Peppers and . . . peppers (and some bugs)

A special treat at this time of year, and one which for me brings back flavours and scents from my childhood in Turkey, is being able to stuff these Kandil dolma peppers with spicy rice and cook them in tomato sauce.

I added chopped sweet onion, sultanas, pine nuts, garlic, oregano leaves, ground cumin, cinnamon and nutmeg to some cooked rice and stuffed the peppers, put the ‘lids’ back on and arranged them in a large cast-iron pan. I poured over a jar of last year’s tomato purée mixed half and half with water, brought it all to the boil and simmered for about 40 minutes.  They can be eaten hot, straight away, but on a hot day like today I think it’s best to let them cool and then serve with lemon juice squeezed over them. You can use any variety of peppers for this, but these Turkish ones have a special aroma that I remember from the backstreets of Istanbul where there would be huge vats of them for sale in open cafés and shops.

And more peppers….

Yesterday evening when Lo Jardinièr was lighting the barbecue for our supper in the garden I grilled some red peppers over the charcoal as it was heating up, just placing them whole on the rack and turning them with tongs over the heat until the skin was slightly blackened and the flesh was soft. then I peeled them and saved them until today when I put them in the food processor with a clove of garlic, a handful of parsley leaves, some salt, lemon juice and olive oil to make a purée which could be eaten as a dip or spread on toasts. Another wonderful way to take advantage of the numbers of peppers we’re picking now.

And those bugs . . .

Out in the garrigue near the village this morning I found several pairs of these Mediterranean striped shield beetles – Graphosoma semipunctatum – mating on a dried thistle plant, and what looks like a spider playing gooseberry!

Last of the summer crops?

We uprooted the remains of the tomato plants before we went away and they’re waiting now to be burnt.  There are still a few aubergines and peppers on the plants, but otherwise this is the last of summer for this year:

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We’ll make fritters with some of these aubergines and courgettes this evening to eat with mussels.

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These mixed peppers, the last of several varieties, will be good in sauces or pickled to store for the winter.

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These are the last tiny Kandil dolma peppers – I think I’ll stuff them with a mixture of breadcrumbs, feta cheese and sweet onion.

After a few days away…..

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Some of the tomatoes, aubergines and peppers, and a courgette, that we found in the garden this morning, and a few more peppers:

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These are mostly Kandil dolma peppers that I’ve now stuffed with rice, onion, garlic, mint, cinnamon and paprika and cooked in diluted tomato purée until the rice was cooked.  We’ll eat them cold with a squeeze of lemon over the next few days.

The tomatoes, courgette and a couple of the aubergines became the main delights in our supper tonight, with some Manchego cheese and some jamón de Serrano we bought at the border yesterday.

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A Turkish lunch

Ever since I was a teenager when my family lived in Turkey I’ve loved Turkish food and often cook the dishes I remember from those years, as my mother did too for the rest of her life.  She was a vegetarian so it was a cuisine that suited her perfectly. Today for lunch we ate some variations on old favourites.  Most of the preparation was done yesterday so it made for a very easy Sunday morning.

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Clockwise from the left: Kandil dolma peppers stuffed with rice and minced meat; black olives; purée of red pepper and pistachio; stuffed baked aubergines; hummus with tahina.

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I’ve put the recipe for the aubergines on my Food from the Mediterranean blog. 

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The stuffed kandil dolma peppers were a variation on what has become a theme of the summer – these are red unlike the green ones I used earlier in the summer.  I used to think that the green ones tasted better and last year we allowed just a few to ripen so that we could save seeds, but since I realised that cooking them in tomato sauce rather than baking them really brings out the flavour of the peppers I think the red ones are equally good, and pretty too!  I’ll confess that I used beef for these rather than my preferred lamb because it’s difficult to get lamb here, especially minced lamb, but easy to buy steacks hachés – burgers made with 100% beef.  I bought two, used one for the stuffing and put the other in the freezer for next time.  I rarely buy beef as I prefer to eat more locally produced meat and there are no cows anywhere near here because we don’t have the grass they need.

The red pepper and pistachio purée was a variation, brought about by necessity, of a Turkish dish that combines red pepper and walnuts.  The village shop didn’t have walnuts yesterday so I bought pistachios instead with excellent results.  I put 75 grams of shelled pistachios in the blender and turned them into a slightly lumpy powder, added a piece of day-old bread and two long sweet Spanish peppers from the garden, blended them all to a purée and added some olive oil, some salt and a squeeze of lemon.  It’s good for dipping crusty bread into.

The hummus was made by combining a tin of (drained) chickpeas in the blender with garlic to taste (we like quite a lot), salt, lemon juice, olive oil, tahina (sesame seed) paste and a little water to make the consistency right for dipping bread into it, then serving it garnished with olive oil and paprika.

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