Heidi Swanson's Harira
Richard Olney's Chicken Gratin

Rachel Roddy's Peperonata


Rachel has a new column in the Guardian and if the first two are any indication, it is going to be a treasure trove for us home cooks. I read about her vinegar-spiked peperonata as soon as the link was up and was at the stove and cooking it not more than an hour later, if my memory serves correctly. Rachel has all kinds of nice suggestions for how to eat it (with a piece of frittata, for example, or dolloped next to boiled potatoes), but I was most taken with the thought of it on a sandwich. The day after I made it, since it gets better as it sits, I piled it onto a round of soft Turkish bread studded with sesame and nigella seeds, and added in a few pieces of feta here and there for good measure. Some sharp-tasting parsley leaves gave the sandwich a bit of pep and texture. Silky, salty, creamy, chewy - it was a very nice thing indeed.

The day after that, I steamed some cubed zucchini and mixed them with more peperonata, warmed up this time. Hey presto, we had our Sunday lunch pasta sauce. Predictably, Hugo turned his nose up at the cooked strips of peppers at first, but gobbled them up soon enough.

So often, my workday lunches at home are on the grim side: cold leftovers, because I'm too lazy (or busy) to heat them up, the long-lamented cheese sandwich, a plate of day-old rice with ketchup on top. (Proof.) But having a pot of peperonata to play with made me feel downright rich. Thanks, Rach.

Peperonata sandwich

Be forewarned: this is a messy sandwich. Two hands are needed to contain it as you eat and both will be dirty by the end of lunch. Still. Worth it.

Rachel Roddy's Peperonata
Serves 8

1kg red peppers
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, peeled and finely sliced
1 clove garlic, peeled and pressed
Salt, to taste
450g peeled plum tomatoes
Red wine vinegar, to taste (optional)

1. Cut the peppers into strips, about 1cm wide and 6cm long, discarding the seeds, stalks and any pithy white bits.

2. In a heavy-based pan with a lid, warm the olive oil over a medium-low heat, then cook the onion and garlic until soft, translucent and fragrant (they should not brown), which usually takes about 10 minutes. Add the peppers and a pinch of salt, stir, then cover and cook for 15 minutes, stirring every now and then.

3. Add the tomatoes, stir and then leave, uncovered, at a lively simmer for 30-40 minutes. Stir occasionally, gently pressing the tomatoes against the side of the pan, so they break up.

4. The peperonata is ready when the peppers are soft and everything has come together into a thick stew. Taste, season generously, and add a dash of vinegar to sharpen things up.