Tag Archive | capsicum

Bejeweled Capsicum

One of our favourite vegetables in Indian as well as in European cooking is Capsicum/Bell pepper/Sweet pepper – green, yellow and red – it really does not matter – we just love this vegetable!

Even though China is the world’s largest producer of capsicum, followed by Mexico, Turkey, Indonesia and the United States – this vegetable is now grown in most countries (I even managed to grow some of our green capsicum and chilli peppers needed for our weekly cooking in our garden in England).

Did you know that this vegetable is a rich source of Vitamin C (and some other vitamins) and contains a staggering 94 % water – good to include in food as part of a calorie controlled diet.

When I go shopping to my local Hypermarket to buy vegetables and fruits (especially items which I cannot find in my local markets) I always seem to linger longer at the beautifully displayed Capsicum section. The vibrant colours of my “bejeweled capsicum” reminds me of a child’s coloured crayons. They are so shiny and plump – but can anybody shed light on the phenomenon why the green ones are always the cheapest with the red ones costing double or even triple???? After all, we do know that the green capsicum, although mature, has been picked rather than being left to ripen on the bush, has a slightly sharper, more savoury, flavour than the red one – which is fully ripe with a sweet-tasting flesh.

Did you also know that it was dear old Christopher Columbus who, when he returned to his Spanish patrons in 1492, brought back evidence of the rich plant life he had discovered, amongst which were members of the capsicum family – sweet peppers and their kinsmen, chilli pepper.

The following recipe is one which we love very much and therefor I like to share it with you, dear friends.

Ingredients

1 x tsp Fennel Seeds
2 x Tbsp Peanuts
1 x Tbsp Cashew Nuts
2 x medium to large potatoes, peeled and cut into small cubes
3 x Capsicum (green, yellow and red – if possible) deseeded and cut into small squares
3 x small onions, chopped
3 x tomatoes, chopped (do not remove skin or seeds)

4 x green chillies, chopped
¼ cup of fresh coriander, chopped
1 x Tbsp Vegetable oil
1 x tsp Mustard seeds
1 x Tbsp Urad Dhal
A few curry leaves
1 x tsp Garlic and ginger paste (if possible, homemade)
1 x tsp turmeric
2 x Tbsp Chilli powder (or less)
2 x tsp Garam Masala
1 x Tbsp of Lingham’s Chilli Sauce (for ‘kick’)
1 x cup of water
Salt, to taste

Method

In a wok, dry fry fennel seeds for a couple of seconds only, keep aside.
Now again dry fry peanuts and cashew nuts for seconds only.
Grind those 2 items in your ‘Mixy’ to a fine powder.
Add oil to the wok and when hot add the mustard seeds and urad dhal as well as a few curry leaves. Stir.
Add onions and some salt and green chillies and stir for 5 minutes.
Add raw potatoes. Stir and covered with a lid, cook for a couple of minutes.
Add ginger and garlic paste, stir.
Add coriander, turmeric, chilli powder and stir again.
Add tomatoes and some water, cover wok again and cook until potatoes are nearly ready.
Add above mentioned ‘Mixy’ powder, all the capsicum, and maybe a little bit more water if needed and cook a further 5 minutes with the lid on.
Taste, and when potatoes are completely cooked add some garam masala, stir and sprinkle with finely chopped coriander leaves before serving.
Ideally, both potatoes and capsicum should retain just a little bit of ‘crunch’.

Serve with rice or any kind of roti (Chapatti, Naan etc.)

That’s it – enjoy
Namaskaram
Carina

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Risotto Primavera alla Cipriani

-Cipriani’s Spring Risotto-

With many of you starting to send out posts about the first signs of spring, which I sadly cannot do since I live in a tropical climate, I like to take you with me instead on a short journey ‘down memory lane’ to the beautiful city of Venice.

Andrea-Venice

One of the domes of the Basilica di San Marco, Venice

Many many years ago a number of our international friends and I had a very noisy, and I confess, slightly boozy, but, oh so enjoyable Lunch at the world famous Harry’s Bar in Venice.

Andrea-Bellinis2

…..preparing our Bellinis

In fact it was one of those wonderful impromptu get-togethers one really cannot organise – they just happen!! And certainly nobody wants them to end quickly.

Andrea-Harry's

(Andrea outside Harry’s Bar)

The original plan that day was for all of us to meet at “Harry’s”, have refreshments and take Cipriani’s own boat out to the Island of Torcello to their beautiful and romantic Locanda – one of those wonderful little honeymoon locations , where we all were going to have lunch. But, one way or the other, we never made it to Torcello that day but remained in Venice until closing time! I of course now cannot, by the best will in the world, remember what each and everyone had ordered that day, except I do remember, that I had “Risotto primavera” (Spring Risotto) making use of many of the vegetables grown near the Locanda on Torcello. This dish was created and recommended to me by Arrigo Cipriani himself – so how could I refuse? It was a dish so divine, that I never, with all my travels around the world, have forgotten the smell and taste of this exceptional Risotto. He very kindly gave me permission to use this recipe in my own blog or book. And before I forget let me tell you – this dish is really very easy to prepare, so do not be put off by the length of the ingredients list. I hope that you enjoy this risotto as much as I did then and in fact once again only two days ago when I tried to recreate this for my post here.

For: 6
For the spring vegetables you need:
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 large clove of garlic, crushed
250 g of shiitake mushrooms; thinly sliced (I used button mushrooms)
3 small artichokes, thinly sliced (were not available)
1 tsp onion, finely chopped
4 small zucchini, diced (I used green ones)
12 asparagus spears cut into short lengths
1 large slice of red capsicum, cut into pieces
1 small leek, white part only, cut into short lengths
Salt and pepper, to taste

For the Risotto you need:
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
150 g risotto rice (I used Arborio)
1.5 l chicken stock
40 g butter
3 Tbsp. freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
Salt and pepper

Andrea-Food1

To prepare the vegetables: heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat, add the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds, then remove it from the pan and discard. Add the artichokes and cook for 8-10 minutes, then add the onion and cook for a further 2 minutes. Finally, add the Zucchinis (courgettes), asparagus, red pepper and leek, increase the heat to high and cook for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Season to taste with salt and pepper, then remove the pan from the heat and set aside.

Andrea-Food3

To prepare the Risotto: heat the olive oil in a large saucepan, add the onion and cook over a medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 3-5 minutes. Stirring the rice, lower the heat, add about 120 ml of the stock and bring to the boil, stirring constantly. Gradually add more stock as each addition is absorbed. After about 15 minutes, when the risotto is half-cooked, add the vegetables and continue to cook for a further 10-15 minutes until the rice is tender and creamy. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the butter and Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
For a softer risotto stir in a few more tablespoons of stock.
Serve with extra grated Parmesan.

And the next time Jo and I are in Venice, maybe we find the time to once again enjoy Cipriani’s splendid hospitality.

Ciao Carina