Capsicum are a pretty vegetable. Which of course they are not. They are actually a fruit, if we are to be pedantic. Just like the tomato, they belong to the nightshade family. When I make this dish, I like to choose as many different colours of capsicum as I can find, because unlike zucchini, which taste more or less the same, no matter what the colour, capsicum actually taste entirely different in every colour. Sometimes, however my enthusiasm for an unusual colour does not pay off. I added this gorgeous purple pepper to the selection and once roasted, it turned a dull washed-out taupe. Taupe is the French name for a mole (the animal) and that’s exactly what it looked like; dead mole. But don’t let that put you off. It’s a great dish!
It’s a really easy dish to make and there are lots of different variations you can try. Check out the Hausfrauen Ratschlag at the end!
Roast Bell Peppers
- 1 can peeled tomatoes
- 5 medium peppers (capsicum)
- 1 big brown onion
- 7 cloves of garlic
- 1 Tbsp chopped oregano (about 10 sprigs)
- olive oil
- salt & black pepper
Put the canned tomatoes into a blender and blend to a fine puree. Strain through a Chinois, or a rough strainer. If your strainer is too fine, you will only get tomato water and no solids. If you only have a fine strainer, it’s better to just not strain the puree at all. Lightly salt the tomato puree.
Cut the top off your peppers, take out the seeds, cut each pepper into quarters and cut out the white ribs. Salt and pepper the inside of the peppers lightly. Peel the onion, cut it in half lengthwise (from the beard to the tip) and slice each half into very fine slices. Crush and peel the garlic and chop it roughly. Pluck the oregano leaves off the sprigs and roughly chop them.
Generously oil a ceramic or a cast iron roasting tray and drop a few blobs of your tomato puree into it. You don’t want to evenly spread the puree, just blob it. Scatter the onions all over the bottom of the tray, then sprinkle the chopped garlic and oregano all over the onions. Salt and pepper lightly and drizzle olive oil all over it. Spoon the rest of the tomato puree all over the onions and start layering the peppers over it all. Salt and pepper lightly and drizzle with a little olive oil before you put it into a 180ºC oven. Roast for about an hour and a half, until the peppers start to brown.
I like the simple, rustic look of this dish. The burnt edges, the uneven layering and the absence of any decoration gives it a homely feel (in both senses of the word). If you want to jazz it up, just chop some parsley and very thinly slice some shallots and sprinkle them over. Two freshly toasted (or fried!) slices of bread chopped with parsley and garlic will also work well as a decorative topping.
Here are a few different interpretations of the same dish:
Bell Pepper Salad: Make the dish as shown above. Make a vinaigrette with olive oil, sherry vinegar and chopped parsley and pour half of it over the vegetables while they are still hot. Pour the rest over just before serving and scatter freshly chopped parsley on top.
Vegetarian One Dish Lunch: Add more substantial types of vegetables to the mix and serve the dish with Basmati Rice. Blanch quartered small fennel bulbs for 10 minutes, then drain. Use the same water to blanch thick sliced potatoes for 5 minutes. Chop some tarragon to sprinkle over the potatoes and some mint to go over the fennel and alternate 3 rows of fennel, potato and peppers.
Peppers, Zucchini & Aubergine: Cut the aubergine lengthwise into thick slices, generously salt them and toss them in enough olive oil to have them evenly coated. Slice the zucchini crosswise on the bias, salt them and leave them to disgorge for 10 minutes, then pat them dry. Layer the vegetables and proceed as above. Alternatively, you can cay all the vegetables into thick dice, mix it all up with the onion and tomato puree and roast it like that. Fry some diced bread in olive oil, toss a handful of chopped parsley into the hot pan with the croutons and spoon it all over the dish just before you serve it.