After fresh ideas for meals that are healthy but still pack a flavour punch? We've got salads and vegetable-packed bowls to soups and light desserts.
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This ultra-simple sandwich is our take on the signature served at Hong Kong's Australia Dairy Company. Shaved leg ham would add another dimension, as would toasting one side of the bread slices, but we love the simplicity of this straight-up version. It's definitely a case of a dish being greater than the sum of its parts.
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Used in dips, soups, salads and pasta, sweet, char-grilled peppers bring richness and colour to many a midweek meal.
There's no doubt that the fiery-coloured red capsicum is at its
best char-grilled or roasted. It develops a mellow sweetness and
silky texture that's perfect for use in anything from salads to
sauces, soups and pasta dishes. But let's face it: peeling and
seeding a roast capsicum can be annoyingly fiddly. Buying
char-grilled or roast capsicum, either from the deli counter or in
jars, is an investment that doesn't compromise quality (the same
can't be said for char-grilled eggplant; we've never found a
store-bought version that can hold a candle to anything
Buying ready-made roast capsicum cuts a good hour off any recipe that calls for the ingredient. The examples on offer at the deli counter usually haven't been preserved in any way, so should be used within a few days of buying. Jarred roast or char-grilled capsicum, on the other hand, is shelf-stable until it's opened (and before the best-before date) and is a great pantry stand-by. Once open, store the jar in the refrigerator for up to a week or so.
Roast red capsicum and saffron soup (pictured)
Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat, then sauté 1 thinly sliced Spanish onion and 1 finely chopped garlic clove until tender (4-5 minutes). Add 125ml dry white wine and ½ tsp saffron, and simmer until liquid reduces by half (2-3 minutes). Add 1 litre chicken stock, 400gm canned tomato, 400gm char-grilled capsicum, 3 thyme sprigs and season to taste. Simmer until well-flavoured (10-15 minutes), add 50gm coarsely torn crustless day-old sourdough and 1 tbsp red wine vinegar, remove from heat, stand until bread softens, then purée with a hand-held blender. Serve hot, with a dollop of natural yoghurt, and scattered with coarsely torn roast capsicum and thyme.
Roast capsicum and baked ricotta on garlic crostini
Place a 200gm wedge of firm ricotta on a baking tray lined with baking paper, drizzle with 1 tbsp olive oil, scatter with a pinch of dried chilli flakes and a pinch of dried rigani and season to taste. Roast at 200C until firm and browned on the edges (8-10 minutes), cool, then coarsely crumble. Meanwhile, combine 200gm coarsely torn char-grilled capsicum, 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil and 2 tsp Sherry vinegar or to taste in a bowl, season to taste and set aside to marinate. Drizzle 8 thick slices of sourdough with a little extra-virgin olive oil and char-grill until toasted (2-3 minutes), then rub with cut-side of a garlic clove. Pile marinated capsicum mixture on top, scatter with baked ricotta and serve.
Red capsicum hummus
Process 400gm canned drained chickpeas, 200gm char-grilled capsicum, 2 tbsp hulled tahini and 2 garlic cloves in a food processor until smooth. Add 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil and juice of 1 lemon, or to taste, process to combine, then thin with a little warm water if necessary. Season to taste and serve with warm toasted pita bread.
Roast capsicum and sausage strozzapreti
Cook 400gm dried strozzapreti in a large saucepan of boiling salted water until al dente (8-10 minutes). Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat, sauté 1 thinly sliced onion and 1 finely chopped garlic clove until tender (4-5 minutes). Add 2 pork and chilli sausages squeezed out of their skins and stir, breaking into coarse chunks with a wooden spoon, until browned (2-3 minutes). Add 100ml red wine, simmer until reduced by half, then add 200gm canned cherry tomatoes and simmer until thick (2-3 minutes). Add 250gm coarsely torn char-grilled capsicum and a handful each of chopped flat-leaf parsley and oregano. Toss sauce with drained pasta and serve hot.
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