Roasted Red Peppers Stuffed with Fennel
This delightful combination of flavours makes a very attractive first course. I love to serve the peppers on a faded antique plate that I have, which shows off their outstanding colour. The dish needs lots of really good bread, as there's always a profusion of fragrant juices. If you want to make the peppers ahead of time, cover with foil after cooling, but don't refrigerate them as this spoils the fragrant flavour.
This recipe is taken from Delia Smith’s Christmas and Deia's Happy Christmas Serves 4-6 as a first course
Slice each pepper in half lengthways, cutting right through the green stalk end and leaving it intact; though it won't be eaten, it adds much to the look of the thing. Remove all the seeds.
Place the pepper halves on the baking sheet, then drain the tomatoes (you don't need the juice), and divide them into eight equal portions, placing each portion inside a pepper half.
Now pare off any brownish bits of fennel with your sharpest knife and cut the bulbs first into quarters and then again into eighths, carefully keeping the layers attached to the root ends.
Now put them in a saucepan with a little salt, pour boiling water on them and blanch them for 5 minutes. Then drain them in a colander and, as soon as they're cool enough to handle, arrange two slices in each pepper half.
Sprinkle 1 dessertspoon of olive oil over each one, using a brush to brush the oil round the edges and sides of the peppers.
Next, lightly crush the pepper berries, coriander and fennel seeds with a pestle and mortar or rolling pin and bowl, sprinkle these evenly all over the fennel and peppers, and finish off with a grinding of sea salt.
Then bake the peppers for about 1 hour on a high shelf in the oven until they are soft and the skin wrinkled and nicely tinged with brown.
After removing them from the oven, sprinkle the lemon juice all over, cool and serve garnished with a little finely chopped spring onion or as they are.
Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 4, 350°F (180°C).