Sunday, 26 June 2011

Piggy in the Middle

Peperoni Ripieni di Maiale Speziato con Riso & Piselli
Spicy Pork- Stuffed Peppers with Rice & Peas

Oh, how I used to hate it when the big boys would play "Piggy in the Middle" at school.
It almost invariably would be me that was the sad porker, reaching up to grab the ball, or worse still, my bag, as the older boys threw it to each other, over my head and out of reach!
That's not very nice is it? 
This stuffed pepper dish IS very nice though- and you know what? 
Those guys wouldn't get any of this now, even if they came begging!

Everybody knows and loves stuffed peppers and rice, another one of the most well-loved comfort food dishes I can think of. With those long, narrow, sweet pimento peppers in season, it seemed a shame not to buy a whole bagful the other day. The question was- how to use them?! My solution was quick, fun, different and delicious... three good reasons to give it a go!
I decided to use ground pork to stuff my peppers- that and chopped onion, grated apple, fresh thyme, mint and parsley, cumin seeds, turmeric powder, Madras curry powder, crushed garlic and a few shots of Tabasco sauce. I mixed together 1/2 lb. of ground pork with these ingredients, seasoned it with salt and pepper and added the juice and zest of 1 lime. 

Now, that's a little different to the stuffed peppers you are used to, right? 
But it does sound good, doesn't it?

I cut the peppers into slices of about 1 1/2", removed the seeds and the inner sinew and stuffed them with the ground pork mixture. I popped these stuffed slices into a dry Teflon pan at a high heat and seared and the pork on the top and bottom and then flipped them onto their sides to do the same. Press down on these yummy, stuffed pepper slices and you will find that wonderful juices from both the meat and the grated apple will ooze out, infused with all those good spice flavors- yum!

Usually, with the traditional bell-peppers, we would either steam or bake them until they are cooked and delicious. This could take anything from 45 minutes to an hour. I wanted to do something a little faster and being as these are just small slices of pepper and not the whole thing, I simply added  a teaspoon of tomato paste and after heating this through for 1-3 minutes, I de glazed the pan with 1 cupful of apple juice. I wanted a nice fruity sauce to go with these, to compliment the apple and cumin seeds in the filling. I turned down the heat to a simmer, popped on the lid and prepared the rice and peas for my side-dish.

I boiled my rice in salt water for 10 minutes, then added the sliced fresh peas, some parsley, chopped mint, saffron powder and chives. I put the lid on, turned off the heat and let the rice finish cooking and fluffing up with the remaining temperature of the pan. 

10 minutes later, both the rice and the peppers were finished and all I had to do was to serve them up. I added a few drops of almond oil to the rice- but I am sure any aromatic oil like sesame would work equally well. Simply set the stuffed pepper slices on the rice and spoon some of the tangy apple and meat juices on top. 

Another simple, quick. low-cost meal and a new twist on an old favorite. 

This little piggy grew up and shopped for spices!

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