Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Saffron Of Plenty

There is one horn among all horns that has always fascinated me: the cornucopia, or horn of plenty. The horn of plenty is usually seen as carried by Fortuna, or Lady Luck, and while it may drip in coins and gold, in my mind the horn of plenty is filled with the gifts of harvest as per Thanksgiving imagery. Every time I find myself dragging my heels in the nearest supermarket, one type of pepper always catches my eye, the ramiro. I love its shape because it reminds me of the horn of plenty. Even though I have a rather poor pic of my latest recipe (I was a touch too eager to eat and eat quickly), you will see that ramiro peppers look like the cornucopia and we can only hope that they too will bring plenty to those who eat them. I have already waxed lyrical about my passion for saffron; ramiros may not come in yellow but, remember, saffron is really red not yellow! Here follows the recipe for my Saffron Cornucopias, not suitable to wheat allergy sufferers.

2 shallots
boiling water
sea salt
200g bulgar wheat
saffron (one sachet or one good pinch of strands)
4 ramiro peppers
4 tbsp cream cheese

Warm the oven to 220C as you put the kettle to boil. Peel and very finely chop the shallots, then put them in a heavy saucepan on medium heat where they will slowly fry in a drop of oil. As they turn golden, add some boiling water (and get your face off the heat at this point, steam can be vicious) and the saffron. Stir well and now add all the bulgar wheat. Stir and add more water as you see fits.

Bulgar wheat absorbs water very quickly, hence it is important that you keep an eye on it to begin with, by adding more water a little at a time and by salting well as you do a taste check (known as 'quality control' at my place!). Leave the wheat to cook on medium as you get on with the peppers. Chop the tops off, de-seed, wash and dry. Once the wheat is starting to soften up, about 10 minutes into its cooking, spoon it into the waiting peppers. Because the opening isn't very large, you will need to gently whack the peppers so that the wheat can drop down well into the bottom. Press with a spoon and add more until the peppers are all stuffed.

Now spoon a generous lid of cream cheese on each one, lay the peppers in the waiting, non-stick baking tray and paint them sparingly with olive oil. This is to add taste, not to prevent them from sticking. They won't, so long as you use a non-stick baking tray. Place in the oven for 10-15 minutes. You want them cooked but not so cooked that their outer skin starts to spontaneously peel off. Take them out, leave to stand for 5 minutes and then serve with a salad (I particularly like them with sauerkraut because they contrast well with the sweetness of the peppers themselves and of the saffron).

If you could manage it, these would be much better the day after, cold from the fridge and cut into 1/3 inch slices. They make great pick-nick food and really spell S U M M E R even when it rains, like today.
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