Spanish cuisine can sometimes be a little hostile towards those who choose to eat sans meat. Countless dishes come stuffed with jamón, tuna is apparently considered a vegetable, and declaring oneself a vegetarian is likely to evoke looks of pity from locals.
I’d lived here three months before meeting a single Spanish vegetarian – and as luck would have it, I met two more in the same week. Naturally I’ve been busily raiding their recipe books ever since, hunting for excellent meals that I can pinch and present to you here.
This amazing roasted capsicum offering comes care of Francisco, known to us as Fran, from the Mediterranean coastal city of Alicante.
His pimientos rellenos or stuffed capsicums (that’s peppers for anyone outside of Australia) are deliciously ugly and oh-so filling. These guys would make excellent dinner party fare as you can get them going in the oven, tidy up the kitchen and then pull out the delectable result a few hours later when all your guests have arrived.
I made just one tweak to Fran’s recipe, adding quinoa in place of brown rice for an extra protein kick. A combination of the two would be equally delicious.
What goes in:
2-3 large red capsicums (roughly one per person)
1 fresh thin green chilli
1-3 cups of quinoa (one cup per pepper)
3 garlic cloves
500 ml tomato passata
5 tablespoons olive oil
Butter or vegan margarine such as Nuttelex
How you do it:
Dice the zucchini, eggplant, chilli, onion and garlic. Wash the capsicums then cut the tops off and keep to make the “lid”. Clean and remove the capsicum seeds and white flesh from inside.
Preheat the oven to 200 degree Celsius.
Heat the oil in a pan and fry the onions until they soften. Next add the zucchini, eggplant, chilli and half the garlic and fry until everything starts to soften. Add the tomato passata and bring to a simmer, then add the rice or quinoa and continue simmering for five minutes.
Add the remaining garlic plus a dash of parsley, paprika, curry powder and salt, to taste. Mix everything well and simmer for another two minutes.
Spoon the mixture into the capsicums but don’t fill them completely because the rice needs room to expand a little. Add a dollop of butter on top to prevent burning then close the peppers with their “lids”. Wrap them in aluminium foil and place on a baking tray.
Bake for 10 minutes at about 200 degree Celsius then lower then temperature to about 180 degrees Celsius and continue baking for about two hours. It’s much better if the capsicums stand upright on the tray – if you’re having troubles, prop them up with a few potatoes.
Keep an eye on your capsicums to make sure they don’t get burned. A top tip from Fran: if you uncover them and there’s still some broth, the rice is not ready yet.
Serve one capsicum per plate with a fresh green salad.