This is a take on peperonata, the classic Mediterranean bell pepper stew. An ideal light dish for (hot) summer days.
In the Netherlands, each year 5% to 10% of the entire production of fruit and vegetables will go to waste by their ‘looks’ or by overproduction (not to mention the massive amounts that we toss away ourselves). Luckily, there are more and more initiatives that use that obsolete produce – which is perfectly fine to use – and turn them into proper products like fresh soups, etc.
You also see more and more vegetables in the supermarkets that generally wouldn’t have made the cut as they look a bit ‘odd’. Bendy cucumbers, carrots, courgettes, etc. I recently found myself holding a bag of 10 bell peppers the size of a tennis ball and immediately thought of making a peperonata type of dish in which bell peppers, garlic, onion, and tomatoes are simmered in olive oil into a thick, colorful stew.
I got some additional inspiration from this Spanish rooted recipe I recently found over at BBC Good Food as it first grills the bell peppers. It does give you some extra work, but it’s totally worth it as – together with the use of pimenton dulce (Spanish smoked paprika powder) – it provides an excellent depth to the dish. The addition of the olives was a nice contrast too, and cooking the thyme stems along with the onions and garlic did give quite a lot more flavor than I could have expected!
In the end, my peperonata was served with some pearl couscous and pan-fried fillets of cod. However, skipping the cod and couscous and just settling for some fresh rustic bread to mop up the peperonata and dressing juices would be fantastic as well.
Recipe (serving 4 to 6 persons)
- 4 red peppers
- 4 yellow peppers
- 2 green peppers
- 6 tbsp olive oil
- 3 medium onions, finely sliced
- 6 garlic cloves, finely sliced
- 6 thyme sprigs, leaves removed, stems reserved
- 2 tbsp clear honey
- 3 tbsp sherry vinegar
- 1 tsp pimenton dulce (smoked Spanish paprika)
- 1 cup of green olives, stoned and halved
- 3 tbsp flour
- 4-6 cod fillets
- salt and pepper
- 1 cup of pearl couscous
- 1 liter / 4 cups of vegetable stock
- Stick the peppers under a hot grill (or hold over a flame on your hob) frequently turning until black and blistering all over. Do keep a close eye as they can turn black quite quickly. Then put the peppers in a bowl, cover with cling film and leave them to cool enough to handle.
- Peel and de-seed the peppers, catching all juices by straining them into a small bowl and setting aside. Cut the pepper flesh into thin strips and set aside as well
- Put 3 tbsp of the olive oil in a wide and shallow pan over medium heat, add the sliced onion, garlic and thyme stems, and sweat them for about 20 minutes until softened and starting to brown.
- Add the pepper strips, 1 tbsp honey, half the pepper juice and 2 tbsp of the sherry vinegar, and cook until it makes a sticky relish. Remove the thyme stems, add the pimenton dulce, stir through the olives, season and set aside (it can be either served warm or at room temperature).
- Mix the remaining pepper juices, 1 tbsp vinegar and 1 tbsp honey, 2 tbsp olive oil and half of the thyme leaves to make a dressing, then set aside.
- Toss the flour with the remainder of the thyme leaves, season generously with salt and pepper and dust the cod fillets
- In the meantime, bring the vegetable stock to a boil and prepare the pearl couscous according to instructions on the packet (usually about 10-12 minutes)
- Heat the remaining 1 tbsp olive oil in a large non-stick frying pan and fry the flour-dusted cod fillets for 3-4 mins on each side until just cooked through.
- Serve by putting the couscous and a full ladle of the peperonata onto each plate, top with the fried cod fillets and drizzle the dressing over the plate.
Verdict: 8/10; definitely worth making again