Red Pepper Spread
This puree of grilled or roasted red peppers and aubergines is traditionally made in Autumn in Balkan countries. You may find jars of it in some specialty stores. It is called Ajvar and comes from Turkey.
Ajvar, stirred through hot pasta and sprinkled with finely grated cheese, makes a delicious and filling meal. You can also use it as a spread on crusty bread or warmed, rolled flatbread, or as a dip. It will keep in the refrigerator for a week or so, or may be frozen or bottled. Sealed in jars, it will keep for months.
Ajvar is easy to make yourself, at this time of year. You can vary the quantities of all the ingredients to suit your own taste, and you can vary the cooking method you use.
- 4 large, ripe red peppers
- 1 medium aubergine
- 2 – 3 cloves garlic, optional
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 Tbsp red or white wine vinegar
- ½ – 1 tsp salt
- 2 – 3 tsp sugar, optional
- hot chilli sauce to taste, optional
Turn the oven to 200°C with a rack just above the middle.
To roast the vegetables, halve the peppers and remove their seeds and pith. Put them, cut side down in a roasting pan lined with foil or baking paper.
Peel the aubergine with a sharp potato peeler, and cut it in quarters lengthways.
Add the peeled garlic cloves.
Drizzle the vegetables with the oil and roast for about half an hour, turning them once or twice, until the skins of the peppers start to char, and the aubergine seems cooked.
Transfer the vegetables to a plastic bag, close it and leave to stand for 5 – 10 minutes, then remove the skin from the peppers and put everything in a food processor, or any other machine which will puree the mixture. Add the vinegar, salt, sugar and hot chilli sauce to taste.
The mixture will thicken slightly as it cools. Refrigerate it until it is needed, reheating sauce which you intend to stir through freshly cooked pasta.
Variations: Grill the whole peppers and the aubergine, halved lengthwise, with the skin scored, on a barbecue on medium heat, on a rack, not a solid plate, turning until the vegetables are tender and the skins are charred slightly. Proceed as above.
Cut the peppers and aubergine in chunky pieces, add the garlic and cook in a little extra oil in a large frying pan. Put a lid on the pan after about 5 minutes, then cook for about 10 minutes longer, or until the vegetables are tender. Puree everything as above. (The skins remain on the peppers, but it doesn’t seem to matter!)
John Hawkesby’s Wine Suggestion
- Marsden Estate 2006
- Churton 2007
- Camshorn 2007
- Santa Margherita 2006
- Sandalford Estate Reserve 2007
- Woollaston 2006
- Black Estate 2004