Rachel Roddy’s recipe for frying pan peppers and potatoes

Peppers that are slightly past their best sing in this thrifty recipe for sweet and sour peppers with spuds

It looked so nice in the fruit bowl that I just left it there, red and muscly among the pears. Every time it caught my eye, which was often, I admired it, then thought “must-put-in-fridge-before-it-wrinkles”. It had started to wrinkle by the time it reached the fridge. I also suspected a soft spot, which I hoped would go away in the fridge drawer. Strangely, it did not go away, and the next day I picked up the pepper and put my thumb through its side.

Fresh, bloat, active decay, advanced decay, dry: the five stages of decomposition, one of the few things I remember from biology lessons at school. They are the stages of vertebrate animal decomposition, I know (I feel them all), but surely they can be applied to fruit and vegetables, too? As hard as I try to be vigilant, I usually have something at all five stages of decomposition in my kitchen, especially at this time of year, when the window between firm and ripe with a halo of fruit flies is not a big one. Tomatoes, apricots and peaches are the trickiest: the kitchen counter in August is a sort of incubator, but the fridge numbs out flavour, and in the case of tomatoes alters their flesh so you get that soft, mealy texture when they’re brought back to room temperature. Again, I feel this. I also know the red pepper should never have been in the fruit bowl; it was careless, and now here I am with my thumb inside a soft, gaping hole.

Active decay requires action. “It won’t hurt you, Just wash or scrape it off, cut it off or out.” I’m glad to have learned these lessons young from every woman in my family, and to have had them fortified by Vincenzo, who is his grandmother’s grandson and even more ruthless than me – only not as careless. Cutting off the rotten bit felt like amends for my carelessness. As did slicing what was left and cooking it slowly in olive oil with sliced red onion and, after a while, endive, then treating it all to a handful of pine nuts, currants, sugar and vinegar for what turned out to be a Sicilian-tasting sweet-and sour-mixture to have with potatoes.

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