This last year more than ever, I’ve been searching for the perfect vegetarian main course to serve yoga retreat and supper club guests. A vegetarian main that wasn’t a stew, wasn’t a bowl of pasta, and would be interesting enough for those most usually aquatinted with a plate of steak. It has been an interesting challenge, made all the more difficult by the fact I’m a stubborn cow when it comes to using vegetables out of season (most of the time). You see, I still look at a dinner plate through the eyes of the life-long meat and fish eater I am. Something ‘main’ needs to go on that plate along with some complex carbs and greenery. A vegetable stew, curry or legume filled salad is all very well but it is really hard to plate it up without looking like a pile of slop. I’ve now served my fair share of stuffed or miso marinated aubergines (may share this soon), my legendary twice baked sweet potatoes, and of course cauliflower steaks – most favourably on top of a rich and filling Romesco sauce. There’s always veggie burgers of course, but perhaps I haven’t yet exhausted the stuffed repertoire?
Romano (pointed) peppers have always been on my agenda, their sweeter flavour lending themselves well to many a Romesco sauce, but I’m still not sure why I hadn’t thought of stuffing them before. A few weeks ago I had a lovely meal at a local restaurant (The Orchard in Brockley) where I enjoyed my very first stuffed Romano peppers; selecting them with my vegetarian culinary exploratory hat on (though I have to say the others had some of the fish dishes which looked outstanding). The pepper looked so beautiful on the plate stuffed with black beans and goats cheese, and it was served with a tzatziki sauce and some charred spring onions (my new favourite thing). This was definitely something I could do with adding to my repertoire!
When pondering on what to fill it with, I considered summer seasonality and had a flash back to some stuffed squid I made in California (now on Zenbelly blog) which was inspired by an Ottolenghi recipe. It was fiddly and time consuming but one of the tastiest things I’ve made for myself. Grated courgettes, mixed with fragrant herbs, lemon zest and sweet raisins, before making the bulk of the stuffing. This time I added wild rice, to add a vegetarian protein boost and sustenance in absence of the squid.
If you’re not familiar with wild rice, its actually not really a grain but a grass; though confusingly it behaves and tastes like a grain in cooking. It contains twice the amount of protein as brown rice, the grains are usually black, longer than your average grain of rice, and have a gorgeous nutty flavour. Complex carbohydrate at its tastiest. It is fairly expensive un the UK currently and usually only found in health food stores but if you fancy splashing out then I do urge you to give it a try. Any wholegrain will work in this recipe though e.g. brown rice, buckwheat or quinoa (if you must).
Since I’ve stuck with Ottolenghi’s eastern Mediterranean stuffing flavours, I stuck with tzatziki as my sauce, the charred spring onions as they are so hot right now, and then I added courgette fritters (initially inspired by Dannii’s Hungry Healthy Happy book) for the simple reason that I cooked them for a brunch last weekend and was asked for the recipe. At the brunch I made them with a flax egg, for the photo a real egg. I actually prefer them with the flax egg as it lends a moister fritter; both are included below.
Since tzatziki is everywhere on the internet I didn’t write up my own recipe again. Nigel Slater’s is as good as any.
Looking forward to cooking these again at the Stretching the City retreat in Arundel this weekend.
- 2 large Romano Peppers
- 60g cooked wild rice (45g or ¼ cup raw)
- 1 courgette, (150g) coarsely grated, moisture squeezed out using kitchen towel or a tea towel
- 20g chopped walnuts
- 2 Tbs raisins
- 5g roughly chopped dill
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- Grated zest of ½ lemon
- ½ Tbs lemon juice
- 1 Tbs olive oil
- ½ tsp salt & a few grinds of pepper
- 1 tbs ground flax + 2 tbs water (or 1 egg)
- 1 medium courgette, coarsely grated, moisture squeezed out using kitchen towel or a tea towel
- 2 tbs gram flour / green pea flour
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- Zest from 1 lemon
- ½ tsp salt, black pepper
- olive or coconut oil to cook.
- 1 bunch spring onions, trimmed and cleaned
- olive or coconut oil to cook.
- Green salad
- Pre-heat oven to 180C
- Cut tops off peppers, carefully remove the seeds and any membrane with a sharp knife, retain the lids.
- Mix your cooked wild rice with the rest of the ingredients, season with salt and black pepper
- Stuff peppers, then place on their side on a lined baking tray. Prop the lids on the ends of the peppers the best you can.
- Roast in the oven for 30 minutes, or until softened and slightly charred.
- Make your flax egg, by combining the ground flax with water as above. Leave sit for 10-15 minutes until thickened up.
- Place your wrung out grated courgette in a medium bowl along with the gram flour, garlic powder, lemon zest and seasoning. Mix well before adding the flax eggs and mixing again, the mixture should just stick together, not too sloppy is ideal.
- Warm a large frying pan over a medium heat and add 2tsps of oil and swirl it around the pan. Dollop in around 2tbs of the courgette mixture to make a fritter, then continue with another 2-3 at a time. Do not over fill the pan, it makes them difficult to flip.
- After a few minutes the underside should be browned. Flip over and cook the other side until similarly browned. Drain on kitchen paper and keep warm in a low heat oven if necessary until you have finished your batch.
- Heat a glug of oil in a pan till almost sizzling, then add your spring onions. Keep tossing them while they char in the heat of the pan. When browned and softened add a pinch of salt and remove.
- Add a blob of tzatiki to a plate then lay the stuffed pepper on top. Add the fritters and spring onions on the side and serve with a leafy green salad.
A flax egg is usually 1 Tbs flax + 3 Tbs of water, but I find it works well here with just 2
Inspired by the idea of stuffing peppers? Perhaps you might like these stuffed sausage peppers with coriander salsa I developed for Debbie and Andrews or these simple side dish stuffed peppers from Munchies and Munchkins. What would you stuff yours with?
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