Cold Stuffed Red Peppers à l’Indienne

You will probably have realised how much I like the spices most used in Indian cookery. Stuffed peppers can be quite a boring dish but if you can get very small red peppers this cold spicy version tastes delicious and looks beautiful arranged on crisp green lettuce or spinach leaves as a first course, or as one of the cold dishes at a large party. I think Basmati rice has much the best flavour and you can get it at Indian shops and delicatessens. As it is smaller it needs less cooking than normal long grain rice.

Ingredients

  • 6–12 small red peppers (12 if very small, 6 if a bit larger)
  • 1 cup Basmati rice
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • ¾ lb minced lamb (350 g)
  • 3–4 teaspoons curry powder
  • 2 teaspoons powdered cumin
  • 2 teaspoons powdered cardamom
  • 2 cloves garlic – crushed
  • 1 tablespoon tomato purée
  • salt, black pepper
  • olive oil
  • wine vinegar

Method

First soak the rice in cold water for at least half an hour and drain. Take just the tops off the peppers and any pips etc, from inside. Put them in boiling salted water for 5 minutes. Drain and put on one side. Add ½ teaspoon salt and the turmeric to the 2 cups of water and bring to the boil. Stir in the soaked rice, cover and simmer gently for 6–10 minutes – test constantly and do not go away as the rice should be only just tender, not really soft. Empty rice into a sieve and rinse under cold water. Put on one side. Season the mince with the spices and curry powder, salt and black pepper. Heat a little olive oil in a frying pan, add the mince mixture, the tomato purée and garlic and fly fairly quickly for about 3–5 minutes, digging at the meat with a wooden spoon to keep it separate. Mix the meat with the rice. Press the meat and rice mixture compactly into the peppers with a teaspoon. Put the stuffed peppers into a fireproof dish with a very little olive oil, cover with foil and bake in the centre of a pre-heated oven Gas 5 (375°F/190°C) for 30–40 minutes according to the size of the peppers. When cold arrange, tops upwards, on some crisp green lettuce leaves on a pretty dish and spoon an oil and vinegar dressing over them just before serving.

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