When we were in Corfu Town last summer, I made it my mission to find truly authentic tavernas and by far the best one we came across ticked every single box. A simple whitewashed interior featuring a dusty clock and iconic paintings of Christ. Old family photographs fighting for our attention as they danced around a collection of strange Greek memorabilia. A few old men in crisp white shirts each sitting silently at his naturally distanced paper draped table eating lunch with a small beer clasped in one hand and a neatly folded newspaper in the other. Behind the glass counter a woman – her face locked in grim concentration – dishes out plate after plate of food with all the grace of a BHS canteen apprentice of the 70s. A tall man in a pink shirt, blue braces and a pair of baggy Levi’s attempts to attract her attention. It is a futile task. Before her are huge trays of Greek gigantes, braised artichokes, carrots and peas, thick cut chips fried in olive oil, stifado, a traditional beef stew slowly cooked with stacks of onions and the ubiquitous stuffed peppers. The latter is a thing of beauty of course but sometimes I find them a bit on the heavy side due to rice and the copious amounts of olive oil they are cooked in so here’s an alternative for you which, in its assembly today, evolved as something more reminiscent of a salad. It’s fresh, it’s vibrant and, above all, hugely flavourful.
4 large red bell peppers
2 tbsp Raphael’s Cretan extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp Raphael’s organic Greek oregano
Half tsp chilli flakes
1 tin of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
250g cooked beluga lentils
A couple of handfuls of mixed cherry tomatoes, cut in half
12 Raphael’s Kalamata giant olives, cut in half
1 lemon, zested and juiced
2 fat cloves of garlic, grated
20g flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
Sea salt flakes and freshly ground mixed peppercorns
A handful of fresh basil leaves, to serve
For the basil oil:
20g fresh basil leaves, picked
60ml Raphael’s Cretan extra-virgin olive oil
1 tbsp cold water
2 cloves of garlic
A pinch of red pepper flakes
A pinch of sea salt flakes
How I make it
First make the basil oil by blending the basil, water, garlic, salt and red pepper flakes in a mini-food processor. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the olive oil . Use immediately or refrigerate until you’re ready to assemble the salad.
Heat an oven to 200C.
Cut the peppers in half lengthways leaving the stalk intact. Remove the seeds and the membranes and place them on a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper. Drizzle them with 1 tbsp olive oil, sprinkle over the oregano and dried chilli flakes. Season generously and roast until soft and charred around the edges, around 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
Meanwhile, in a medium bowl mix together the beans, lentils, tomatoes, the lemon juice, parsley, garlic and 1 tbsp of olive oil. Season to your taste. Set aside.
Finally, blend the basil leaves with 60ml of olive oil to make a simple dressing. Season to your taste.
To assemble, place the cooled peppers on a platter taking care not to lose the accumulated juices in the bottom of each one. Spoon in the bean mixture and arrange any leftovers around them. Drizzle with the basil oil and garnish with the lemon zest.
Serve with freshly baked flatbread and, if you fancy it, a sumptuous slab of lemon and coriander-baked feta. Or, serve it as part of a mezze table as the Greeks would do.
For more information about Raphael’s Mediterranean Deli products, please click this link.