Cooking with capsicums


is a plant-based chef who founded Little Bird Organics

Here’s her recipe for…


        And here’s the webisode.

When capsicums start to ripen, you can end up with an over-abundance that you don’t know what to do with. Romesco Sauce is a delicious way to use them up.

Romesco is a sweet smoky Spanish sauce that is made with roasted capsicums and nuts. It’s great with pasta or pizza, but most of the time I just use it on its own as a dip or spread.

Put the sundried tomatoes on to soak a few hours before you’re planning to make the sauce. I’ve also added a couple of optional ingredients – nutritional yeast creates a slightly deeper savoury flavour and parsley gives it a nice freshness. I would recommend adding the parsley to the sauce if you’re not serving it with parsley on top like we did with the zucchini noodles.

Romesco Sauce (makes around 1 1/2 cups)

3 red capsicums (we used the long, sweet Marconi Red variety)
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
½ cup activated and dried almonds (or lightly roasted in the oven)
¼ cup sundried tomatoes (soaked for 2-4 hours, I use the Ceres Organics ones)
½ cup cold pressed olive oil
add salt to taste (I used around 1/3 teaspoon flaky sea salt)

Optional extras:
2 teaspoons nutritional yeast
¼ cup of finely chopped parsley

Preheat the oven to 230 degrees Celsius.
Cut the capsicums lengthways, removing the tops and the seeds from the middle. Place them face down in a baking tray lined with baking paper.
Place in an oven for 30-40 minutes until soft and blackened. You can do this over a gas flame or BBQ instead to get a stronger smoky flavour.
Allow to cool for 10 minutes and place in the food processor with all the rest of the sauce ingredients, except for the olive oil and salt. Process for around 30 seconds until everything is broken down but still holds some texture. Now add the olive oil slowly while the blender is running. You may need to stop and use a spatula to scrape everything back down into the bowl a few times.
Fold through the optional parsley and nutritional yeast, if using.
You can store the Romesco in a sealed container in the fridge for around 1 week.

To serve (for 2 people)

2 zucchini (finely sliced on a mandolin or spiraliser) or regular pasta
½ cup cherry tomatoes (we used heirloom ones)
generous handful of picked or roughly torn parsley
a few handfuls of fresh greens like rocket or a peppery mesclun mix
4 tablespoons of Romesco Sauce
cashew nut camembert as an accompaniment (optional)

Place the zucchini noodles in a bowl with the Romesco Sauce, and mix thoroughly to coat the pasta. It’s easiest to do this with your hands. Fold through the sliced cherry tomatoes and serve on a bed of fresh greens topped with a generous amount of parsley.
I served mine with a side of cashew nut camembert from Crescent Cashew Nut Cheese in Kumeu, Auckland.


is a naturopath and nutritionist

Capsicums are a powerhouse of antioxidants. Antioxidants help prevent or stop cell damage caused by oxidants. Your body creates oxidants to help fend off viruses and microbes, but if you have too many, they can cause serious damage and contribute to certain cancers and heart disease.
Capsicums are high in Vitamins C, A and E. In Vitamin A it’s the carotenoids that give capsicums their colour that are so good for us. These carotenoids are also good for protection of the macula (centre of the retina). Macular degeneration can cause loss of vision particularly in older people and one of the reasons is the high levels of exposure to bright sunlight which we experience in New Zealand.
The most concentrated amount of Vitamin C is in the red capsicum but there are still good amounts in the green and yellow ones, especially during the peak of ripeness.
There’s a very small amount of capsaicin (which gives chillis their heat) in capsicums and that’s been shown to help balance blood sugar levels in diabetics and reduce cholesterol and triglycerides.
Capsicums also supposedly lower body fat by burning fat to increase body temperature in a process known as thermogenesis.
If perfectly ripe and not used immediately, capsicums kept in the fridge will gradually reduce their Vitamin C and other nutrients by as much as 15% over 10 days or so. However if they’re not perfectly ripe, then keeping them in the fridge for up to 10 days will actually increase nutrient value.