Colourful, healthy and tasty – just the thing after a little overindulgence!
1¼ cups freekeh 3 cups water 3 red and 3 yellow peppers (bell peppers/capsicums) Flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper Grated zest 1 lemon 1 Tbsp lemon juice 1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed 2-3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling 2 Tbsp each chopped parsley, basil and mint 150g (5 ounces) feta, crumbled (not too small) ¼ cup panko crumbs
The weekend before this recipe’s conception was my cousin’s wedding up in Mangawhai. On the Saturday morning we got the car ferry over from Waiheke to Auckland, laden with coffees, tarts (savoury AND sweet) and brioche, as well as a couple of unnecessary trash mags. All was well. After 4 hours of travel we arrived at the meeting point in perfect time before catching a bus with the rest of the fam to spend an amazing afternoon in the Northland sun. Bubbles was practically bubbling from every nook and cranny of the venue and no one seemed to be holding back on the food front either. The following morning we all had a huge brunch at my cousin’s new house and our family proceeded to drive back down to Auckland, laden again with an obscene amount of snacks and various types of juice and water… go figure. At this point I sort of gave up on myself entirely and just blatantly pigged out the whole car journey home. In the space of an hour or so I somehow managed to get through a full jar of eggplant dip, two big packets of various chips, a litre of coconut water, and some gummy bears for good measure. Fast forward two hours and I was on the car ferry home, chair wound all the way down so I more or less looked like a human log on a seat, feeling extremely guilty. Anyway all this excess and feasting brings me to these stuffed peppers; a healthy, and dare I say, satisfying little number. They are fresh and the freekeh is a decent source of protein and even if you did pig out on these you wouldn’t have to feel so bad as there ain’t much processed going on. Enjoy!
1 I like to get the freekeh on first so it can chug away while I do the peppers. Put it in a sieve and rinse well under running water to get rid of dust, then put it in a saucepan with the measured water. Bring it up to a bubble, then lower the heat and cook for 20 minutes. There’s no need to put a lid on the pan. Drain the freekeh in a sieve and give it another rinse with warm water. Then leave it to drain for 5 minutes. If it is still wet after this, turn it onto a clean cloth and gently squeeze to extract water. Then it’s good to go. Read about freekeh here
2 Cut the tops off the peppers – reserve them– and pull or shake out seeds and membrane. Season the insides of the peppers with salt and pepper – don’t forget to do this as it gives the peppers lots of flavour. Remove any seeds from the pepper tops. Choose a small baking dish which fits the peppers snugly and line it with baking (parchment) paper. I couldn’t quite fit all the peppers in my dish so I cooked the last one in a little pan. It looked so cute! If you have 6 ovenproof dishes you could cook them all like this.
3 Whisk the lemon zest, juice, garlic, ¾ teaspoon flaky sea salt (use less if using regular salt), and some black pepper. When the freekeh is drained and ready to go, mix with the dressing. Chop the herbs and add, then add the feta. Try not to stir too much once you’ve added the feta or it will moosh it down too much – you want visible pieces of feta. Spoon the mixture into the peppers, then put their tops on. Sprinkle with panko crumbs and drizzle with oil.
4 Have the oven preheated to 180°C. Like me, you’ll probably forget to do that in advance, but it doesn’t hurt the peppers sitting around for a bit before you cook them. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until they have collapsed a bit and browned on top. They should smell so tempting! I like to serve them with a green salad, maybe with cherry tomatoes and a handful of capers, and some interesting bread.