by Iona Berry
Most of us grew up with meat as the hero of our meals and with vegetables taking up the mere corners of our plates. It can be hard to know where to start if you're trying to flip the script and cook plant based meals that don’t feel like just eating a plate full of sides. Building an exciting, yet satisfying meal around vegetables - whether that’s a bunch of carrots or a humble head of cauliflower - can sometimes feel like a little daunting and underwhelming task.
Our new series, Veg and Two Veg is here to tackle just that and to explore all of the ways in which every day vegetables can be the star of the table without sacrificing flavour or heartiness. Whether you’re cooking for one or cooking for a bunch, these recipes will fill your table with vibrant, deeply flavoured and satisfying dishes that you’ll be making on repeat.
This fresh and delicious peperonata is sweet and balanced with the acidity of balsamic vinegar. Peperonata is a popular dish in most Italian regions and when summer comes, it’s prepared in advance to bring to parties. Although the recipe varies from region to region, peperonata is typically prepared with capers or olives, mint or basil and can be served warm or cold. My version is closest to an Emilian version, prepared with fresh basil and balsamic vinegar.
I love to prepare this dish in advance of a picnic or dinner party as the flavours get more intense after a few days in the fridge. There are a multitude of ways to serve peperonata and one of my favourite ways is on some sourdough toast with some scrambled tofu or smashed avocado. It also makes an excellent sauce for a pasta salad, hot or cold! I think fresh oregano and basil really elevate the flavours in the dish but if you prefer a different herb then you can absolutely mix it up.
4 tbsp (60ml) olive oil
2 medium sized red onions, thinly sliced (around 300g)
3 yellow bell peppers, thinly sliced (around 300g)
3 red bell peppers, thinly sliced (around 300g)
6 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
1 tsp red bell pepper flakes
30ml balsamic vinegar (the best quality one you can find)
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp sea salt
½ tsp cracked black pepper
Fresh oregano to taste
10g fresh basil leaves
Heat a large saucepan or dutch oven over a medium heat and add the olive oil. Once hot add the red onions and a pinch of salt. Cook the onions for 10-15 minutes until they are slightly caramelised and soft.
Add the garlic, pepper, red bell pepper flakes, balsamic vinegar, sugar, salt, pepper and oregano (if using).
Put a lid on and simmer the peppers for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Stir the pot occasionally and if it feels too dry then feel free to add a splash more oil or vinegar. You can take the lid off for the last 10 minutes of cooking if you want any excess liquid to absorb into the peppers.
By then, the peppers should be thoroughly cooked through and soft. Add a few oregano leaves and a few basil leaves and serve with toasted ciabatta.
By Iona Berry
Iona is our Development Chef, aka our go-to girl for developing, testing and tasting delicious dishes for you to all enjoy at home. When she’s not in the kitchen, you’ll find her either running or cycling, or trying out food markets and new restaurants around London. Continuous market research it would seem.