Saturday night is generally the only night when my husband and I eat alone together. Weekdays are a blur for us both, his blurs often occurring in different countries and time zones, and so it’s quite a novel experience to sit down and break bread together.
On bad nights our meal is eaten to the beat of elephantine feet pounding around upstairs. Usually I crack first, and bolt up the stairs promising all manner of heinous punishments unless they pipe down. On good nights the house is silent save for us chatting, and glugging down a bottle of red.
Dinner is always followed by a movie. As we are starved of decent telly here in France, we are amassing a good selection of DVDs. Quite a few of them feature 007; I’m a bit of a sucker for Bond . Christmas is not complete without a Bond movie, nor is Easter or a Bank Holiday. The BBC fed us well in my childhood, I was transfixed by Roger, unimpressed by Timothy, and very excited by Pierce. (I'm too young for Connery, ahem)
I’m afraid I was one of those purists that thought that 007 had to have dark hair. I derided the idea of a light-haired Bond, for me, Daniel was not going to cut it.
Well. How wrong a girl can be. The first time I saw the new Bond movie I sat and salivated. I could be a bit pretentious here and talk about the need to sell this new Bond to the female audience. How the hackneyed ‘male gaze’ so prevalent in traditional Bond films has been replaced by a very female gaze. A gaze that gives us delicious close-ups of a brawny, well-toned body in skimpy trunks. How his infatuation with Vesper Lynd showed a warm human side and introduced the idea that perhaps it was possible to ‘reach’ him emotionally.
I could say all of that. Or I could say, that Daniel Craig gives a gritty performance, that he’s got a fabulous body and really, which girl wouldn’t want to go a few rounds with him?
So, on the DVD menu last Saturday was Casino Royale, and to accompany it I served these Saturday Night Peppers. It was a Double Bill of ‘Mmmm, gorgeous’.
Saturday Night Peppers (Click here for tips on how to avoid cross-contamination)
If you can tolerate dairy products, then you could top these with crumbled feta cheese or goats cheese instead of vinaigrette.
3 peppers (red, yellow, green)
3 medium mushrooms
20 black olives (pitted) plus a few extra to garnish
175g long grain rice
3 cloves of garlic
0.5-1tsp ground nutmeg (depending on taste)
2 tsp gluten-free Dijon Mustard (here's one)
1 heaped teaspoon paprika
2 tbsp gluten-free yeast extract (here's one)
Sprinkling of chilli flakes (optional)
3 big beef tomatoes
Some green leaves for garnish (spinach, rocket, etc)
Feta or goat's cheese (optional, and obviously not suitable for those suffering from dairy allergies - please don't serve it to them!)
For the vinaigrette:
- Heat the oven to 190 degrees C, Gas Mark 5, 375 degrees fahrenheit
- Set a large steamer saucepan of water to boil. When it is boiling, add the yeast extract and paprika and stir until it has dissolved. Add the rice to the saucepan, place the steamer part on top and steam the spinach for about 4/5 minutes. (if you don't have a steamer, you can cook the spinach in a regular saucepan in a small amount of water. Cover it and let it sweat until it has wilted)
- Remove the steamer, drain the excess juice off the spinach then chop it quite finely. Sprinkle over the nutmeg and mix it all in. Transfer the spinach to a large mixing bowl
- Finely chop the mushrooms and garlic, add to the spinach and mix together
- Slice the black olives into rings and add to the bowl. Add the mustard and mix it all together
- When the rice is done, drain it, then add it to the bowl. Mix everything together and add the chilli flakes if you want to
- Slice the peppers in half along their length and cut out the inner bit and scrape out all the seeds
- Place them in an ovenproof dish facing upwards (smooth side to the base of the dish)
- Place spoonfuls of the rice 'stuffing' into each pepper. I levelled the top of mine, but next time I might put more stuffing in so that they are 'domed'
- Cut the beef tomatoes in half. Squeeze the innards all over the peppers and down the sides into the dish. The idea is to create juice in which to sizzle the peppers
- Generously drizzle olive oil over the peppers and down the sides. You don't want them to stick!
- A final twist of black pepper, then cover the dish with aluminium foil and place in the centre of the oven
- Whilst the peppers are cooking, get busy with the vinaigrette. Here's how.
- Cook for about 20 minutes, then you could move to the top shelf for the next 10 minutes or so (still covered). Remove the foil for the final 5 minutes to brown things off a little (add the goat's or feta cheese if you want to at this point)
- Check to see if they are done by sticking a knife in the side of one of the peppers. If there's too much resistance, leave them to cook for a bit longer
- Remove from the oven, place them on a serving plate with some green leaves and drizzle the vinaigrette over the top, finishing by placing a black olive cheekily in the middle
- Settle down with a good man (or woman), a good DVD and tuck in!