Red Capsicum, Tomato And Goats’ Cheese Gratin
We often make a meal of this easy gratin along with chunks of good bread (vital for sopping up the lovely oily juices) and a handful of salad greens tossed in vinaigrette. However, it would also be terrific with barbecued lamb steaks or chops, or a simple herb-roasted chicken.
Serves 6 (or 4 as a main course.)
- 4 large red capsicums (peppers)
- 1/3 cup (80ml) extra virgin olive oil
- 2 large brown onions, halved and thinly sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, halved and sliced paper-thin
- Approx 700g medium-size ripe tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and drained (the tiny salt-packed ones look best)
- 2 tablespoons thyme leaves
- 2 heaped tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- about 200g goat’s cheese marinated in olive oil and herbs
- 70g coarse-ish fresh breadcrumbs, made from a good country-style or sourdough loaf
- Thyme or parsley sprigs, optional
Slice the capsicums into large pieces along their natural contour lines and remove the seeds and white ribs. Put them, shiny-side up, on a grill tray and run them under a hot grill until the skins blister and blacken. Remove and cover them with a clean tea towel to sweat and loosen the skins. Peel them as soon as they’re cool enough to handle, then slice them into 1.5cm wide strips. Set them aside.
Meanwhile, heat half the oil in a medium-sized frying pan over low heat. When it’s warm, add the onions and garlic and cook them so they sizzle softly, stirring them regularly, until they’re a pale golden brown – this takes about 20-25 minutes. When they’re ready, turn off the heat and set them aside.
Cut the tomatoes into thick slices (about 8mm) and put them aside too.
Preheat your oven to 180C. Lightly oil a medium-sized gratin dish – the one I use is roughly 30 x 16 cm, and is 4.5cm deep.
To put the gratin together, mix half the capsicum strips, most of the capers and 1 tablespoon each of the thyme and parsley into the onion mixture. Season with salt and pepper. Spread this mixture over the base of the gratin dish, then crumble the goat’s cheese evenly on top. Overlap the tomato slices attractively on the cheese, slipping a strip of the remaining capsicum between each slice (if the capsicum strips are a bit big, cut them in half.)
Now, thoroughly mix the breadcrumbs with the remaining herbs and capers and 1 tablespoon of the remaining olive oil. Scatter this mixture evenly over the tomato slices then dribble what’s left of the oil on top.
Bake the gratin for 35 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and you can hear it gently bubbling. Remove and leave to cool a little before serving. (I know it’s tempting to eat it straight away, however it tastes best when it’s warm rather than hot.) If the rim of the gratin dish looks a bit splattered, just wipe it with damp paper towel to clean it up. Scatter with a few herb sprigs, if liked.