Tuesday 12 November 2013

Bean filled peppers served alongside squashed stuffed with leeks

The nights are drawing in, and winter is coming.  And with it come winter bugs.

We got a handout from my daughter's nursery about hand washing today - I think quite a few children were afflicted with a vomiting illness last week.  When I take over the world, I certainly will make sure that all sinks are fitted with a blender tap that can emit neither hot nor cold but warm water for hand washing.  I feel like this would help a lot in combating the fear of faucets that children have.

We had a couple meat heavy meals at the weekend, so now we are trying to get some vegetables back into our bodies to fight off these maladies.  Do leeks count as leafy greens? Hmm...

I turned to my Veg Every Day book from the River Cottage and saw two things that looked alluring: Stuffed peppers, which always proves popular as a veggie main meal, and squash stuffed with leeks.  Having seen lots of interesting squash adorning the supermarket shelves along with bargains on leeks, this seemed like a nice, seasonal choice.  Since there is cheese in it, I knew my kids would be less enthusiastic than me, but I hope that by continuing to put foods they dislike in front of them at dinnertime eventually they'll change their minds.

For once I had plenty of time on my hands as I only had one child pick-up to complete.  After a trip to Lidl, I gathered the pepper ingredients together:

First I had to grill/broil the peppers.  I hate this job, as it requires lots of turning, cooling time, and finicky peeling.  Unfortunately, I only remembered how much I hate it several minutes into it.  At least roast peppers do reward you with tastiness.

While they did their thing in the oven, I chopped up a few of these babies with some garlic:

The recipe had suggested grating tomatoes into the shallots but keeping the peel, but that sounded like it would be painful for my hands (I hate the acidity of tomatoes) so I opted for just peeling some cherry tomatoes instead and throwing them in.  I used a knife to make a cross in the end of them and poured over boiling water.

Finally, the peppers looked charred so I took them out and put them into a bag to cool.
Well, if I'm going to pay for a Lidl bag, I want to use it more than once...

After draining the hot water and cooling them with cold water I peeled the tomatoes

And ground some cumin

I peeled all the friggin' peppers and set them aside.

I cooked the shallots and garlic in a bit of olive oil then put in the tomatoes

And pressed on them with the wooden cooking implement.  Once they had reduced slightly, I turned off the heat.

I drained some butter beans and put them in, mushing them a bit.

And I added a bunch of coriander along with cumin, paprika, and seasoning.

I sliced "lids" off the tops of the peppers and took out the seeds, then filled them with the bean mixture. Remarkably, the amount of filling was just right for stuffing 6 peppers.  Most recipes produce too much, but props to River Cottage for getting it right.  Once I'd stuffed them, I set them aside to cook later (at this point they just need 20 minutes in the oven to heat everything up together).

Onto the squash.  I had in my mind a couple larger squash, but these were the last two small squash available at Lidl along with most of a butternut squash (I used part of it in soup yesterday).  Although the recipe suggested slicing a bit off the bottom to help them sit in the dish, I chose to sit them on their tops  and use the conical bottoms as lids since I didn't want to waste any of the already small squash.

Meanwhile I softened some leeks (they're under the lid hissing at you)

And hollowed out the squash.  See, they're cute AND you can eat them.

Ok, the leeks looked done...

So I took them off the heat and added mustard, thyme, creme fraiche, emmental cheese, and seasoning. Once I'd vaguely stirred them together, I stuffed the squash with it.

I had some leftover filling so I ended up using a bigger dish and
threw the filling into a ramekin.  That was a very good idea, I discovered.

I did all that ahead of time, so an hour before dinnertime I put the oven on and stuck the squash in, then later put the peppers on the rack underneath.

The squash were glorious.  My kids didn't like the filling, but they did eat a good portion of the surrounding squash at least, and I got that browned baby in the corner to myself.  Browned cheesy leeks...heavenly.

The peppers don't looks so pretty here, but they were surprisingly popular with the kids.  My only mistake was adding too many crushed peppercorns, otherwise they would have eaten more.  All in all, quite a successful vegetarian meal.

Both recipes adapted from Veg Every Day

Peppers stuffed with beans

  • 6 large, fresh peppers

  • 1 tbsp rapeseed or olive oil
  • 2–3 shallots, or 1 medium onion, finely chopped

  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped 
  • 150–200g cherry tomatoes, peeled
  • 400g tin beans, such as borlotti, pinto or butter beans, drained and rinsed
  • Bunch of coriander, chopped
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp hot smoked paprika

Preheat grill to high.  Lay the peppers on a baking tray and grill, turning from time to time, until the skins begin to char.  Place in bag until cool enough to handle, then peel away skins, taking care to leave peppers whole.  Cut around and remove a flap of flesh to form a lid.  Carefully scrape out seeds and tip out any juice.  

Preheat oven to 180C.  Heat the oil in a frying pan over a medium low heat, then saute the shallots and garlic until soft, about 10 minutes.  Add your tomatoes and simmer for a couple minutes to reduce slightly, mashing the tomatoes a bit with the back of a wooden spoon.  Remove from heat.

Add the drained beans to the pan and roughly mash some of them with a fork so they break up a little, but don't overdo it.  Add the coriander, cumin, and paprika, season and mix well, then stuff the peppers.  Lay them in an ovenproof dish and bake for 20 minutes.

Squash stuffed with Leeks

  • 3-4 mixed baby squash
  • 40g butter
  • 2 large leeks, thinly sliced
  • 150g emmental, grated
  • 4 Tbsp crème fraiche
  • 1 tsp English mustard


  1. Preheat the oven to 190°C/gas mark 5. Cut the tops off the squash and if necessary take a slice off the bottom to give a flat base. Using a spoon scoop out all the seeds and fibrous matter.
  2. Heat the butter and oil in a frying pan when hot add the leeks. Cook gently until the leeks are softened but not coloured then season with salt and pepper.
  3. When cooked transfer to a bowl to cool slightly, add the grated cheese, crème fraiche and mustard; taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.
  4. Scoop the leeks into the squashes and place the lids back on. Put the squashes into a hot oven for 1 – 1 ½ hours.

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