I love how food can transport you back to places you’ve visited and rekindle memories that are starting to fade. This dish does that for me. Last year we went on a beautiful holiday to the Dordogne, our first with our tiny little lady who hadn’t yet turned one. We stumbled across a wonderful little French village high in the hills, surrounded by green forests, sweeping views and terracotta rooftops covered in sunshine. Bliss.
We found the perfect little restaurant for lunch and went straight in for a Prix Fixe menu which turned out to be one of the best meals of my life. This was the starter, or as close as I could get to it when trying to recreate it. It’s a simple one, so you really need good ingredients to make the flavours sing, but with great bread, cheese and juicy ripe peppers, you’ve basically nailed it already. It’s not a low-carb one, but is perfect for a ‘treat day’ brunch.
My take on the dish uses a tweaked version of a red pepper recipe from Adam Perry Lang, one of my favourite chefs and an absolute genius in the kitchen. This is a perfect summery starter, but the pepper topping is really versatile. It works great on canapés too with a little crispy chorizo, or as a side for a beautiful ribeye steak.
Get ahead – After baking, cool and store the red pepper topping in the fridge for up to 3 days. Warm in the microwave or a saucepan just before serving.
Serves 4 as a starter or 2 for lunch
Red pepper topping 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil 50g white onion, very finely chopped 3 cloves of garlic, very finely chopped 1 tbsp thyme leaves 2 anchovies, finely chopped (omit these for a veggie version) 1 jar of roasted peppers (320g drained weight), seeded and chopped into ½” dice 1 tbsp granulated sugar 1 tbsp red wine vinegar 1 tbsp flat-leaf parsley leaves, finely chopped
Other ingredients 4 slices of sourdough bread 150g soft ripened goats cheese log*, cut into 12 rounds (1) 4 tbsp runny honey Basil leaves and extra roasted peppers to garnish
For the pepper, warm oil in a medium saucepan on a medium-low heat. Sweat the garlic for a couple of minutes, then add onion, thyme, anchovies and season. Cook for 5 minutes. Add peppers and sugar and cook for 2 minutes. Add red wine vinegar and cook until evaporated.
Briefly pulse pepper mixture in a processor until a chunky paste is formed. Spread onto parchment-lined tray and bake at 100’C for 1 hour until slightly thickened. Stir through parsley leaves.
Lightly toast the sourdough. Top with warm pepper mixture and three rounds of goats cheese each. Place under grill until cheese is just melting. Drizzle each slice with 1 tbsp of honey, add basil leaves and extra peppers to finish.
(1) Choose a goats cheese that is creamy with a soft, almost fluffy rind (like you would find on a brie). You want it creamy as opposed to crumbly.