I love the silky, slippery texture of a roasted, peeled sweet pepper. Removing the seeds and skins is a job I relish – a cleaned pepper is velvety-smooth between the fingers, and once it gets to your mouth, that texture combined with the pepper’s natural sweetness makes for an experience far more sensuous than supper should be.
This is a good way to get out of a steak rut (you know the rut I mean – it’s the one with the chips and Hollandaise). I’ve served my steak, rested for a few minutes to allow the meat to soften up and release its juices, over a plateful of undressed pea tops, which you should be able to find in some supermarkets at this time of year. The meat juices and the salsa will dribble into the salad, like a particularly stupendous dressing. I served this with some buttered rice cooked in chicken stock – good, crusty bread will also be good (and this mixture of pea tops, salsa and steak will make a world-beating sandwich).
To serve two, you’ll need:
2 steaks of your choice – I used sirloins
5 sweet peppers – I used 2 pointy piquillo peppers and 3 bell peppers. Try to vary the colours, but don’t use any green ones; they won’t be sweet enough.
12 cherry tomatoes
½ red onion
1 large handful (25g) parsley
1 heaped teaspoon cumin seeds
1½ tablespoons balsamic vinegar
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 pack pea tops, or another sweet, tender leaf
Salt and pepper
Take the steaks out of the fridge before you start and pop them to one side while you deal with the salsa, so they’re at room temperature when you come to cook them.
Rub the whole peppers with a couple of drops of olive oil and arrange in a baking tray. Cook at 180° C (350° F) for 20 minutes, until the skin is browned and blistering, and use tongs to put them in airtight freezer bags. Seal the bags and set aside while you prepare the other ingredients – this will give the steam rising from the flesh of the peppers time to loosen the skin, which will make peeling them much easier when they are cool.
Dice the onion and quarter the tomatoes. Put them in a mixing bowl and stir in the finely-chopped parsley. Toast the cumin seeds in a dry frying pan for a couple of minutes until they are giving up their aroma (be careful not to over-toast and burn them), and stir them into the bowl.
Use your fingers to peel the skins from the roast peppers, and remove their seeds. Discard the seeds and skins, chop the flesh of the peppers into chunks about the size of the pieces of tomato, and add them to the salsa. Pour the oil and vinegar over the other ingredients, stir well and set aside for the flavours to meld while you prepare the steaks.
To cook the steaks, rub them on both sides with salt and pepper, and grill or saute (I chucked mine on the barbecue) for a few minutes on each side until medium rare. Remove to a plate and rest for five minutes to allow the tissues of the meat to relax. Slice on the diagonal and lay the warm steak on a bed of pea tops. Taste the salsa for seasoning, add salt and pepper to taste, then spoon a generous helping on top of the steak. Serve with sunshine and a cold drink.