As an Australian, I personally don’t feel comfortable with ‘Capsicums’ being referred to as ‘Peppers’, its un-Australian by Crikey!
However, it’s completely normal to call them bell peppers (or just peppers) in many other countries.
Christopher Columbus purposefully misnamed the small chilli variety as pepper, so he could sell it as a cheap alternative to the expensive spice (peppercorns).
Nevertheless, if you read an American recipe book, asking for bell peppers or a UK cookbook asking for red peppers –they are referring to capsicum.
The capsicum is actually a fruit, but it is generally used as a vegetable (though, I once ate sweet capsicum sorbet).
The shapes vary considerably, from rounded like tomatoes, to long banana shaped or the more common box shaped.
There is also a rainbow of colours – green, yellow, orange, red, purple and almost black.
Most capsicum starts green and change to their various colours as they ripen. Capsicums can be eaten fresh in salads, as crudités, stuffed and baked, in stir-fries, in soups (like Spanish gazpacho), cooked into a sweet conserve or roasted.
Although this has been produced in te Mediterranean for centuries, it has become very popular in Western countries, often used on antipasto platters, in salads or on pizzas. I love it, because the roasting method sweetens the flesh and provides a smoky aroma.
- Smear a capsicum (usually red) with Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
- Place in a hot oven at 210 degree for 20-30 minutes.
- Turn the capsicum occasionally to get even blistering of the outer skin.
- Immediately on removal from the oven, wrap the capsicum in glad wrap, which sweats off the skin.
- When cool, peel off and discard the skin – do not wash the flesh under water or you will loose precious flavour.
- Store in fridge for up to a week.
A similar effect can be achieved on the grill bars of a barbeque, producing a smoky flavoured flesh.