Roasted red peppers, cored and peeled, marinated in a herby, garlicky dressing are much better than shop-bought jars.
Yes, you can buy these in jars, but the ones made at home are cheaper, tastier and more fun.
You need Romano peppers for this: the skinny, long ones that look like an oversized chilli. You can use the fat bell peppers but they won’t char as evenly and the skin is tougher to come off.
Because the whole trick here is to burn the peppers until they are charred and blistered all over, and the skin literally slips off.
Bell peppers have bumpier surface so they will take longer and need more turning around this way and that under the grill.
The burning of course also cooks the peppers, making the flesh gorgeously slippery sweet.
How to burn the peppers
I suggest using your oven grill: the least mess and available all year round.
In summer you can easily scorch them on the barbecue, while the Aga owners might place them directly onto the hot plate (and worry about scraping off the burnt-on bits afterwards).
You could also hold a pepper with tongs and char it over an open gas flame, like a mad chemist with a Bunsen burner, but I strongly advise against. Health and safety aside, it is impossible to control the levels of burning, plus the smell won’t be as enticing as when gently wafting from the oven.
The neat method is to line a tray with foil (otherwise a washing-up nightmare), arrange the peppers on it and place them directly under a preheated grill.
You’ll have to monitor the process; after about five minutes the peppers will need turning gently over with tongs. After another while turn them again, to expose unscorched bits to the grill.
Peppers in a bag
If the peppers are ripe and your grill powerful, the skin might already be peeling when you remove them from the oven.
But to be sure, wrap them in a plastic food grade bag to sweat the skin off. The one example where a plastic bag is of use! Sadly, it will be a write-off after this once.
They will need about ten minutes in that bag, also to cool off enough to be handled. Still, you might want gloves when processing them – they are mighty slimy.
The core might slip all out when you pull the stem; just scrape out any leftover seeds with a knife or a spoon. Peel off the skin, trying to keep the pepper whole but don’t fret if it splits into strips.
Marinade for the peppers
The warmer the peppers are when covered with the marinade, the more it will infuse them so try to work briskly.
The simplest marinade would be a mixture of olive oil and some kind of acid: good vinegar or lemon juice.
My auntie used to make marinated peppers famous throughout our family by covering them with lots of thinly sliced garlic and drowning in olive oil with a squeeze of lemon.
The marinade in this recipe comes from Ottolenghi: The Cookbook and it’s just as marvellous.
Garlic pounded to a paste, finely chopped herbs of your liking, olive oil and vinegar will balance the sweetness of the peppers beautifully.
They need to marinate for about an hour before serving, gorgeously, with some soft cheese crumbled over.
That will make a posh antipasto or a meze dish, but those peppers can be also packed into a clean jar, kept in the fridge and added to salads or sandwiches.
More pepper recipes
Pasta with red and yellow peppers cooked down to sweet and silky sauce, also known as pasta peperonata. Who needs tomatoes?
Roasted red pepper and sun-dried tomato foldovers in simple granary bread dough, also known as ‘slippers’ because of their shape. Homemade sun-dried tomato paste, grilled peppers and rosemary make this quick bread recipe outstanding.
Stuffed peppers with rice and leftover cooked chicken meat. Delicious, and what a great way to use those drumsticks nobody ever wants!
More meze recipes
Corn ribs from the oven, with homemade dukkah, just like the ones served at Ottolenghi’s Rovi. It’s totally a snack du moment – and de toujours, I hope.
Muhammara, roasted red pepper and walnut dip, flavoured with pomegranate molasses and Aleppo pepper flakes. This should be a firm fixture in your next meze!
Mast o khiar is Persian yoghurt and cucumber dip with fresh herbs, walnuts and raisins. Samin Nosrat’s recipe suggests using labneh, strained yoghurt cheese, and that is a complete winner.