Roasted sweet pepper rolls of caper-pinenut stuffing with a roasted garlic-chive cream, lemon risotto and sugar snaps

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I’ve given this dish its full descriptive name here, as it appears occasionally during the summer on the Paradiso menu, because it is the combination and contrast of flavours that creates an overall effect above and beyond the sum of the parts. That’s not to say that the pepper rolls aren’t good with other dishes, or that the lemon risotto isn’t very useful on lots of menus; if you like roasted garlic, the sauce can become addictive and you’ll find yourself dunking bread into it. But, from what I’ve witnessed, what excites people about the dish is the variety of tastes and textures which contrast and complement each other. There are very strong sweet flavours, the acid of the lemon and the capers, the rich intensity of the cream, and the soothing calm of the risotto with a pile of sweet, crunchy sugar snaps on top of it, insisting that it is mid-summer, after all. This is a very important role for short-season vegetables, especially on a rain-washed July evening in Cork, when sometimes the only difference between summer and winter is the food on the table. Sugar snaps say it loudest, but mangetout, green beans, even spinach, chard and the like are fine substitutes if they are fresh and barely cooked.

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Ingredients

  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 tblspn butter
  • 80 mls single cream
  • 1 tsp hot mustard, Dijon or similar
  • 40 g pinenuts, lightly toasted
  • 40 g capers
  • 100 g breadcrumbs
  • parsley, chopped
  • black pepper, to taste
  • 6 red or yellow peppers
  • risotto from 150 g arborio rice
  • 150 g sugar snaps or mangetout

Roasted Garlic-Chive Cream

  • 10 garlic cloves
  • a little olive oil
  • 80 mls white wine
  • 150 mls light stock
  • 150 mls single cream
  • fresh chives, chopped
  • 1 lemon rind and juice
  • salt and pepper
  • sugar snaps, to serve
  • risotto, to serve

Method

COOK THE ONION AND GARLIC in a tablespoon of butter until the onion has softened. Pour in the cream and the mustard, bring it to the boil and simmer until it has reduced to a thick sauce, about five minutes. Leave the sauce to cool before stirring in the pinenuts, capers, breadcrumbs and some chopped parsley. Season with black pepper, but be careful with salt - the capers may already have brought enough to the dish.

Meanwhile, roast and peel the peppers, then cut each in half. Many peppers seem to fall naturally into three pieces, so it might be safer to slice the peppers in two before peeling.

Place a couple of teaspoons of the filling, pressed together, along one side edge of each pepper piece (if you take the stem end as the top and the edges perpendicular to it as sides, that is), and carefully roll the pepper, manipulating the filling as you go, to make sure that the shape you end up with is well filled. Usually, there will be just enough pepper to wrap itself around the filling. Place the filled peppers, seam side down, on a baking tray lined with parchment or greaseproof paper. Brush them lightly with olive oil and bake them in a moderately hot oven for ten minutes. They will hold well for longer in a low oven, if you need them to while you make the risotto and cook the sugar snaps.

Serve three rolls per person, with some garlic cream spooned over them, the risotto and a pile of barely cooked sugar snaps.

WITHOUT REMOVING THEIR SKINS, toss the garlic cloves in a little olive oil and roast them in a moderate oven until the cloves have become soft and lightly browned, but not crisped. When they are cool enough to handle, squeeze the garlic cloves from their skins and put them in a pot with the wine and stock. Simmer this for a few minutes, then blend together. (You could also sieve out any surviving pieces of garlic, but I wouldn’t bother.) Add the cream and fresh chives, bring the sauce back to the boil and simmer until the cream has thickened to your satisfaction. I like this to be quite thick, for the intensity of flavour and so that a small amount can be kept in the vicinity of the peppers on the plate. Season with caution.

The lemon risotto is simply a basic risotto with lemon rind and juice added in with the final ladle of stock. Follow risotto instructions. As a side dish for four people, you will need a risotto made from about 150g rice, and the juice and rind of one lemon. If you have any fresh fennel herb available, I think it goes really well with the lemon in the risotto.