Seventies cookbooks are full of cheery gingham tablecloths and stuffed peppers posed alongside straw-clad Rioja bottles. As an avid collector of vintage cookbooks, I’m a big fan of these cheesy pictures, but in reality, stuffed peppers can be leaky, bitter towers that don’t hold their shape.
Unlikely candidates for a culinary comeback perhaps? But if you get them right, these butter-soft treasure chests are delicious, slicing open like juicy steaks to reveal a tasty, golden filling, ideal for lunch or supper.
To guarantee success, use the sweeter red or orange peppers and choose those with a flat base so they sit well, rather than lurching drunkenly around the plate. You also need to ensure your filling packs a taste punch so don’t be shy with spices, seasoning and sauce. This super-spicy stuffing was inspired by a trip to Istanbul, but unlike classic Turkish stuffed peppers, these are served hot. Feeds 2-4, depending on appetite, and useful if you have hungry vegans, vegetarians or gluten-free guests for supper.
160g basmati rice
100g grated courgettes
1 tsp salt
4 Tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp ground coriander
Generous pinch of cayenne pepper
1/2 fresh red chilli, finely chopped
2 small tomatoes, finely diced
4 Tbsp chopped fresh coriander plus more for sprinkling
Freshly ground black pepper
4 big, fat, square red peppers
Olive oil for drizzling
Heat the oven to 200/Fan 180 °C. Wash the rice well, then leave to drain. Place the grated courgettes in a colander and sprinkle over the salt. Set aside.
Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan and sauté the onion and garlic until cooked but not brown. Add the turmeric, cumin, garam masala, ground coriander, cayenne pepper and chilli and cook for 2 minutes. Pour in the rice and cook gently, stirring all the time, for 6–8 minutes so the rice is well coated.
Add the courgettes and stir, then add the tomatoes, fresh coriander, a generous grind of pepper and the water. Simmer gently for about 12 minutes, until the rice is nearly cooked. Don’t cook any longer as you are going to be putting it into the oven.
Slice the tops off the peppers and scoop out the seeds. Fill with the cooked rice and courgette mixture and put the lids back on the top. Place in a casserole dish small enough for the peppers to sit snugly next to each other and drizzle over a little olive oil. Bake for 1 hour, basting with the juices several times during cooking.