Pizza Peppers

by Susan Smith in , ,


Who doesn’t love pizza? Since ditching grains, the anticipation, convenience and sheer pleasure that I still associate with sitting down to eat meltingly hot, delicious pizza with a glass of red wine just refuses to go away. I’ve done Primal Pizza before on this blog (and it is a real treat to eat) but if I’m honest, I’ll tell you what I really want…it’s to redefine pizza as a positively healthy, gourmet food that’s just as quick and easy to make as its classically-made ‘junk-food’ cousin.

Today’s Primal Pronto recipe for Pizza Peppers is intended to take all the time and effort out of creating a low-carb, ‘laid back’ pizza experience at home. There’s no cauliflower ‘crust’ to make - because I’ve used nature’s own convenient carriers of goodness in the form of red peppers to create the pizza ‘base’. 

However, what I was really wanting to tease out of the recipe was a flavour combination that would satiate my appetite for pizza:- basically, to create a pizza topping that replicates our all-time Pizza Express favourite: “Cajun, with extra tuna please!” It’s all changed now, but Pizza Express used to top their Cajun pizza with red peppers, prawns, Tabasco sauce, onion, mozzarella and, at our request, extra tuna.

 Pizza Peppers with tuna and prawns

Pizza Peppers with tuna and prawns

First off the bat, these Pizza Peppers fully lived up to our expectations. Made with a smoky, scorched red pepper base, tomatoes, tuna, prawns, chillies, cheese, black olives, capers and onion we were transported back in time to the very same taste sensation that’s kept luring me back to thoughts of pizza ever since. But then remorse set in. Although I am pescatarian I mainly eat vegetarian, so it didn’t feel right to give the ‘green light’ to eating a plethora of fish without a second thought for vegetarian values. 

I didn’t have to ponder the problem for long. A quick ingredients check online for another of our former favourites at Pizza Express (Giardiniera) reminded us that this pizza topping included artichokes. It just so happens, I had a jar of marinated artichoke hearts in my cupboard (as you do!) and it seemed to me that they were possibly the nearest vegetarian equivalent to tinned tuna in olive oil that I could hope for. And so they proved to be. It turns out that artichokes in combination with vegetarian mozzarella are - from a taste, texture and visual perspective - so surprisingly akin to tuna and prawns that we could barely discern the difference between the two! 

 Vegetarian Pizza Peppers with artichokes and mozzarella

Vegetarian Pizza Peppers with artichokes and mozzarella

Which is a remarkable triumph for vegetarianism, I’d say.  Who’d have thought that simple veggies could be compared to luxe ingredients like top quality cold-water prawns and Albacore tuna and still come out on top?  The fact is they can and they do, and for this reason, when it comes to our favourite Pizza Peppers, vegetarian wins hands down.

To be fair, both versions of these Pizza Peppers are equally delicious. Accordingly, I’ve posted both recipes so you can decide which gets your vote. This maybe pizza ‘reinvented’ but it still ticks all my boxes - healthy, tasty, fun, fast-food - in short, everything that’s good about pizza but without the downside of grains. Just grab a bottle of Chianti and your lover or a friend to fully appreciate this Primal Pronto Italiano-style supper that’s made for sharing. Buon appetito!

 

Pizza Peppers (Serves 3)

Ingredients - for pizza peppers with tuna and prawns

6 medium/large even-sized ‘pointy’ Ramiro/Romano organic red peppers (wider and fatter is better than longer and very thin!)

1½ 140g tins sustainably-sourced tuna (Waitrose, Marks & Spencer and Sainsbury’s are your best bet)

3 tbsp organic tomato puree (or organic low-sugar tomato ketchup)

90g mature vegetarian Cheddar cheese

¾ tsp organic chilli flakes

6 black (Kalamata) olives, stoned and cut into slivers

30g nonpareille capers, rinsed in cold water, drained and dried on kitchen paper

3 organic spring onions, finely chopped

3 medium-sized organic tomatoes, finely chopped

3 tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

225g sustainably sourced frozen peeled prawnsnot defrosted

60g vegetarian ‘parmesan-style’ cheese (I use Gran Moravia)

 

Instructions - for pizza peppers with tuna and prawns

Pre-heat a grill to its highest setting. Line a large flat baking sheet or the grill pan with a non-stick baking mat or non-stick aluminium foil.

Cut the peppers in half lengthways, then remove the seeds and any white stringy bits (I don’t bother to remove the stalks). 

Place the pepper halves cut side down - skin side up - on the baking tray and grill fairly close to the heat source for about 4-5 minutes, or until their skins start to blister and slightly blacken. 

Remove from the grill, allow to cool for a couple of minutes then turn them over (be very careful when you do, the steam trapped underneath can still scald!)

