Paprika Chicken (or Chickpea) Stuffed Capsicums

I am not going to lie to you. Most nights there are two meals cooked in my kitchen: one for the omnivores and one for me.

Sometimes I cobble together something out of parts of their meal, but most of the time I make something completely separate.

While I don’t mind this sometimes – omnivores gotta have their chicken wings and ribs after all – I really miss the act of making something that we can all eat and then sharing the same meal when we come to the table.

As part of my renewed commitment to focussing on whole-food vegetarian-friendly recipes I really want to start making meals that we can all enjoy: Vegetarian and omnivore alike – one meal with two little twists to suit both appetites.

I personally like thinking of these posts as Nourished Me, Nourished You. Perhaps a little too ABBA? Let me know. If you have a better title for it, then I will gladly adopt the moniker.

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Mum and I found bags of capsicums at a ridiculously great price at our farmer’s market on the weekend. The sweet red veggies were begging for more than just being a second thought in a casserole or a crunchy addition to a salad. They demanded to be the statement piece. Now, I know I have proffered a stuffed capsicum recipe before, but it is rather simple, and to be honest while it is a lovely side dish it doesn’t have that much punch. These capsicums are stuffed with either chicken or chickpeas that have been simmered in a tomato and paprika (see, more capsicum) sauce and then topped with cheese. So much savoury smoky flavour. I served ours alongside some rice and sweet early summer corn. Now, you do use two different pots here for cooking the chicken and chickpeas, but after that it’s very simple and everything goes into the oven while you set the table (or put your feet up and make someone else set the table…).

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Paprika Chicken (or Chickpea) Stuffed Capsicums (gluten free, vegetarian option)

Choose capsicums that have tight, shiny looking skin without any soft spots. You can of course cut of the little green stalk before you stuff them, but I think they just look so pretty on the plate as they are. If you are catering for all omnivores, just leave out the chickpeas and proceed with the whole amount of spices, tomato puree and cheese and increase the chicken breast to 500 grams. If you are cooking for all vegetarians, leave out the chicken, and proceed as above with two 400 gram tins of chickpeas. This dish is lovely with rice, pasta, or mashed potato, or a salad for a light meal. These capsicums are also excellent for lunch the next day.

 Ingredients

  • 4 medium red capsicums
  • 1 medium brown onion
  • 2 medium carrots
  • 2 stalks of celery
  • 1 medium zucchini
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 350 grams chicken breast
  • 400 gram tin of chickpeas
  • 1 ½ teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 400 gram tin tomato puree
  • 2/3 cup (packed) grated cheddar cheese

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 200C (390F) and pull out a large oven-proof baking dish and a small and medium saucepan.
  2. Cut capsicums in half and remove seeds and membranes. Place capsicums in the oven-proof dish hollow side up and roast in oven for 15 minutes. Remove and set aside until needed.
  3. While the capsicums are roasting, finely dice onion, carrots, celery and zucchini. Set aside. Then finely dice chicken breast and leave on board until required.
  4. Warm the olive oil in the medium saucepan over medium heat and gently sauté diced vegetables until the onion is translucent.
  5. Remove 2/3 cup of sautéed vegetables and place in the small saucepan. Add drained, well-rinsed chickpeas, 1/3 cup of tomato puree, and ½ teaspoon each of paprika and dried thyme. Warm over medium-low heat until the sauce begins to bubble.
  6. Add diced chicken to the medium saucepan and cook until chicken is white all the way through. Add remaining tomato puree, paprika, and thyme.
  7. Once the chickpea and chicken mixtures are both completed you are ready to fill the capsicums. This mixture will make two capsicum halves filled with chickpeas and four halves filled with chicken. Sprinkle all capsicums with cheese and place tray bake into oven for another 20 minutes.
  8. Remove from oven and serve right away.
  9. Enjoy with your choice of sides.

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Red Wine Braised Beef Short Rib Stew with Rosemary Pecorino Cornbread

I have spoken before of my difficult relationship with winter. There is something about the empty cold blue sky and long windy nights that leaves me feeling expectant somehow (no, not that kind of expectant), restless, waiting for spring. One thing I do love about winter though is the long walks I take in the mornings, and the stories that I listen to along the way. I am currently obsessed with historical podcasts, in particular ‘Stuff You Missed in History Class‘ (I am currently working my way through their back catalogue) and the podcast produced by The National Archives.

