9 September 2011

Elizabeth David's Game Changing Piedmont Roasted Peppers

Piedmont Roasted Peppers
Sixty years. Three generations. A life time ago! That's how much time has passed since the publication of Elizabeth David's first cookbook  A Book of Mediterranean Food. Her cookbook launched her into the limelight she disliked as a kind of gastronomic deity. "Chefs cling to her books and recipes as holy writ, collect old volumes and inhale her biographies like the scent of fresh bread." Elizabeth David introduced post WW11 Britain to a bright new world of Mediterranean food using ingredients that were scarce or nonexistent for the times, but have now become an essential part of our lives.  I was intrigued when I discovered her on the list of 50 Women GameChangers from Gourmet Live.

Like Alice Waters, of Chez Panisse in California, Elizabeth David is the woman who changed the face of British cooking. She had recently returned to post war Britain from the Mediterranean. On her mind were pasta and fresh herbs but on England's grocery' shelves were butter and canned goods. Olive oil was available only in drug stores to treat ear infections, garlic and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese were unheard of and unavailable. She introduced a dreary post-war Britain to the sun-drenched culinary delights of the Mediterranean; to foods like olive oil and pasta, artichokes and fresh herbs. Her recipes brought colour and life back into kitchens everywhere.  Sixty years later, Britain's culinary landscape has changed. The variety of ingredients, the freshness of produce, the inventiveness of home cooks all are vastly improved, and there's no doubt Elizabeth was a catalyst for much of the change.

She published her first cookbook in 1950, and went on to write eight more books that have sold more than two million copies worldwide. Her public image was of an elegant, respectable and somewhat austere figure. In reality, Elizabeth was a deeply unconventional person with a profound passion for food, life and men. She died in 1992, just as chefs and cookbook writers were becoming celebrities so this is why most of us have probably never heard of her. As a result,  her contribution has been obscured by those who stand tall because they’ve climbed onto her shoulders. Despite that you know you have "made it" when they make a dramatization of your turbulent life on television... A Life in Recipes. She certainly led a spicy life in and out of the kitchen!

One of my favourite well-travelled bloggers Mary of One Perfect Bite invited bloggers to travel along on a culinary journey throughout the year. Gourmet Live brought out a list of the 50 most influential women in food...Fifty women game changers. Some are chefs, some are food writers, and some are women who are passionate about the creative process. You could certainly add or detract women from this list, but no matter what these women have all influenced us in one way or another. Being a woman and passionate about food myself I wanted to explore and join Mary on this journey and not only learn from the masters but recreate some of their dishes to better understand what has shaped and molded them into who they are today. In doing so I have learned more about myself, and have learned more than a few new recipes and techniques.

For 50 weeks we will experiment with dishes from each of the 50 influential women on "the list". Whether you agree or disagree with the authors chosen fifty and their order it will be an enjoyable and creative outlet to cook from the masters. Follow us on this journey while we take an in depth exploration of these women's lives and what has made them who they are. My cohorts for this adventure can be found below. If you would like to join in  please contact Mary. This is an informal event and you have the flexibility to follow along when you can. We will be posting every Friday.

What have we been up to for the 14th Game Changer......

Val of More Than Burnt Toast - Piedmont Roasted Peppers
Joanne of Eats Well With Others  - Pasta with Ricotta (sort of)
Susan of The Spice Garden  - Poulet l'estrogon
Taryn of Have Kitchen, Will Feed  - Mushroom Soup
Heather of Girlichef  - Polenta Pie
Miranda of Mangoes and Chutney - Coriander Mushrooms
Jeanette at Jeanette's Healthy Living  - Farinata, Socca or Chickpea Pizza
Kathleen Van Bruinisse at Bake Away with Me - Orange Almond Cake
Sue of View from The Great Island - Onion Tart
Linda of There and Back Again - Omelette aux Pomme de Terre
Amy of Beloved Green - Gratin Dauphinois
Barbara of Moveable Feasts - Raspberry Shortbread

Back to the Future....

