15 ways to enjoy the sensational flavours of capsicum
Capsicum is common in many middle eastern dishes and it has always featured in my home cooked meals. It’s a rare day if I don’t have at least one red capsicum or a ‘traffic light’ set of red, yellow and green in my fridge. My favourite are the sweet pointed capsicums, but I do also find the blocky ones great for chopping into cubes for stir fry’s and soups. Personally, I love them combined with eggplant in a moussaka and this Traditional Egyptian eggplant moussaka is one of my favourite dishes to make.
Besides tasting great, capsicums have the added benefit of containing very little calories. This versatile and vibrant ingredient can be eaten raw or cooked. You can also pickle them or even dehydrate them to optimise flavour. They are perfect in salads to add some colour and crunch, but are also fantastic in cooked meals.
In some parts of the world, capsicums are called peppers (bell, sweet or just pepper). Common colours are red, green and yellow, but they also come in orange, brown, white, lavender, dark purple and even black. The word capsicum is from the Greek word ‘kapto’ meaning ‘to bite’. After seeing all the wonderful ways you can use this amazing food, I’m sure you’ll be inspired and want ‘to bite’ into one too.
Here are 15 ways to make capsicum taste great:
1. Raw - Fresh capsicum have such a crisp and crunchy taste. Sliced into as batons, they’re the perfect on-the-go snack. When entertaining, I like to gather an assortment of colours and place them in little cups so kids can easily grab something healthy. The vibrant colours are attractive on their own, but can also form a centrepiece on the dinner table and can inject a vibrancy of colour most meals. When raw, capsicums are a great ingredient that feature in many mediterranean salads, in sandwiches or in wraps. They also make a tasty and mess-free snack for lunchboxes
2. Salad - My friend Susan shows how easy it is to enjoy vegetables and provides a twist on flavour with this Sweet and spicy Asian style salad.
3. Coleslaw - Slice or dice capsicum and combinewith cabbage, herbs and either yoghurt, tartare sauce or mayonnaise for an easy and tasty side dish.
4. Kebabs - Check out this Continental Cucumber Kebab option. It looks delicious!
5. Shakshuka- This winning dish from my colleague Annelies uses a combination of herbs, combined with capsicum, onion, eggs and a few other tasty ingredients to deliver outstanding and impressive flavour from the Middle East. It can be made for breakfast, lunch or dinner and is one I will definitely be trying at my house.
6. Pizza – Have you ever thought about making your pizza sauce using capsicum? My family love homemade pizzas and I highly recommend making the sauce yourself. It adds a depth of flavour you can’t beat. Slice the sides off the capsicum, spray with olive oil and grill in the oven or char grill on the stove. Once the skin is charred, place in a bowl, cover and set aside to cool before peeling the skin from the capsicum and chopping into small cubes. In a pan, add a splash of olive oil and fry one finely chopped onion and two chopped cloves of garlic. Add a teaspoon of oregano (or your favourite herbs), ½ teaspoon of salt (I use vegetable salt), 1 teaspoon sugar (I use raw sugar) and 800g of tinned tomatoes. Combine with the capsicum and simmer until it thickens. Blend to form a puree before adding to your pizza base.
7. Grill - Chef Orielo fromSpain shared his recipe for a Mediterranean Grilled vegetable platter. It looks delicious. In my home, I’d serve a dish like this alongside grilled salmon or lightly fried fish.
8. Bruschetta - Roasted pepper bruschetta is tasty and makes for a perfect snack or lunchtime treat.
9. Dip - Capsicum can be sliced into batons and eaten fresh with a hummus dip or used as a dip itself. Try this simple Sweet capsicum and nut dip, which features unlikely ingredients including walnuts and pomegranate.
10. Stew – Try ratatouille and you will be rewarded with the most flavoursomemeal. One of my earliest memories is eating this dish and the memory of the flavours remains with me. Select fresh ingredients and you will be rewarded with your family and friends wanting more. The best thing about this dish is you can use any seasonal produce. I often make it with capsicum, onion, tomatoes, zucchini, carrots and eggplant, but you can also add squash, potato and/or pumpkin. In a saucepan on medium heat, add a splash of oil and cook the onion and vegetables until tender. Lower the heat to a simmer, and cook until it takes on the form of a stew. Add seasoning to taste and serve with fresh basil and crusty bread. I make this dish often and the kids love it! It’s also great on toast and grilled with melted cheese.
11. Chilli relish - For those who enjoy a bit of spice,combine chopped capsicum with allspice - if you don’t have it, use cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and pepper to achieve a similar taste. Add salt, sugar, tomato and chopped chilli with water. Simmer until the water reduces and the consistency is thick. This relish can be kept in the fridge for a few days, but I don’t think it will last that long.
12. Roast - My colleague Dusanka shared this easy to make Roasted red pepper salad from eastern Europe. Featuring capsicum and complemented with lemon juice, herbs and garlic, it’s a dish that’s sure to please.
13. Curry - Capsicum is great in curry dishes and if you use the red variety, it can add a contrast of colour that looks great and adds texture and interest to the meal.
14. Soup - Cook capsicum on the stove with onion, carrot, leek and garlic. Chop and boil four potatoes, then combine all ingredients and blend to a puree. Add seasoning to taste and enjoy!
15. Stir Fry - When I’m short on time and patience, there’s nothing easier than a quick and easy stir fry. Slice your favourite vegetables into batons and fry on the stove with a splash of oil and your favourite protein. I often use salmon or fish, and include capsicum, mushrooms, carrots and zucchini, but you could also any vegetables and also tofu, chicken, or beef. There are so many amazing sauces you can make to change the overall flavour depending on what you’re in the mood for – sweet, sour, spicy or mild. The choices and options are endless!
I could go on and on about capsicum. It’s just so great. A recipe my grandmother used to make are these Egyptian inspired baked stuffed capsicums. For more great recipe ideas, type your vegetable or cuisine in the search bar or check out Salapedia.