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Some of my fondest memories as a child are the nights when either Mum or Dad would read to my sister and I before we fell asleep. When Jess and I shared a bedroom, Mum would settle herself between our twin beds and read to us from ‘Listen with Mother’ (a book produced from the BBC radio show of the same name). ‘Are you sitting comfortably?’ she would ask. My sister and I would reply with a sleepy chorus of ‘yes’, and Mum would begin to weave a story in her smooth, perfect voice. Other nights my Dad would be on storytelling duty. These were the nights that Jess and I would be allowed to fall asleep in Mum and Dad’s big bed. All three of us would pile into their water bed, Dad snuggled in between, our very own captive storyteller. With his glasses perched on the end of his nose so that he could see on the awkward angle he was forced into. He would crack open ‘Stuart Little‘ or ‘The Giant Baby‘ and read us a chapter or two until our heads would drop back onto the pillows.

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Listening to stories about historical figures or events makes me feel like I am back inside the cocoon of comfort woven during those story-filled nights. I am lost in the world of whichever character or adventure is the topic of discussion. From the strange life of Margery Kempe, to the spine-tingling true story of Broadmoor Hospital, or the real life pirate story of Stede Bonnet, I am kept captivated by the tale until the very last minute. Long winter nights are similarly made for tales – true or fantastic. A belly full of something warm and satisfying is all you need before settling back in your favourite chair with a book, or a podcast, or your favourite storyteller and losing yourself in the pursuit of adventure.

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Red Wine Braised Beef Short Rib Stew

For the beef to most satisfyingly fall from the bones and melt into the thick vegetable and wine stew this must cook for at least four hours. A longer cooking time of six hours will render the flesh so tender and flavoursome that angels and demons will weep together. There was little conversation at our dinner table last night as Mum and Dad scooped their bowls of stew out with Rosemary and Pecorino Cornbread (recipe follows). Make this on a weekend when you can curl up comfortably with a book while the scent of red wine and paprika fills the house and drives away the coldest winter day.

A note about wine: I used Lambrusco because my Dad loves it and the rest of the bottle didn’t go to waste. You can use whatever your favourite red wine is, and then serve the leftovers with dinner (or drink it while you wait for dinner to cook – we don’t judge in my house).

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 chunky beef short ribs (about 800 grams)
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 large brown onion, diced
  • 1 large clove garlic, diced
  • 1/2 red capsicum, thinly sliced
  • 2 carrots, chunkily chopped
  • 3 small-medium potatoes, diced
  • 400 gram tin tomato purée
  • 400mL red wine (measured in tomato tin)
  • 1L beef stock
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 150°C (300ºF) and arrange oven racks to accommodate a large casserole dish.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large stove top safe oven-proof casserole dish with a lid. Brown the beef short ribs on each side and then remove to a plate. Add celery, onion and garlic to the pan and sauté until the onion is clear.
  3. Tumble the capsicum, carrot and potatoes into the dish and add the paprika and thyme leaves. Stir so that all the vegetables are coated. Cook for about 5 minutes with the lid off.
  4. Add the short ribs back into the dish and add the bay leaves, tomato purée, red wine and beef stock. Give the mixture a big stir so that all the ingredients are covered by the liquid.
  5. Bring casserole to a simmer. Remove from the stove top and place in the preheated oven.
  6. Cook for four to six hours. Give the casserole a stir every forty-five minutes. At the end of the cooking time you may want to thicken up the sauce a little. Simply remove the beef ribs and in a small glass mix together one tablespoon cornflour (cornstarch) and one tablespoon cold water and stir this into the stew. Bring to a bubble on the stove top again and then replace the short ribs.
  7. Serve in big deep bowls with a decent chunk of cornbread. And maybe a little butter too. And wine, definitely wine (or red fizzy drink for Mum).

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Rosemary Pecorino Cornbread (gluten free)

Just a few notes: one, I used fine grain polenta, not the the quick cooking or pre-prepared kind in the US this is probably labelled cornmeal; two, you can replace the buckwheat flour with plain flour if you are not cooking for a coeliac. If you cannot find pecorino cheese use a sharp cheddar or parmesan instead.

Ingredients:

  • 160 grams fine grain polenta
  • 80 grams buckwheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder (gluten free)
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary (or 1/2 tablespoon dried rosemary)
  • 1/2 cup grated pecorino cheese

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 180ºC (350ºF). If you are cooking this at the same time as the short ribs above, 170ºC will be fine and may just require a few more minutes to cook. Line an 8-inch square baking tin with baking paper.
  2. In a medium bowl whisk together polenta, buckwheat flour, salt, black pepper, and baking powder.
  3. Whisk in rosemary and pecorino. Set aside for the moment.
  4. In a small jug measure out the buttermilk. Into this whisk the olive oil and eggs until thoroughly combined.
  5. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and briskly mix in the wet ingredients.
  6. Pour batter into lined tin and slide into the oven.
  7. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until a wooden skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.
  8. Allow to cool, or not, before serving with a steaming hot bowl of soup, or simply a generous dob of butter.

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Tell me, dear reader, what are your childhood memories of storytelling? Any favourite books? Do you still like listening to a soothing voice telling tales of adventure and daring?