Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Capsicum: Cooking with Abundance

It's that time of year when we have a lot of ripening chillies and capsicum.  What to do with them?  I have already posted the Kasundi recipe for a fresh and spicy tomato chutney with green chillies but here we go with some Mediterranean flavours for rich red capsicum.
I find that cooking capsicum whole on a hot barbecue grill is the quickest way cook them through and char the skins so that they are easy to remove.

How and When to Grow Them:  Capsicum  are a warm season plant that grow all year round in tropical and sub-tropical districts - they are just killed off by cold and frost.  It is best to use local seed and plant late winter.  Happy plants will behave as perennials and keep going for a couple of seasons.

They are in the same family as tomatoes, eggplant and potatoes (Solanaceae) so don't plant all of these in the same bed as they take the same nutrients out of the soil and are affected by the same pests and diseases.  Mix and match with other families (see page on VEGETABLE FAMILIES)

Cooking with Capsicum:  Grilled and skinned capsicum can be used in a variety of dishes and once you have prepared them are easy to keep in the fridge, ready to use for a variety of dishes, or simply added as a garnish to a summer salad. 

Wait until the cooked capsicum has cooled, remove the central core and all of the seeds - the skin should be easy to peel off.  It's a bit messy, but don't be tempted to wash it under the tap or you will just be washing away all the flavour.  Just layer the peeled flesh in a jar and cover it with olive oil - bang it on the bench-top a few times to make sure there is no air trapped.  Seal and keep in the fridge ready for use (will keep for up to three weeks like this). 

See below for easy paella and grilled capsicum salad recipes.

Once they are cooked through, with the skin charred, the flesh takes on a beautiful  rich and smokey flavour.










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