Drain the tuna fish then place in a medium-sized bowl with the tomato puree/ketchup, mix together well, breaking the tuna up with a fork.

Add the Cheddar cheese, chilli flakes, olives, capers, spring onions, tomatoes, two tablespoons of the parsley and continue to mix with a fork until well combined. Taste and add a little sea salt and black pepper if you think it needs it.

With the help of two teaspoons, divide the mixture between the peppers spreading it out evenly along the length of each pepper half.

Top each pepper half with 4 or 5 ‘still-frozen' prawns. Sprinkle the parmesan-style cheese over the prawns, dividing it equally between them.

Place under the hot grill - fairly close to the heat source - for 3-4 minutes or until heated through and the cheese has melted into a crispy, golden-brown crust.

Transfer 4 pepper halves per person to individual hot plates, scatter over the remaining tablespoon of chopped parsley and serve immediately with a lightly dressed salad of rocket leaves. 

 Pizza Peppers with tuna and prawns ready for the grill

Pizza Peppers with tuna and prawns ready for the grill


Ingredients - for pizza peppers with artichokes and mozzarella (V)

6 medium/large even-sized ‘pointy’ Ramiro/Romano organic red peppers (wider and fatter is better than longer and too thin!)

9 artichoke hearts preserved in olive oil (about 90g), drained and chopped (I used Frutti Bosco Artichoke Hearts)

3 tbsp organic tomato puree (or organic low-sugar tomato ketchup)

90g organic vegetarian Cheddar cheese

6 Kalamata olives, stoned and cut lengthways into slivers

30g nonpareille capers, rinsed in cold water, drained and dried on kitchen paper

3 organic spring onions, finely chopped

3 medium-sized organic tomatoes, finely chopped

125g ball vegetarian mozzarella, drained, dried on kitchen paper and cut into smallish cubes

45g organic pine nuts, lightly toasted

60g vegetarian ‘parmesan-style’ cheese (I use Gran Moravia)

Handful of fresh basil leaves, finely shredded - to serve


Instructionsfor artichoke and mozzarella pizza pepper topping (V)

Pre-heat a grill to its highest setting. Line a large flat baking sheet or the grill pan with a non-stick baking mat or non-stick aluminium foil.

Cut the peppers in half lengthways, then remove the seeds and any white stringy bits. 

Place the pepper halves cut side down - skin side up - on the baking tray and grill fairly close to the heat source for about 4-5 minutes, or until their skins start to blister and slightly blacken. 

Remove from the grill, allow to cool for a couple of minutes then turn them over (be very careful when you do, the steam trapped underneath can still scald!)

Place the artichoke hearts with the tomato paste/ketchup into a medium-sized bowl. Mix together well with a fork.

Add the Cheddar cheese, olives, capers, spring onions, tomatoes and continue to mix with a fork until well combined. Taste and add a little sea salt and freshly ground black pepper if you think it needs it.

With the help of two teaspoons, divide the mixture between the peppers spreading it out evenly along the length of each pepper half.

Top each pepper half with 4-5 cubes of mozzarella. Divide the pine nuts equally between the peppers halves then finally sprinkle over the parmesan-style cheese. Make sure the pine nuts and parmesan-style cheese are divided equally between the peppers and that the final sprinkling of cheese is applied evenly - this cheese topping helps give the pine nuts a little protection from the intense heat of the grill so they’re less likely to burn.

Place under the hot grill - fairly close to the heat source - for about 2 minutes or until the mozzarella cheese is meltingly soft and the pine nuts lightly browned. 

Transfer 4 pepper halves per person to individual hot plates, scatter over the shredded basil leaves and serve immediately with a lightly dressed salad of rocket leaves. 


Notes

Be especially vigilant with the vegetarian pizza peppers during their final grilling - if you leave them too long under the grill the pine nuts can easily burn and the mozzarella starts to release liquid.  

Pizza Peppers are most manageable when they’re being made for ‘dinner a deux'. Insufficient grill space makes it tricky for me to attempt making Pizza Peppers for more than three of us because a) my grill pan isn’t large enough to hold more than 12 halves of peppers and b) too many filled peppers under the grill create steam, which makes for a soggy result rather than a crisp and crozzled pizza-style topping. 

The recipes I’ve posted feed three people (the number I usually cook for) but are easily converted to feed one, two or (if grill space allows) four people. 


Carbohydrate 20g Protein 45g - per serving = 4 pepper halves topped with tuna & prawns

Carbohydrate 25g Protein 29g - per serving = 4 pepper halves topped with artichokes, mozzarella & pine nuts

 Vegetarian Pizza Peppers with artichoke and mozzarella

Vegetarian Pizza Peppers with artichoke and mozzarella