I absolutely love roasting chillies. It seems to intensify all their delicious flavour, and you get a gorgeous smoky accent from the remnants of their blackened skin. Removing their seeds renders them mellow and warm but not fiery hot. Roasted chillies are the perfect pairing for some milky, cooling buffalo mozzarella, some bright, fresh basil leaves, some zingy lemon and a soothing drizzle of olive oil to bring it all together. I also love to use fresh summer tomatoes in this dish when they're in season, but it's just as tasty without them, so feel free to whip this up any time you get your hands on some lovely chillies. You could do without the basil too if you wanted to.
Energies in this dish: spiritual connection, protection, purification, peace and love
Chillies were used by ancient Mayan, Incan and Aztec peoples for their properties of connection and protection. Shamans mixed chillies with tobacco and smoked them to increase their connection to other spiritual realms and divine beings. Chillies were also burned during burial rituals to protect the space, and even rubbed on the soles of babies' feet to protect them from negative energies.
Lemons bring us purification, olives (olive oil) bring us peace, tomatoes bring us love and protection, and basil brings us purification, protection and love.
Roasted chillies with buffalo mozzarella, lemon and basil
Serves 6 people
- 4 balls of buffalo mozzarella (they're about the size of a tennis ball), torn into pieces
- 3 long green chillies, whole
- 3 long red chillies, whole
- 400g cherry tomatoes, sliced in half (optional – I add tomatoes when they are deliciously in season, but the recipe is just as good without them)
- ¼ bunch of fresh basil, leaves picked (also optional)
- Zest and juice of one lemon
- Extra virgin olive oil to drizzle
- Roast the whole chillies over a gas element, turning every couple of minutes until all the skin is completely blackened. I just put mine straight on the gas element of my stove top. If you don't have a gas stove or BBQ you can put them under the grill for a few minutes each side until the skin is blistered and black. I have also done this by placing them directly on the metal elements of an old school electric stove with great success.
- Put the roasted and blackened chillies into a plastic ziplock bag and seal it, or alternatively put them into a bowl and cover with clingfilm. Leave them for about 15 minutes - they will steam and this loosens the skin.
- It's time to infuse our chillies with some lovely energy. This is easy. Simply pop your hands on your chillies and think a beautiful thought of love for whomever you're preparing them for (yourself included!!). Imagine yourself breathing that love into the chillies through your hands. Take a few deep breaths, concentrating on breathing the love into your chillies, and that's it! Your infusion is complete.
- Use your fingers to carefully peel the blackened skin off your chillies. Most of it should just rub or peel off. You'll probably lose some bits of the flesh along the way which is fine, I always do. You don't need to worry about keeping them perfectly preserved, just try not to lose any more of the delicious roasted flesh than you have to.
- Cut the top of the chillies off, then cut a slit from top to bottom and open them out so they are flat. Use a sharp knife to scrape out the seeds and membrane, and discard. Slice each chilli into thin strips lengthwise and set them aside until you are ready to assemble your dish. You can roast your chillies a few days in advance. To store them, pour a small amount of olive oil over them, just enough to stop them sticking together, and keep covered in the fridge until you need them. They'll keep for at least a week.
- To assemble, scatter the torn mozzarella pieces around your serving dish, and nestle in the lovely bright green basil leaves. Scatter over your tomatoes, if you’re using them, and drape your gorgeous chilli slices over the top. Then grate over the lemon zest - I use a microplane for this but you could use a normal grater to zest the lemon and then just sprinkle it over using your hands. Finally, squeeze the lemon juice over the top of it all, and drizzle liberally with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and serve. I garnished mine with some nasturtium flowers because they happened to be flowering in my garden, but the colours in this dish are so pretty that it will look gorgeous just as it is.
I like to assemble this just before serving as the buffalo mozzarella can leak some of its lovely milk onto the serving platter if it sits for too long.