Under starters orders – my favourite simple appetiser
Nowadays starters are non-starters. Hors d’oeuvre are no longer de rigueur. Who has the time, resources and energy to make more than a main course and pudding when friends come over? Some crisps, dips and a few crudités will do won’t they? And yet don’t you think that secretly everyone likes a starter? Whether it’s a big communal platter that everyone can dig into or individual scoops, slices or spoonfuls in a dish or bowl; the word appetiser is apposite.
If you’ve ever visited my house for supper over the past couple of decades, you are likely to have been served these Piedmontese peppers at some point. They’re easy to make ahead, you can warm them up or serve at room temp (just not icy cold). Use the best peppers and tomatoes you can – mine are fragrant and full of flavour from the farmers market and I love the complementary colours of the yellow and purple tomatoes. Serve one half per person or put them in a big dish in the middle of the table. Fresh, crusty bread to mop up the sweet, sour, herby, garlicy juices is essential.
If you haven’t fallen for the charms of a starter they make a good side dish with lamb too. Turn them into a vegetarian main course with the addition of some cheese – make it a sharp but bland creamy cheese – perhaps mozzarella, slivers of halloumi or even feta. Add other things you like too – black olives, an anchovy or two, a sliver of salami or change the herbs (although I love the sweet medicinal taste of rosemary in contrast to the honey).
I’ve been tucking into these for lunch with juices soaked up with olive focaccia from Baker and Spice, also bought at the market.
- 4 peppers (capsicums)
- 450 – 500g cherry tomatoes
- 60ml extra virgin olive oil plus extra for brushing
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 1/2 tablespoon raw honey
- 2 cloves of garlic, chopped finely
- 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest, grated,
- 1 teaspoon sea salt (smoked if possible)
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Flat leaved parsley, chopped roughly
- Preheat the oven to 220 C
- Cut the peppers in half lengthways, through the stalk. Cut out and discard the core, seeds and membrane.
- Place the pepper halves in a roasting tin and drizzle or brush with a little olive oil. Place the roasting tin near the top of the oven and roast for 25 minutes.
- Put the remaining ingredients except the parsley into a bowl and stir to combine.
- Remove the peppers from the oven and spoon the tomato mixture into the cavities.
- Return to the oven for about 25 minutes until the peppers are beginning to blacken at the edges and the tomatoes are soft.
- Serve warm or at room temperature with the parsley scattered over the top.