A comfort food classic, and healthier than it feels. Fabulous the next day, too.
4 bell peppers
Salt and pepper
1 onion, finely diced
250g sausage meat (about 4 medium sausages)
1 heaped tsp dried oregano leaves
1 heaped tsp fennel seeds
1/4 tsp chilli flakes
28oz (800g) tinned tomatoes
1/4 cup uncooked rice
1 tsp sugar
Aged cheddar cheese
Slice the tops off the bell peppers, removing the seeds, stem, and white membrane inside. Cut a scant slice off the bottom of each, just so they stand up on their own. (Discard the stem and seeds, etc., but reserve the pepper bits and use in a salad or as a snack with hummus or whatever.)
In a large pot of boiling, well-salted water, boil the peppers for 8 minutes. Remove from the water and leave to steam dry in a colander.
Choose a baking dish in which the peppers will fit snugly. Smear a little olive oil on the bottom, then set the cooled peppers inside. Leave to one side while you make the sauce.
In a large, heavy-bottom pot, heat a lug of olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and a pinch of salt and pepper and cook down for about 5 minutes. Remove the sausage meat from its casing and add to the pot, breaking up into small pieces. Cook for about 10 minutes, resisting the urge to stir too often to allow some colour to develop.
Meanwhile, use the end of a rolling pin (or a pestle and mortar if you’ve got one) to bash the fennel seeds with the oregano and chilli flakes. Once the sausage meat has browned, add the bashed up spices and break up the sausage meat a little further so it’s in nice small bits. Cook for a minute or two, stirring often.
Add the tomatoes, 250ml water, the rice, sugar and a pinch of salt and pepper. Give everything a good stir, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom, and bring to a bubble. Turn the heat down to medium-low and cook uncovered for 30 minutes or so, stirring now and again.
Evenly distribute the sauce between the peppers, spooning any extra around the base of the peppers. Grate over a generous topping of cheddar cheese, then bake at 375F / 190C / 175C Fan for 20 – 30 minutes, or until the peppers are hot through and the cheese is melted and bubbly. Serve with a nice glass of red wine.