Ring the changes with bell peppers

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 29 July, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 29 July, 2012, 12:00am
 

Bell peppers are low in fat and calories - 100g contains only 31 calories and 0.3g fat - and rich in vitamin C. In fact, 100g of red peppers provides 213 per cent of an adult's daily vitamin C requirements.

They are also excellent sources of other antioxidants, such as vitamin E, and carotenoids such as lutein, cryptoxanthin and zeaxanthin. These act as scavengers for harmful free radicals which, if left unchecked, have the potential to cause certain types of cancers and other chronic diseases.

As well as eating them raw in crunchy salads or using them in stir fries, bell peppers can be combined with meat or beans and rice or couscous to make stuffed peppers; incorporated into frittatas; whizzed up to make dips or cooked and pureed into vividly coloured soups.

Baked stuffed peppers

For a vegetarian version, replace the beef with an equal amount of cooked chickpeas.

Ingredients (serves 4)

300g lean minced beef

1 large onion, peeled, sliced

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp ground coriander

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp chili flakes

350g cooked mixed grain rice

1 tbsp tomato puree

150ml vegetable stock

Handful fresh coriander, chopped

4 red, green or yellow peppers

salt and pepper to taste

Method

1 Preheat the oven to 200C/ 180C fan /gas mark 6.

2 Place a non-stick frying pan over a medium-to-high heat. Add the mince beef and stir fry until browned.

3 Add the onion, garlic, cumin, coriander, cinnamon and chilli flakes and mix to combine.

4 Cook over a low to medium heat for 7-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions have softened.

5 Stir in the rice, tomato puree and 100ml stock. Take the pan off the heat and add the coriander, stirring gently to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

6 Slice the peppers in half lengthways, removing the seeds and membrane. Stuff the peppers with the beef and rice filling and place onto a baking tray. Pour the rest of the vegetable stock around the peppers, cover the baking tray with foil and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the peppers are soft and tender.

7 Serve with a green salad.

Nutritional information per serving: 310kcal, 1308kJ, 21.7g protein, 9.2g fat, 38.5g carbohydrates, 4.8g fibre

Red pepper soup

You can also make this with green, orange, or yellow peppers. Red peppers are fully ripe and so tend to be sweetest in taste, followed by orange and yellow ones, while green peppers are slightly bitter.

Ingredients (Serves 4)

1 tbsp olive oil

2 large onions, peeled, chopped

2 garlic cloves, peeled, crushed

6 large red peppers, seeds and pith removed, chopped small

800ml chicken or vegetable stock

1 tsp dried thyme

salt and pepper to taste

Method

1 Place the oil in a large saucepan, heat over a low-to-medium heat.

2 Add the onions and cook gently, stirring occasionally until softened. Then add garlic and cook for a minute before pouring in the stock.

3 Bring to the boil over a high heat and then add the peppers and dried thyme.

4 Cover and simmer over a low heat for 30-40 minutes, or until the peppers are soft and tender.

5 Blitz the mixture with a stick blender until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

6 Serve hot or chilled, gazpacho-style, with fresh crusty bread.

Nutritional information per serving: 76kcal, 313kJ, 2.0g protein, 3.3g fat, 10.2g carbohydrates, 1.8g fibre

Wynnie Chan is a British-trained nutritionist. If you've got a question for her or would like to be featured in this column, e-mail nutrition@scmp.com

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