We have probably done a greater variety of cooking this year as we have largely been confined to home during the Covid pandemic in 2020. I have intended to use the time to do more writing for the site – but in the end we have cooked more and written less!!
One thing we have been doing is continuing the idea from last autumn of developing more plant based cooks. I put it that way round as opposed to saying vegetarian as our goal is to increase the proportion of vegetables we eat – whilst also using the lockdown periods of the pandemic to lose weight. The inevitable therefore is to reduce the quantity of meat we eat. On a personal basis I am very happy with this. I want to continue to eat meat, but to use it more carefully in our cooking!
One of the first dishes we are exploring in this series is “Piperade”. It is entirely plant based and can be served as a dish in its own right or as an accompaniment. We first came across this as a vegetable base for a fish dish by the UK restauranteur Rick Stein. In this dish a lovely piece of Hake was served on a bed of Piperade, with Serrano Ham shards and a mayonnaise emulsion – what a lovely combination! The sweetness of the peppers and the richness of the onions and garlic set the fish off just wonderfully. So time for a little exploration.
As far as we can workout Piperade is a Basque dish from the southwest part of France. It takes its name from the local word for pepper — pipèr. A number of recipes suggest that it may be traditionally made using piments d’Anglet. This is a a long, thin green pepper from the region. But our first experience of this was definitely red and so we chose a red Romano pepper. This is also long and thin rather like peppers which formed the basis for this dish.
Piperade is really a combination of the peppers with onion, garlic and tomatoes. This is seasoned with ground black pepper, cayenne pepper or in the form we have found works for us piment d’espelette, a mild chilli pepper from the Basque region.
The preparation takes a little time but is quite straightforward. The good news is that once made it keeps well in the fridge; so far we have managed 7 days before it has all been eaten with no problems at all.
The first thing is to peel and quarter the onion and then cut into fine slices at right angles to the first cuts. The garlic was chopped finely. Finally, at this point the peppers were cut lengthways and the stalk, core, seeds and any attached white membrane were removed. The peppers were them cut lengthways into narrow strips between 10-15cm long and about half a centimetre wide.
Piperade can be cooked on a hob, but on a sunny autumn day it is a lovely dish to make on the Big Green Egg. It should be set up initially for direct cooking and finished off either direct if you are able to reduce the direct heat by controlling the airflow or more simply by adding the platesetter for the final part of the cooking.
The olive oil was heated in a pan and the onion added and cooked for 10 minutes or so till they had softened and caramelised a little and had just started to colour. The garlic was added and the mix sautéed for a couple of minutes more before adding the sliced peppers.
These were then gently sautéed until the peppers became more tender, about 10 minutes, stirring from time to time. As the peppers were cooking the tomatoes were chopped into 1cm cubes and then added to the pan when the peppers were tender. The heat was reduced a little more and the Piperade was cooked for another 15-20 minutes until the tomatoes had formed a lovely slightly sticky sauce. All that was left to do was season with a little salt and pepper of your choice and decide how to use the Piperade….
Piperade is a very versatile commodity! A dish in its own right – just serve it on toast! Use it like the Basques and serve with scrambled eggs. But for me it is a really great accompaniment for pork, chicken, fish,……………
…………….. we have used it mostly with fish. Our first introduction to Piperade was with the Rick Stein Hake dish above. Since then it has worked well with fish such as Sea Bass (the lead photograph) and even smoked mackerel fish cakes as you can see here on the left.
This is such a useful foil for so many dishes ……..
…….. give it a go!!
Basque Piperade from the Big Green Egg
Sautéed pepper strips in an onion, garlic and tomato sauce
- 1 medium onion, red or white
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 or 2 red Romano Peppers
- 1 tbsp. olive oil
- 3 tomatoes
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- A sprinkle of Piment d’Espelette (or freshly ground black pepper, or a little cayenne pepper
- Step 1 Peel and quarter the onion and cut into fine slices at right angles to the first cuts. Chop the garlic finely. Then cut the peppers lengthways. Remove the stalk, core, seeds and any attached white membrane. Cut the peppers lengthways into narrow strips around 10cm long and about half a centimetre wide.
- Step 2 If cooking on the Big Green Egg set up initially for direct cooking
- Step 3 Heat a little olive oil in a pan add the the onions and cook for 10 minutes or so till they soften and caramelised a little. Add the garlic and cook for a couple of minutes more. Add the sliced peppers and gently sauté until the peppers become tender, about 10 minutes. Stir from time to time. Whilst the peppers are cooking, chop the tomatoes into 1cm cubes and then add to the pan once the peppers are tender. Reduce the heat (or put the platesetter in place and cook indirect) and cook for another 15-20 minutes until the tomatoes form a lovely slightly sticky sauce. Season with a little salt and pepper and a sprinkle of Piment d’Espelette or cayenne pepper