Bell peppers are native to Mexico, Central America, and South America. Peppers quickly became popular in Europe, where they were eaten whole, made into spices and used as condiments. Peppers are still used in these ways today.
Paprika, a fine powder, is made from specially mild varieties of peppers. The core and seeds are removed, then the flesh is dried and powdered, which results in the characteristic rich red colour. Hungarians have adopted Paprika as their national spice, and they use it generously in their famous goulashes, stews and chicken dishes. Paprika also has an affinity with Spanish and Portuguese cuisines.
Peppers can be found in a rainbow of colours - green, red, yellow, orange, purple, brown to black. And they can vary in flavour. They range from sweet to extremely hot. The green and red bell peppers come from the same plant. As bell peppers mature, their colour changes from green to red as they ripen and become sweeter.
The scientific name for bell peppers is Capsicum annuum and the scientific name for hot peppers is Capsicum frutescens.
There are four different varieties of sweet pepper: bell, banana, cubanelle and pimento.
* Sweet bell peppers are crunchy and taste great raw. Add sliced bell peppers to all kinds of salads. Use in stir fries, soups, stews, chilli or rice dishes. Stuff bell peppers with cooked rice, pasta or grains, and bake them. Try the grilled on the BBQ, they are delicious. There are so many ways to use peppers.
* Hot peppers, or chili peppers, are very different from sweet peppers. They are much smaller and are very hot - too hot to eat in large quantities. Some of the more popular types of hot pepper include anaheim, habanero, jalapeno and serrano. These will add some fiery heat to your dishes!
STUFFED RED PEPPER WITH CAULIFLOWER & CHEESE
1 Red Pepper
100g Cauliflower florets
2oz Chedder Cheese
Salt & black pepper
fresh or dry herbs choose from - thyme, chives, sage or tarragon.
Half the pepper and remove seeds, put into a oven dish and drizzle with olive oil, put in oven and roast for around 10 mins until softened.
In the meantime, bring a pan of water to the boil and cook the cauiflower until just tender then drain.
Remove peppers from oven and fill with the cauliflower, sprinkle over the cheese and your chosen herbs and drizzle over a little olive oil. Pop back into the oven and cook until the cheese has melted.
STUFFED PEPPERS WITH GARLIC MUSHROOMS
1 Red Pepper, halved and deseeded.
1 Onion, finely chopped.
1 clove Garlic, finely chopped.
200g Mushrooms, ( try chestnut mushrooms) cut into quarters
1 tbsp of each..Fresh chopped parsley, chives, coriander.
2oz grated Chedder Cheese.
Place the pepper into a oven dish and drizzle with olive oil, roast for about 10 mins until softened and browned.
In meanwhile, heat oil in a frying pan, add the onion and garlic, fry and until softened. Add the mushrooms and continue cooking until mushrooms are browned. Add the chopped herbs and stir well. Spoon the mushroom mixture into the halved peppers, sprinkle over the cheese and return to oven and cook until cheese has melted.
STUFFED PEPPERS WITH CREAMY HAM & PEAS
1 Pepper, halved and deseeded.
150g Gammon, cut into 1cm cubes.
150g fresh Peas.
100ml double Cream.
Sprig fresh Thyme.
Salt & black pepper.
Place the pepper into a baking dish, drizzle over oil, and roast for about 7-10 mins. Heat oil in a small saucepan and add the gammon, fry until golden brown. Add the peas, cream, thyme, salt & pepper and cook for around three mins. Remove pepper from oven and spoon the creamy mixture into the pepper halves. Pop back into oven and cook for another 8-10 mins.
STUFFED PEPPERS WITH MINCED BEEF
4 Peppers, deseeded and halved
1 Onion, finely chopped
2 cloves Garlic, finely chopped
450g pack Minced Beef
1 tblsp Tomato puree
1/2 tsp dried Oregano
1/2 tsp dried Basil
1 glass Red Wine
Place the halved peppers into a roasting tin, drizzle with olive oil and cook 10 mins. In a frying pan, fry onion & garlic until soft. Add the minced beef to pan and brown. Stir in tomato puree and the red wine, along with a couple of tbsps of water. Add the herbs and season well. Spoon the mixture into the peppers. Top the roasting tin with tin foil. Pop back into the oven and cook for about 45-50 mins.
STUFFED PEPPERS WITH RICE
4 Green peppers
225g Boiled long grain rice
50g butter, melted
2 tomatoes, skinned and chopped
4 hard boiled eggs, chopped
1/2 tsp turmeric
2 tblsp chopped parsley
2 tblsp chopped chives
salt & pepper
50g cheese, grated.
Cut the tops off the peppers and scoop out the seeds. Mix together rice, butter, tomatoes, eggs, turmeric, herbs and seasoning.
Stuff the peppers with the mixture, then arrange the peppers in a greased baking dish so that they stand upright. Sprinkle over the cheese. Bake in a moderate oven for around 20-30 mins until tender.
CHILLI STUFFED PEPPERS
4 Green peppers, tops cut off, and seeds removed.
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
350g minced beef
2 tsp chilli powder- ( or a little more if like it spicy!)
1 tbsp tomato puree
150ml beef stock
425g can kidney beans
salt & pepper
Place the peppers in a oven proof baking dish. Fry the onion, garlic and minced beef in the oil until browned. Stir in the mushrooms, chilli powder and tomato puree as well as the stock and seasoning. Simmer gently for around 10 mins. Drain the kidney beans then add to the meat mixture. Fill the peppers with the mixture, and cover the baking dish with tin foil. Bake in a moderate oven for about 30 minutes.