The spirit of Tunisia entered The VegHead’s kitchen last night and held a little party in the oven. Tunisia, or more accurately the Tunisian Republic, or even more accurately al-Jumhūriyya at-Tūnisiyya, or if you want to show off اجمهورية التونسية sounds like a fairly nice place. Check it out here.
The word “Tunisia” has a degree of French lineage, which perhaps explains the ability of the puy lentils to cross the cultural barriers and get on so nicely with the Tunisian Spice Paste in this dish. Puy lentils are considered by The VegHead to be the best lentil – for three reasons. Firstly they have a lovely and unique peppery flavour. Secondly they hold their shape during cooking. Thirdly, they don’t make The VegHead unpleasant to be near the next day (well….no more than usual). Pub trivia note: They’re the only lentil to be identified by area of cultivation – grown in the Le Puy region of France.
This dish relies on having a jar of Tunisian Spice Paste from Oil and Vinegar. While we generally try to avoid specific, ready made ingredients in these recipes it does seem that Oil and Vinegar have stores in quite a few countries, from the UK to UAE to USA to RSA to Oz, and a few more in between. Their web site however is crap, and you don’t seem to be able to locate the Tunisian Paste via their product search. Oh well….you can’t be good at everything can you?
This is one of those meals where the component parts are all very simple, but the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. It is simply a stuffed and roasted capsicum, with wok fried cavelo nero and potatoes as side dishes.
Note 1: the following quantities are listed per person
Note 2: the quantities of the lentils and mushrooms are approximate and you may need to adjust up/down based on the size of the capsicum
- 1 large orange/yellow/red capsicum
- 1/2 cup of cooked puy lentils
- 1/2 cup of shiitake mushrooms
- 1 tablespoon of chopped red onion
- 1 small clove of garlic, crushed
- 2 tablespoons of passata
- 1 tablespoon of Tunisian paste
- 1 tablespoon of olive oil
- 3 wooden skewers
- Cut out the stalk end of the capsicum, making a hole that is large enough for you to get the stuffing in, but not so large that you just cut the capsicum in half. You’re a clever person, you’ll figure this out! This bulk of the seeds should lift out with the stalk section; slice off the soft flesh that holds the seed ball and compost.
- Mix all other ingredients thoroughly
- Stuff the capsicum to just below the lip of the hole. Ensure that it is firmly filled by gently pressing with your fingers
- Replace the stalk lid
- Use the skewers to hold the lid in place, pushing each one through the lid at an angle and down through the flesh of the body of the capsicum on the opposite side. The trick here is to angle the skewers such that once you’ve got all three in, they have emerged to form three legs that support the capsicum upright as it cooks.
- Lightly brush the outside of the capsicum with a little olive oil
- Bake in a hot oven for 30-40 minutes
- Cube and roast an orange sweet potato, sprinkled lightly with some italian herbs
- Boil some desiree type potatoes, and smash them with some soy milk and French Walnut Oil
- Gently mix the roast and smashed potatoes before serving
The Cavelo Nero
- Wash the leaves and drain. Remove any gnarly stem ends
- Chop roughly. Slice any thick stemmy bits along the stem
- Stir fry with a little olive oil in a hot wok – it will only require a few minutes at most
Serve the capsicum on a bed of the cavelo nero, with the potatoes to the side.