This weekend I begun my 21st birthday celebrations. It is, admittedly, somewhat early, seeing as it is nearly 2 weeks away, but this weekend was the only one where everyone was available for a dinner party. My group of friends repeatedly told me that I was mad, wanting to cook for them to celebrate my birthday. But I enjoyed myself so much that it was like an extra little present that they let me make the food.
This recipe is for the starter, consisting of these beautiful stuffed peppers and tomatoes that I served with a rosemary and olive oil bread and garnished with some fresh basil leaves. The filling is so amazing. It’s creamy and packed with flavour, but is still light and fresh, making it perfect for the first course of a long meal.
I adapted this recipe from the perfection that is the Ottolenghi website, where it contains oregano and pine nuts instead of basil, and there are 6 big romano peppers in place of the mini peppers and tomatoes. I was glad that I omitted the pine nuts, mainly because my best friend is allergic to them and I don’t want her to die, but also because I don’t think the dish needed any crunch.
This went down very well with all six of us. When the plates end up completely clean with something as messy to eat as this, you know it was good. The bread was perfect for mopping up any sauce that had leaked out – and in fact had a similar role in the next course which will be up in a few days.
Please make this. It’s delicious.
Sweet mini peppers and tomatoes stuffed with ricotta, mascarpone and basil
Adapted from Ottolenghi
Serves 6 as a side dish
300 grams sweet mini peppers
8 small/medium tomatoes
3 tbsp. plus 1 tsp. olive oil
200 grams ricotta
100 grams mascarpone
large handful of basil leaves, finely chopped
½ tsp. salt
grated zest of half a lemon
1 tsp. lemon juice
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Preheat the oven to 180°C.
Chop the tops off the peppers and tomatoes and deseed them carefully. The peppers can be done by hand, and you can use a teaspoon for the tomatoes. Place the peppers and tomatoes and their tops into a large roasting tin and toss in 3 tbsp. olive oil. Sprinkle with salt then roast in the oven for 25-30 minutes, or until the peppers begin to char at the edges. Leave to cool slightly.
Meanwhile, make the filling by beating the cheeses, chopped basil, 1 tsp. olive oil, lemon juice and lemon zest together vigorously in a medium sized bowl. Season with black pepper to taste.
When the peppers and tomatoes have cooled enough to handle, use a teaspoon fill them with the cheese mixture, pushing it all the way down to the bottom. Put the top back on each pepper and tomato like a lid – it doesn’t matter if they don’t completely match. Serve warm.