I recently got hold of some small Tinkerbell Peppers, of assorted colours. They are like bell peppers, but smaller. They are officially a dwarf sweet pepper, but it has given me some ideas for what to call those that I grow, which sometimes turn out not to reach their full size!
I jest. I saved the seed, and I’ll be planting some of these to see if I can grow them next year. We’ll see how successful I am. I hope they’re not F1 hybrids.
I recommend this variety, they are small, but perfectly formed, and have quite a lot of flesh for such small peppers, and they have much better flavour than the greenhouse varieties that we get from supermarkets. They would be great for stuffing to use as canapés, on the barbecue or even simply in salads.
I always knew I was going to marinate these peppers, which I often do to larger varieties, to serve with homemade burgers and veggie burgers at barbecues. At the moment, I am also trying to find ways of injecting a lot of flavour into salads, without adding too much by way of fat (more on that soon).
I also have some very good smoked Maldon sea salt, which complements the smokiness of the charred peppers perfectly. I usually char the peppers on my hob, but these were tiny little things, and I wanted to add to the salad by charring some ciabatta, so I used my griddle pan. A fairly recently lit barbecue would also be a great way to char the peppers, and the bread can char just before you serve it. The delicate smoke of the salt enhanced the smoky flavour of the peppers.
It struck me that I could use the peppers and the marinade to dress a nice salad. However, the salad would have to stand up to the punchy marinade, so a normal butterhead lettuce wouldn’t cut it (and this would definitely be no place for an Iceberg). I think any of the mustard greens would be suitable, as would watercress, and some of the foraged greens that are abundant at the minute (e.g. wood sorrel, sorrel, fat hen, chickweed). I had rocket, chickweed and parsley in the garden, so I used those. I bulked it up with some baby spinach. The iron and peppery flavours were just what was needed.
I have also found apple mint and sumac great for adding a lot of flavour to salad leaves, without resorting to cheeses and too much dressing. If you have any other tips for creating good flavours, I’d love to hear them.
This entry is part of the 52 Week Salad Challenge, where they are currently discussing pests. I know Michelle would love to hear from you if you have anything to add about the bane of slugs or other nuisances.
Recipe: Smoky Tinkerbell Pepper Salad
For the marinated peppers:
5-6 Tinkerbell peppers (or one or two large ones)
A little oil for the griddle pan
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tbsp blackberry vinegar (or sherry or red wine vinegar will work, even balsamic if you have to)
1 clove garlic, very finely sliced
Small pinch of dried chilli flakes
Good pinch of smoked salt (or normal sea salt)
Black pepper to taste
For the salad:
4 thick slices of ciabatta
A little extra virgin olive oil
A bunch of rocket
A large handful of baby spinach
Bunch of chickweed, chopped if the stalks are long
Bunch of parsley, leaves only
¼ cucumber, diced
8-10 cherry tomatoes, halved
Heat a little oil in the griddle pan.
Halve and deseed the peppers. Put skin-side down in the hot pan, and leave until the skin chars and blisters. You may need to press them down a little on the rounded bits to get the skin to char evenly. Don’t worry that the skins go black.
When the skins are blackened and blistered all over, place them in a plastic bag, a bowl covered with cling film, or in an airtight container, and seal. Allow to cool for 5 or so minutes, when you will be able to rub the skins off easily.
In another airtight container mix a dressing of the extra virgin olive oil, the vinegar, garlic, chilli flakes, the salt and a little pepper. The acidity of a dressing tends to be a matter of taste, so adjust this to your liking.
While the skinned pepper halves are still warm, add them to the marinade, cover, and set aside for a while – at least half an hour – to allow the flavours to mingle. At this stage, you can use the marinade peppers as a side dish or relish too, if you like.
Drizzle the ciabatta slices with some olive oil, and put in the warm griddle pan. You should be able to hear it sizzle, as you put them in. You want a nice striped toast to the bread, so once it is in, resist the temptation to keep moving and checking it.
I used ciabatta rolls, cut in half, so I only toasted the cut side. Leave this for at least 3 minutes, until you can smell the bread toasting. If you are using bread slices, then turn it over, and char the other side, again resisting temptation to move it around. The second side will need slightly less time. Leave to cool slightly.
Meanwhile wash the salad leaves and prepare the cucumber and tomatoes. When the bread is ready, dress the salad in the peppers and marinade, tossing to mix it well.
Serve the salad over the toasted bread, and pour over any remaining marinade.
You will have a smoky, hearty salad, that does not leave you wanting. The marinated peppers may have a fairy’s name, but they really do have a giant flavour.