I can’t see a pile of peppers without thinking of them roasted, their silky, scarlet flesh surrounded by their own caramel-coloured juices. It is a recipe I do without thinking – the long, thin peppers are left whole, snuggled in a roasting tin, their skin glossy with olive oil. They are roasted till they puff up, letting out a sigh as they collapse and their juice pools in the bottom of the tin. They make their own dressing, with a smoky sweetness from the peppers, a hint of bitterness from the charred skin. We eat them this way, with basil leaves, torn mozzarella and chewy bread for the juices.
Occasionally I stuff them: fat pearls of mograbia, the giant couscous; slate-green lentils with balsamic and basil; cannellini beans with pecorino and rosemary. Minced lamb, too, if it has simmered slowly enough with onions, garlic, bay leaves and thyme (I like to add a little balsamic vinegar towards the end of cooking). This time I filled some romano peppers with crabmeat, the expensive shellfish made to go further with soft, white breadcrumbs. I used both white and the more interesting brick-red brown meat, devilled with mustard and pepper sauce, softened with a little cream. The recipe comes from a restaurant I worked at years ago, where we served the spiced crab hot from the oven in shallow white dishes, with soldiers of toast for dipping.
Summer is sinking into autumn, but there are still plenty of taught, crisp climbing beans around. We used them this week in a dark and bosky ragu, the long, thin haricots in lieu of pasta. This was a fresh, crunchy take on “courgetti”. It is a recipe I shall repeat again soon, perhaps with a ragu of brown lentils.
Peppers with crab and tarragon
Long, thin romano peppers – the variety that look like Aladdin’s slippers – work well here, but any ripe pepper will do. The trick is to make sure they are thoroughly soft, their edges blackened here and there, before serving.
romano peppers 8 (or 4 large)
sweet onions 2, medium
olive oil 3 tbsp
garlic 3 cloves
grain mustard 1 tbsp
Tabasco a few shakes
crabmeat 350g, mix of brown and white
soft, white breadcrumbs 100g
parsley leaves a large handful
double cream 75ml
parmesan 4 tbsp, grated
Place the peppers on their side on a chopping board. Take a thick slice from the top of each one to leave a deep hollow. Put the peppers snugly in a roasting tin or baking dish. Set the oven at 180C/gas mark 4.
Cut the slices of pepper you have removed into fine dice. Peel the onions and chop them finely. Warm the olive oil in a shallow pan and add the onions and chopped peppers, fry and occasionally stir for 10 minutes, until the onion has softened but not coloured.
Peel and chop the garlic then stir into the onion and pepper mixture, and continue cooking for 5 minutes until the first signs of colour appear on the onions. Transfer the softened onion and peppers to a large mixing bowl and stir in the mustard and Tabasco. Add the crabmeat and breadcrumbs.
Finely chop the parsley leaves and the tarragon then stir them in with the cream and a little salt. Fill the peppers with the crab mixture, then scatter the grated parmesan over the top. Bake for 45 minutes, or until the peppers are soft and silky and the filling is nicely golden.
The Observer aims to publish recipes for seafood rated as sustainable by the Marine Conservation Society’s Good Fish Guide
A little dish of mushrooms and green beans
I use a mixture of mushrooms here – the charming little shimeji and soft, velvety oysters that bring a contrast in texture. But the recipe is good with standard chestnut mushrooms. I find anonymous “dried mushrooms” work as well as pricey porcini for the stock. You just want a dark stock to give some earthy notes.
dried porcini 10g
green beans 350g
shallots 3, medium
garlic 3 cloves
olive oil 6 tbsp
chestnut mushrooms 300g
dried thyme 2 tsp
plain flour 2 tbsp
assorted mushrooms 200g, such as shimeji and oyster
Put the porcini in a small saucepan, pour over 500ml of water and bring to the boil. Lower the heat, partially cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside to infuse.
Top and tail the beans and cook them in boiling water for 3 minutes, then refresh them in cold water.
Peel and finely chop the shallots. Peel and slice the garlic. Warm 4 tbsp of the oil in a large, shallow pan and add the shallots and the garlic. Slice the chestnut mushrooms into pieces about the thickness of a pencil, and add to the pan. Let the mushrooms and shallots fry, with a regular stir, until they are toasted and sticky. Stir in the dried thyme. Season lightly with salt and black pepper.
Remove the porcini from the stock with a draining spoon and chop finely. Sprinkle the flour and chopped porcini into the fried mushrooms, toast lightly then pour in the porcini stock. Bring to the boil, stirring gently then add the drained green beans.
In a separate pan, warm the remaining olive oil, add the uncooked assorted mushrooms and fry them till golden. Take care not to break them up. Add them to the sauce then pour the marsala into the empty pan and bring to the boil, stirring as you go, then stir into the mushrooms and beans and serve in shallow bowls.
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