Over four years of blogging I have found many wonderful recipes to share on these pages. Some from my own kitchen, some from your creative blogs and web sites, and some from well known celebrities and chefs. I have been feeling a little nostalgic and was browsing these very pages just the other day, creeping back to the very beginning in 2006 when More Than Burnt Toast was in it's infancy and no more than "knee high to a grasshopper". We all have those stellar recipes from when we first started when we were lucky enough to find one comment and have maybe one reader; in my case even before I was taking photos of the dishes I prepared. My other motivation for reconnecting with the past is to create uniform formatting on this blog and this is a fun way for me to revisit past posts.

So here are a couple of flashback recipes from the very first baby steps here at MTBT with...

This recipe for Piedmont Roasted Peppers is simple, yet dripping with flavour. It is hard to imagine how something so easily prepared can taste so good. It was first discovered by Elizabeth David and published in her enjoyable book Italian Food. If you haven’t already tried Piedmont Roasted Peppers, you are going to want to sink to your knees and kiss the hem of my apron for introducing you to this dish. Loved by vegetarians and carnivores alike, these juicy peppers are equally good hot or at room temperature; as a starter or as a light lunch; or as a partner to a roast. I served them as a light lunch with foccacia bread to sop up all the fragrant juices. If for any reason there are leftovers, slice them as a topping for bruschetta or stir them into pasta. If you don't care for anchovies use sea salt instead.

If you need one more cookbook add “At Elizabeth David’s Table: Classic Recipes and Timeless Kitchen Wisdom” to your cookbook collection. The book is a selection of her most beloved recipes... and start cooking.

**Piedmont Roasted Peppers**
  • 4 large red peppers (green are not suitable)
  • 6 medium tomatoes
  • 8 tinned anchovy fillets, drained
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 8 tablespoons Italian extra virgin olive oil
  • freshly milled black pepper
  • small bunch fresh basil leaves
1. Pre-heat the oven to 350°F (180°C).

2. For this it is essential to use a good, solid, shallow roasting tray, 16 x 12 inches (40 x 30 cm). If the sides are too deep, the roasted vegetables won't get those lovely, nutty, toasted edges.

3. Begin by cutting the peppers in half and removing the seeds but leaving the stalks intact (they're not edible but they do look attractive and they help the pepper halves to keep their shape).

4. Lay the pepper halves in the lightly oiled roasting tray. Now put the tomatoes in a bowl and pour boiling water over them. Leave them for 1 minute, then drain them and slip the skins off, using a cloth to protect your hands. Then cut the tomatoes into quarters and place three quarters in each pepper half.

5. After that, snip one anchovy fillet per pepper half into rough pieces and add to the tomatoes. Peel the garlic cloves, slice them thinly and divide the slices equally among the tomatoes and anchovies. Now spoon 1 dessertspoon of olive oil into each pepper, season with freshly milled pepper (but no salt because of the anchovies) and place the tray on a high shelf in the oven for the peppers to roast for 50 minutes to 1 hour.

6. Then transfer the cooked peppers to a serving dish, with all the precious juices poured over, and garnish with a sprig of basil leaves. These do need good bread to go with them as the juices are sublime – focaccia would be perfect.

Serves 4-8

You are reading this post on More Than Burnt Toast at http://morethanburnttoast.blogspot.com. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author and or owner of More Than Burnt Toast. All rights reserved by Valerie Harrison. Best Blogger Tips


  1. Elizabeth David is one of the ladies you are highlighting that I knew the least about. As I read your post, more of what I knew came back to me when you mentioned Mediterranean food. Just think where we would be in terms of flavor and health without Mediterranean food.

