THREE DAYS TILL CHRISTMAS
FOR 4 PEOPLE
I'm useless at snacks (this is what happens when you had a mother who blasted you if you let so much as a sprig of parsley pass your lips before a meal in case you "ruined your appetite"), and so I prefer to do this dish as a starter.
It's essentially a "warm bath" of anchovy and garlic sauce into which you dip a variety of raw or lightly steamed vegetables. I use half a slightly baked red pepper per person as a little container for the warm sauce. I first had this in Piedmont in Italy where the anchovies and the fresh produce are simply breath taking – as a friend who lives there puts it – entry level just doesn't exist in Piedmont – it's all top drawer. This level of perfection can be achieved at home by serving with a cold glass of Iona One Man Band White!
2 medium red bell peppers (these are going to be your edible serving bowls)
Preheat oven to 180 degrees C.
Slice the peppers around the middle if they are standing upright.
Trim the stalk sides so that the 4 pepper halves can sit upright with open sides facing upwards on a baking tray.
Clean out all the pips and membranes taking care not to puncture the peppers, and bake in a preheated oven at 180 degrees C for about 20 minutes.
The peppers must be hot and softening without collapsing.
The sauce needs to be kept warm so it's important that you do the peppers just before serving so that your little "bowls" are hot.
150 ml extra-virgin olive oil
4-5 cloves of garlic
12 anchovies preserved in olive oil
Put the oil, garlic and anchovies in a heavy based pan and stir over a low heat until the garlic and anchovies start to melt into the hot oil making a thick slurry.
Whisk in the butter and as soon as the butter has melted take off the heat, pour into the red pepper "Pots" and serve with a platter of raw and steamed vegetables.
Eg: chicory leaves, sweet peppers cut into strips, cauliflower florets, blanched broccoli florets, courgettes cut into rounds etc. You can even add some steamed baby potatoes and steamed green beans if you want to make it a more substantial dish.