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Right now, it seems like the harvest is going nuts. Every time Ultan comes to Paradiso with deliveries, he seems to have more and more stuff. Tons of green stuff, including collard greens that look like small palm trees. Tomatoes the size of squash and squash the size of marbles. Aubergines and peppers bursting with sunshine and leeks that bring a hint of the approaching autumn.
That’s the thing – right now the season are crashing into each other. All the summer produce is still growing – the green beans and squash flowers etc – and the autumn stuff is coming up fast behind it. Exciting times, and nervewracking too, in those moments where you think – ‘where the hell are we going to put all of that?’
Into a stew, that’s where. This recipe was created to deal with/celebrate the incredible bounty coming from Gortnanain farm at this time of year. Essentially, we prepare different vegetables in ways that best suit each one, then bring them together briefly in an intensely flavoured, olive oily stock of tomatoes, herbs and sweet and hot peppers. This means that each ingredient retains its own character while contributing some of it to the general stewy background flavour.
Serve with chunky bread, gnocchi, polenta or mash. A dusting of finely grated hard cheese over the top is delicious too – try Gabriel or Cratloe Hills.
8 long sweet peppers, about 800g
4 fresh red chillies, halved and seeded
8 plum tomatoes, halved lengthways
2 medium red onions, halved and sliced
1 bunch fresh basil leaves
200ml vegetable stock or water
120g fresh borlotti beans
zest and juice of ½ lemon
12 medium shallots, peeled and halved lengthways
2 long thin aubergines
6 cloves garlic, sliced
6 small scallopini squash, quartered, about 300g
Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 5.
Halve and seed two of the peppers and chop the flesh coarsely. Slice two each of the chillies and tomatoes. Heat two tablespoons of olive oil in a medium saucepan over high heat. Put in the peppers, the red onions and the sliced chillies and tomatoes. Fry over high heat, stirring, for 7–8 minutes, until the vegetables are soft and the onion is beginning to caramelise. Add half of the basil and fry for a minute more, then add the stock or water. Bring to the boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and leave it to cool for 30 minutes. Blend in a food processor or with a hand blender, and pass the purée through a sieve, saving the liquid and discarding the vegetables.
Put the borlotti beans in a large saucepan of water, bring it to the boil, then lower the heat and simmer for about 10-20 minutes until tender. Drain the beans and toss them with the lemon zest and juice, two tablespoons of olive oil and a little salt.
Put the remaining tomatoes on an oven tray with the shallots, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Roast in the oven for about 10-15 minutes until the shallots are soft and both vegetables are lightly coloured.
Chop the aubergines in quarters lengthways, and then in half across. Toss these slices in olive oil in an oven dish and roast them in the oven for about 10-12 minutes until tender and browned.
Cut the tops off the remaining peppers and scoop out the seeds. Chop the peppers diagonally into two or three large pieces. Chop the remaining chillies into thick diagonal slices. In a large wide pan, heat two tablespoons of olive oil. Add in the peppers, chillies, garlic and scallopini squash. Fry over medium heat for 2–3 minutes, then add the remaining basil. Reduce the heat, cover the pan and stew for 30 minutes or so, until the vegetables are tender. Check occasionally to make sure the dish is moist, adding a little of the pepper broth if necessary.
Add the cooked tomatoes, shallots, borlotti beans and aubergines. Pour in the pepper broth and heat the stew through for a few minutes. Season with salt, then serve.