Pisto looks glorious, and it tastes even better. It is one of my favourite meals of high summer when homegrown peppers, onions, garlic, tomatoes, and courgettes are all in season, but there is no reason why the dish cannot be enjoyed all year round.
The vegetables are complemented by a poached egg and a crusty baguette. The dish is a wonderful combination of flavours, and is full of nutrition too.
Watch How To Make Spanish Pisto
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This pisto recipe comes from the Basque Country in northern Spain, and the secret to its flavour is the Spanish style of cooking, slowly cooking the vegetables until they are soft, almost melting.
The first step is to prepare and cook the onions and peppers. I like to use red and yellow peppers for the sweetest flavour. These should have the seeds removed and chopped into chunks no larger than a centimetre square. Some people like to use a mixture of red and green peppers, with green peppers providing a stronger and slightly more bitter taste.
Small onions, or sweet shallots, are cooked with the peppers. I like to use several onions, as the slow cooking process means they turn deliciously sweet. Chop the pieces finely.
Take a large frying pan and pour in a generous quantity of olive oil, before adding the onions and the chopped peppers. Transfer to the hob, and start cooking over a medium heat. I stir the pan frequently at this point to ensure all the pieces are covered in oil. As soon as the oil starts to sizzle, cover the pan with a lid, and reduce the heat. The mixture cooks through a combination of gentle frying and steaming, and this process takes approximately 20 to 30 minutes. Every few minutes, return to the pan
and stir to ensure that nothing is sticking. If you hear the pan sizzling, it is likely the heat is too high. The peppers and onions are done when they are soft, moist, and sweet to the taste. Transfer to a plate for later. The pan will be reused to cook the courgettes.
I like to cook the courgettes with the skin on, but sometimes in Spain the courgettes are peeled. These should be sliced into similar sized 1 centimetre pieces as for the peppers. I like to cook the courgettes with the garlic, which needs to have the skin removed and be finely sliced. The reason the courgettes and garlic are cooked separately to the peppers and onion is that they need less cooking time, although the slow cooking method is the same.
Pour some more olive oil into the pan, add the courgettes and garlic, and bring the pan up to a gentle sizzle over a medium heat. At this point, give a good stir, cover with a lid, and turn the heat lower. About 10 to 15 minutes later the courgettes will have softened, turned yellow, and released their juice. Keep the juice in the pan.
Now the ingredients are combined together. Add the cooked peppers and onion back into the pan with the courgettes. Give the mixture a good stir. I think the combination of colours is wonderful. The juiciness of the dish comes from the courgettes, but also from chopped tomatoes, which are now added to the pan. For speed, I used a packet of tomatoes, but if you have time to de-skin and use fresh tomatoes, even better. Stir the tomatoes into the vegetable mixture, and season with salt according to taste and stir through. Over a medium heat, reheat the mixture until it is piping hot, then turn off the heat and cover with a lid whilst you cook the eggs.
The final step is the egg garnish. My favourite way of poaching eggs is to use silicone egg poachers as these are so easy to use. I grease these with a little olive oil, add an egg to each one, and carefully place them in a pan filled with boiling water. The pan must be covered with a lid for the poaching to work, as the trapped steam helps them cook. For large eggs, I allow 6 minutes cooking time.
When cooked, the eggs are easily removed from the silicone by gently sliding a knife around the edge of each egg. One egg is placed on each serving of pisto, acting as the centre piece.
The result is a stunning, colourful, nutritious, and delicious taste of summer. Serve straight away. Any leftover pisto can be stored in the fridge for the next day. It reheats easily in a microwave.