In Defence of Green Peppers

Or: my favourite hangover cure


I have definitely read the words green peppers and least noble together in some food magazine I can no longer find. And I have Nigel Slater’s excellent book Real Fast Food right here in front of me, where he calls peppers magic, but before  embarking on a selection of recipes, warns his readers against the green pepper’s ‘failure to exude the same rich juices when heated.’

Even at the supermarket once (I do love a chatty checkout lady) I was told having a basket full of green peppers was most unusual, because nobody liked them.

Well, I am sorry, but a great injustice must be undone. Because green peppers are delicious. Yes, yellow peppers are sweet, and the orange ones really delicate, and the red ones look and taste great in a salad, but the greens have character, strong flavour, and in the words of my father, the liberal, it’s real men food!

IMG_0497For me, green peppers, minced beef and onions were born for each other. It is such a comforting combination! And it also has a quasi-miraculous curative property on hangovers. You wake up feeling a bit delicate, and may be tempted to have a greasy breakfast to help you face the world. But resist the urge and go for a plate of peppers gently cooked with onions and minced beef. No, make it a bowl. You want to eat this in a bowl, whilst wrapped up in a blanket. With some boiled potatoes, which you can gently mash with your fork. It will feel like a warm hug on your stomach and soul. If you can mince the beef yourself – or ask the butcher to do it – that will certainly make a difference. Choose a good quality cut with some fat in it, for flavour. Sirloin is a good option, and I hear neck also makes great mince. But depending on your state of ill health, ready minced beef may have to do. Invest in the best you can afford and look for some fat in the meat.

But it’s not all just prosaic homely food. I’ve been waiting for summer to try a cold soup I had last year in Italy that was a thing of beauty. It was glorious in the hellish heat of Ferrara’s summer: green peppers, almonds and saffron.  Even though this is a cold soup, it feels very different from drinking (or is it eating?) gazpacho. Equally refreshing, but not straight forward refreshing. It is velvety and cools you down bit by bit, as the different flavours keep turning up and bringing a smile to your face.

snack on potatoes while the peppers cook.

snack on potatoes while the peppers cook.

Today, I opted for the more humble recipe. Not that I was in need of sobering up, but a couple of stressful days at work called for the comfort of this dish. If you’re feeling under the weather, a bit down or in need of a cuddle, you’ll love this.

Say no to pepper discrimination. Bring a green pepper home today!

Green Peppers Hangover Cure

(For one. You will want this when you’re alone at home ignoring your phone.)

–          2 green peppers

–          1 onion, the sweetest you have. Red onions work well too.

–          3 royal jersey potatoes. Or a handful of new potatoes.

–          1 courgette

–          200g of minced beef.

–          a handful of parsley

–          extra virgin olive oil

–         salt, pepper, ground cumin

Start boiling the potatoes in plenty of salted water.

Chop the green peppers roughly. You want some big chunks of peppers rather than delicate bits.

Chop the courgettes into slightly smaller cubes.

In a large frying pan or sautee’ pan, warm a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and add the onions.

Cook the onions in a medium –low heat until translucent, about 3 to 4 minutes.

Add the mince and let it get a bit of colour, always on a gentle heat.

After a couple of minutes, add the peppers and the courgette.  Add a little bit of water, about 3 tablespoons. The beef and the courgettes will release quite a lot of liquid anyway, but the extra water will ensure this is cooked really gently and not burn. Season it with salt, pepper and a tiny pinch of cumin.

Cook in a lowish heat for just under 10 minutes, covered. Don’t overcook the peppers. Check that the mince is cooked through, and leave it a few more minutes if needed, but stop while the peppers are still a little bit crunchy.

Drain and peel the potatoes. Either serve them whole, or cut into halves, depending on their size.

Serve the potatoes with the mince and peppers on the side. Mash the potatoes only slightly with your fork and pour some of the liquid from the mince on them. Sprinkle chopped parsley over the food, and add a little bit of olive oil too.

Eat in front of the trashiest daytime telly you can find, and feel yourself gradually coming back to life.


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