Cook the Veg Bag, Round 1: Stuffed Peppers and Cheesy Leeks

Hang on a pepper-stuffing minute.  What’s all this with the capsicums?  Capsican’t, more like.  Since when did peppers appear in your hearty cool-weather English veg bag, all full of roots and brassicas?  Well, they didn’t.  But come on, have a heart, I don’t live by vegbag alone or I would never get to eat bananas and who would begrudge anyone a banana?  I haven’t gone full Barbara Kingsolver, not yet.  So in between buying cheese elsewhere and getting my veg, I got a bowlful of red peppers from the market on the corner.

There was some beef mince – or at least it was called beef mince, oo-er – in the fridge which housemate had been intending to make chilli “or something” with.  Instead, we fried it with one large finely diced onion, a thumb of peeled, chopped root ginger, half a bulb of garlic and two handfuls of mushrooms, seasoning it heavily.  At the same time, we boiled half a mugful of pearl barley until it was soft, then drained it and mixed it in with the seasoned mince, creating a mealy, savoury mixture that, housemate noted with approval, looked a lot like haggis.  This, we filled the beheaded peppers with and stuck them in the oven. 

You need something fresh and green with a pepper full of barley beef, though, something a little bit squeaky and slithery on the teeth.  But it was cold and we had been drinking beer all afternoon, so it seemed like cheese was necessary too.  I washed the leeks and then sliced them and then washed them again, and rinsed them (goddamit leeks, you filthy green bastards) and fried them in a sparse dab of olive oil til they were softened but still squeaky-crisp.  Then I took them out of the pan and made a slow little roux with butter and flour, adding milk gradually til it just covered the pan bottom.  It was hopelessly lumpy but let’s pretend that didn’t happen.  Once there was a liquid base, I scattered in cheap grated cheese til it thickened, then stirred the whole thing into the leeks, sitting in an ovenproof dish. On a whim, I added some cloves of pickled garlic from a jar, which was an excellent idea – they were crunchy and sharp and alleviated the heaviness of the cheese.   There was more leek than cheese, but you wouldn’t call it health food.  This went in the oven alongside the peppers.

Those were some pretty cheesy leeks after all.  Take a closer look, at them and my unclean oven door:

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The peppers came out great: the fluffy barley absorbed both the greasiness of the mince and all the warm, bright flavours (ginger, garlic, a bit of chilli) we had thrown in it, and sweet pepper communed happily with salty, alliumy, tangy leek.  I’d make either dish again by themselves, or with something lighter.

Ingredients from veg bag: onions, mushrooms, leeks.

Ingredients not from veg bag: barley, mince, red peppers, garlic, ginger, white sauce and cheese.

Verdict: YUM.

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Published in: on February 19, 2013 at 1:41 pm  Leave a Comment  

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