    The peppers you've chosen today Val as a perfect example of healthy, delicious food from that beautiful region of the world. I've made a similar version of this dish from Jeanes-George & Mark Bittman's "Simple to Spectacular" and my FIL thinks it's the best thing he's ever eaten. And you are so right - green peppers would not be right in this.

  2. A lovely choice, Val. Easy to make and full of robust flavors.

  3. Those look and sound amazing! I really like the addition of anchovies.



  4. I love the way that relatively simple dishes can have the most amazing and robust flavors when they're treated with a little bit of love :) I loved learning about Elizabeth as well!

  5. Amazing life indeed. These peppers meld the perfect flavors, they sound so good.

  6. I had the great pleasure of shaking hands with Elizabeth David at a book signing in London's Covent Garden just a few years before she died. At the time, I didn't know who she was, or the important role she played in English cookery. I bought one of her books anyway, just to have her sign it, and it was only later that I began to learn more about her through her work. Love this recipe; the peppers are gorgeous.

  7. what a wonderful mix of flavors in these peppers. Looks great!

  8. I wish I'd seen this post, as I was roasting her Poulet a l'estragon ... it would have been a perfect side! mmm... you're right on with the addition of foccacia!

    She was a stunner wasn't she?

  9. I have never heard of these, and they look wonderful, so simple and colorful. I don't have any of David's books, but after making my onion tart and seeing the other recipes today, I'm going track one down.
    Now I guess I have to kiss the hem of your apron!

  10. Look delicious Valli, have a nice week end! gloria

  11. I really like those posts. I have never heard of her. That is a discovery for me.

  12. I think one of the most shocking things about Elizabeth David was how simple her recipes are! These definitely sound super tasty.

  13. I've been loving these posts. Although I've heard of David's major mark on cooking, I've never read her books or tried a recipe. You've given me one great excuse! I will. (Although, with the anchovies, it will have to be a private treat; so be it.)

    And now I want to read her biography, too.

  14. Just reading this recipe makes my mouth water! September is prime time here for gorgeous red, ripe peppers- perfect timing for this. I'd never heard of Elizabeth Davis. This has made me want to look for more of her work. :)

  15. I've never heard of Elizabeth David but, that said, roasted peppers and anchovies is a very good thing so I like her already! :)

  16. Love the fascinating history.

  17. Mmmmmm! Anchovies, garlic, and peppers...this is such a simple, yet amazing sounding dish. What a wonderful post, I'm just loving learning about these ladies who were previously unknown to me!

  18. Yum - so glad you tried this dish. Elizabeth David's recipes are so simple and straightforward. Nice tribute to her.

  19. You had me at Piedmont peppers, but what a delight to discoer you sharing Elizabeth David with your readers, whom is not so well known outside of the UK and yet a great resource of information and inspiration. The challenge sounds truly fascinating. I must follow along more closely. I also had no idea that her personal life was so spicy, a morsel that makes me hungry for a larger morsel!

  20. I've often heard Jamie Oliver talk about David and how she changed British food for the better. Now I know more about her - thanks. The roasted red pepper recipe looks amazing - a wodnerful use for fresh ingredients without a lot of unnecessary ingredients to cloak the natural flavour!

  21. She was definitely off of my radar until now! It's hard to imagine a world without olive olive, Parmesan cheese and fresh herbs now. She definitely was a ground breaker. Wonderful recipe! Simple but so full of flavor.

  22. Yum! These look like the perfect end of summer appetizer.

  23. I've always loved Elizabeth David's inspirational and flavorful recipes - this looks amazing!! I adore roasted peppers, and the anchovies and garlic sold me on this one.

  24. Love the idea of roasting the peppers along with tomatoes and all that great flavor. I'd have to leave out the anchovies, but I wonder if another salty wonder might be just as good such as a little proscuitto or pancetta.

  25. Nice choice of recipe. This is the time to bring those red beauties on the table and roasting them is the best treatment.

  26. I don't know much about Elizabeth Davis, so I'm glad you featured her. The peppers look great!


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