Twice in one weekend, eh? Who would have thought?
Well, I wasn’t planning on it but then I found these:
Morrisons’ “Ghost Peppers” – Not the Bhut Jolokia we all know by that name but some pointy, white bells, intended to make cute little halloween ghosties with. Meant for stuffing.
Now, I might not normally be a fan of bell peppers, given how I tend to wake up the next day still tasting all the worst bits of them, but oranges and whites don’t have that effect on me. And the pointy ones are always a little nicer, anyway.
So I figured that I’d give them a go.
They are, however, like most white peppers, a little lighter in flavour than their other coloured relatives. They have a slight, almost creamy element to them but are otherwise a very gentle taste.
If you want a little more flavour out of the peppers, themselves, or, if you simply can’t find white ones after halloween, you can certainly substitute for other colours.
In my case, though, the main flavour of my dish is going to have to come from the stuffing. Here’s what I’ve thrown together:
3 white bell peppers
½ small tin of harissa paste
½ cup rice
1 cup water
1 small onion
1 large handful raisins
½ teaspoon turmeric
And a pinch of salt.
And then its time to start the way we usually do: By preheating the oven to 180°c.
But there’re a few more steps to this dish’s preparation so, while your oven is warming up, throw your water and rice into a small saucepan with a lid over a high heat. Leaving the lid off of the time being.
Then start coring your peppers and slicing your onion.
With any luck, your pan of water should now be at the boil and ready to cover. Put the lid on and turn it down to minimum flame before letting it do its thing for 20 minutes.
In the mean time, why not take this opportunity to thinly spread your harissa over the inside of the peppers? It should steam through the rice and flavour it a little when it comes time to bake them.
Once your twenty minutes are up, the rice should have absorbed all the water. If not, consider giving it another five.
Then, when it is done, heat some oil in another pan and fry your onion on a medium heat until it softens up like so:
Toss in the turmeric and continue frying until its all coated evenly.
Then add the rice and raisins, still frying, and mix everything together until its nice and golden.
Finally, remove that filling from the heat and put it where it belongs – Inside your harissa-spiced peppers.
Then simply pop the results onto a baking tray and into the oven for another twenty minutes and ta dah! You have some bright and flavourful stuffed bells with a touch of sweetness from the fruit and onion paired off against the savoury, north african chilli paste.
A nice little centrepiece that’s sadly variable in heat, depending on the exact brand and amount of paste you used. It will never exceed a low
though, making it pretty darn hot but still suitable for those who don’t like superhot items.
Or, if you want more of a medium strength, consider a variant that’s a little less authentic.
Proper tunisian-style harissa contains only chillies, spices and maybe salt, while many brands in the UK will dumb it down a little using red bell peppers and/or tomato.
This provides more of a medium heat but, in some cases, that’s not all it does. Some brands even offer a version with rose petals, which go unexpectedly well into something so savoury.
The main thing is, though, always read the label so you know what you’re getting into.
You didn’t mention that most of the harissa collects at the pointy end of the pepper, meaning that the last mouthful is about a tablespoon of pure chilli paste. Be warned!
I feel that a tablespoon may be a slight overstatement but I am sorry. Please do be careful and spread thinly, especially near the tip of these pointy peppers.