There are many things a vegetarian might see on a restaurant menu that will make their heart sink. Dishes that can be satisfying and delicious, but when made by a begrudging meat-eating chef in a busy kitchen will invariably be a stodgy, tasteless disappointment. Common failures include risotto, vegetable lasagne, and mushroom stroganoff.
I was reminded of this recently when watching an episode of Celebrity Masterchef. The contestants were asked to produce food for a college canteen. One of the vegetarian options they made was stuffed peppers, which consisted of peppers stuffed with plain cous cous and vegetables. Nothing else. I love vegetables more than anything, but if I was presented with that for my lunch I would feel really let down. It shows real lack of imagination. Most vegetarians I know have as healthy an appetite as anyone else and they like their food to taste of something. We’re not ill, we’re not on a diet, and most of all we love good food!
So in response to the Masterchef non-recipe, here are my own stuffed peppers, using the classic combination of chillies and corn. It’s tasty, it’s filling, and most of all it’s not disappointing. You could add a bit of grated cheese if that floats your boat, but I choose not to.
Recipe (makes four half peppers)
- 2 bell peppers
- 75g polenta
- 1 hot chilli
- a sprig of thyme
- 150g sweetcorn
- half a teaspoon of salt
Preheat the oven to 200°C.
Cut the peppers in half, and remove the seeds. Try and keep the stalk attached, it helps the pepper halves keep their shape and stops the filling from spilling all over the place. Put the peppers in a roasting tin.
Bring 350ml water to boil in a non-stick saucepan. Slowly pour the polenta into the boiling water, stirring constantly. Reduce the heat to medium and keep stirring for two minutes. When the polenta is thick and fairly smooth (kinda like mashed potato), add the finely chopped chilli, thyme, sweetcorn, and salt. Stir well.
Divide the filling between the peppers. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the pepper is cooked and the stuffing is starting to brown.
Note: if there is any filling left over, let it set, cut it into cubes and fry it up. Or just eat it.