What’s cooking today: Red pepper & garlic paste, air fryer-roasted

What’s cooking today: Red pepper & garlic paste, air fryer-roasted
Tony Jackman’s roasted red peppers, ready to be turned into a funky paste. (Photo: Tony Jackman)

It’s red, funky and packs a punch of so much flavour that you’ll want to dig a spoon into it and have a few mouthfuls, just as it is. But try to keep some to add to all sorts of dishes.

For this strikingly delicious paste, your air fryer can come into play for roasting both the red peppers and the garlic cloves, in their husks. It contains only five ingredients: red peppers, garlic, olive oil, smoked paprika, and salt. 

You’ll be surprised at how much flavour results from this small quintet of ingredients, and it’s chiefly thanks to the air fryer roasting.

You can use it as a pasta sauce or a part of a pasta sauce, add some to a salad dressing, spoon it over eggs with your breakfast, add a generous amount to a marinade for meat, or use it as a sauce for fish. 

Let your imagination take you to all sorts of other dishes it can enhance.

This recipe was inspired by some research I did into massa de pimentão, which is sometimes called Lisbon Paste. That generally contains only charred red peppers, fresh garlic, olive oil and salt. Mine differs in that I roasted the garlic as well as adding fresh garlic, and I added smoked paprika too. Sweet paprika is sometimes added to Lisbon Paste.

Full-bodied red wine is often added, while chefs tend to take it off in all sorts of directions, such as this one by David Leite which has lemon juice, tomatoes, bay leaves and coriander (cilantro).

But mine is an adaptation, and I was thoroughly happy with the simplicity yet surprising impact of just five ingredients (if counting the fresh and roasted garlic as one ingredient).

(Serves )


3 large red peppers, whole

1/4 cup olive oil

4 cloves garlic, roasted

3 garlic cloves, fresh

1 heaped Tbsp smoked paprika

1 scant Tbsp coarse sea salt


Preheat the air fryer to 205℃.

Prick the red peppers (capsicum) in several places. Dip them in a bowl of a little olive oil and turn until they’re coated all over. Put them in the air fryer basket with space between them.

In between, place the four garlic cloves in their husks.

Roast in the air fryer at 205℃ for four to four or five minutes. Remove the garlic and set aside, after feeling them to see if they are soft inside (if not, give them a minute or two more).

Return the red peppers to the air fryer and cook at 205℃ for five minutes at a time until their skins are well-blackened. It took mine about 20 minutes in all for me to be happy that they were just right.

Leave the peppers to cool until you can handle them, then peel off and discard the skins, as well as their cores and seeds.

Put the capsicum flesh in a blender. Squeeze in the cooked garlic, discarding the husks. Chop the fresh garlic and add it. Add the smoked paprika. Pour in a generous amount of olive oil and add salt. Blend until it’s a smooth but substantial paste.

Store in an airtight jar in the refrigerator. It should keep in the fridge for up to two weeks, but I doubt you’d leave it for that long once you’ve tasted it. DM

Tony Jackman is Galliova Food Writer 2023, jointly with TGIFood columnist Anna Trapido. Order his book, foodSTUFF, here

Follow Tony Jackman on Instagram @tony_jackman_cooks.

This dish is photographed on a plate by Mervyn Gers Ceramics.


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