boiled water then cover the bowl with a lid/plate and ignore for a little while.
Get your veg prepped now, that’s finely chopped for all ingredients. When the ten minute timer goes off from the oven, check the peppers and turn them over, take the oven temp down a little if they are blackening this early.
Now to make the ‘stuffing’ heat about a tablespoon of olive oil in a big frying pan. Add the onion, garlic and chilli flakes and cook on a medium heat for two minutes before adding the courgette (don’t wait for the onions to go translucent). Another two minutes and in with the mushrooms. Stir well and keep an eye on it. At this point empty the couscous into a very fine sieve to get rid of any excess liquid and set aside.
Next add the tomatoes and watercress to the pan along with the ham or chicken if you are the carnivorous type, season with black pepper and Maldon sea salt to taste and turn the heat right down. Check your peppers, if they are soft and just starting to blacken on the cut edges, you’re ready to go. If not, well, find something to do until they are but this shouldn’t be more than another five minutes.
When the peppers are ready, leave in the oven until serving but turn the oven heat out. Turn said heat back up under the pan and add the couscous, stirring thoroughly but gently, otherwise you will cover your nice clean kitchen in little bits of dinner
Once it is all well combined and piping hot, dish up over the roasted pepper halves and enjoy with a nice cold glass of white wine, or even put straight into a lunchbox to cool before refrigerating and enjoying as a hearty salad lunch the next day.
Variations- obviously you can leave out the meat to make a full on vegan dinner if that’s your thing. Spice lovers can add more chilli if desired. You can leave the thyme out of the couscous and finish with any other fresh herb as liked (basil, oregano, coriander) , but I would add anything other than thyme at the end, or dried into the dry couscous as above. If you’re feeling extra indulgent, serve with some thinly sliced brie over the hot couscous- fabulous 🙂