My first subscription copy of Country Living arrived this week (a Christmas present from Mum and Dad) miraculously intact - by which I mean, still in some form you could physically read, i.e. turn the pages, even if you didn't have opposable thumbs. If you can imagine the trajectory of my magazine from the printers in West Yorkshire in the UK to our little Alpine village 1500 km away, that's a lot of handling and you could forgive the odd torn or punctured packaging or dog-eared page. But the most dangerous leg of its journey, the critical stage which determines whether it arrives flat, as the publishers intended, or geometrically folded and creased like some origami composition, is the final two feet, the arm's length between the yellow Postman Pat van and our mail box.
The posties here in the country don't like to get out of the car (it's against their human rights or something), so rather than knock on your door and hand larger items to you, they bend and fold and wrestle them into the mail box. Two Christmases ago, a calendar measuring a square foot and featuring beautiful photographs of Scotland - clearly identifiable as a gift - was manhandled into a quarter of its size and forced so tightly into the mail box that it required a screwdriver to prise it out. It means having to be on postie alert on magazine days - and especially over the Christmas period.
This recipe for red pepper pilaf with chilli and cashews, featured in said mag, is a one-pot rice dish made with sweet red peppers and fiery chillis. I didn't have cashews to hand so I used peanuts (any nuts would work well I think) and I used a good squirt of Sriracha chilli sauce instead of paprika. Great as a starter or as a vegetable side dish with a main.
4-5 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 red peppers, seeded and cut into strips
12 oz/350 g long grain rice
handful of fine spaghetti, broken into small pieces
1 tbsp smoked hot pimentón or sweet hot paprika or chilli flakes
2 hot green chillies, seeded and diced
4 oz/100 g cashew nuts, toasted
3-4 large red peppers, halved lengthwise and seeded
Heat the oil in a heavy pan and fry the onion gently until caramelized and very dark. Push aside and add the pepper strips and fry until soft. Sir in the rice and pasta and turn in the oil.
Add enough water to cover to the depth of two fingers, salt, stir in the pimentón or paprika, turn down the heat and leave to simmer for about 15 minutes until the water has been absorbed and the rice is nearly tender. Stir in the diced green chilli and sprinkle with the roasted nuts. Cover with a cloth and leave for 10 minutes to settle and swell.
Arrange the pepper halves on a baking try and roast in the oven at a high heat until the flesh softens but hasn't yet collapsed. Heap the rice into the shells and place in the oven for another 5 minutes to heat through.