Credit: Photography by Earl Carter

Red capsicum relish

Annie Smithers is the owner and chef of du Fermier in Trentham, Victoria. Her latest book is Recipe for a Kinder Life. She is a food editor of The Saturday Paper.

Credit: Photography by Earl Carter

Autumn is the season for so much preserving. By the time I get to winter I’m often exhausted by the cavalcade of fruit and vegetables that have passed through the kitchen door needing to be jammed, jellied, bottled and preserved. My arms ache from the lifting of jelly bags, the manoeuvring of big pots and the distribution of the chook buckets that contain all the peelings and cleanings and straining that are the byproduct of the neatly stacked, gleaming jars of fruit and vegetables that have gone through the transition from something that will inherently spoil and rot to something that can live quietly in the back of a dark cupboard for a very long time.

The magic preserving ingredients in this alchemy are sugar and vinegar. Add to that a lack of air, and fresh vegetables can be transformed, kept for months and enjoyed later in a much different guise.

There are two great fresh pepper dishes in my canon: piperade from the Basque region of France and peperonata from southern Italy. Both dishes use capsicums, tomatoes, onions and garlic, the same core ingredients as this relish. Piperade and peperonata are delicious either on their own or as a side dish in a Basque- or Calabrian-style banquet. Both, however, need you to go through the arduous process of peeling the peppers. They are then cut into strips, added to very gently softened sliced garlic and onion, and cooked down with the tomato. The addition of herbs, chilli and espelette pepper differentiate them from each other. But these two dishes are for the moment of late summer and early autumn only, as they have no capacity to “keep”.

The relish recipe here is a firm favourite in my repertoire. It is best made in the midst of autumn when tomatoes are on the wane but capsicums are in full force. It is cloyingly sweet – too much so for some – but is strangely moreish. The chutney is equally as good with good pork sausages in a roll as it is with good cheddar. It is a cheery, bright addition to the pantry, and could quickly become a household favourite. And it doesn’t require you to peel the peppers.


Makes approximately 6 x 300ml jars

Time: 30 minutes preparation and 45-60 minutes cooking

  • 875g red capsicum
  • 750g onions
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 750g ripe or tinned tomatoes
  • 750g sugar
  • 1 chilli
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 250ml white vinegar
  1. Slice the capsicum, onions and garlic finely. Place in a preserving pot.
  2. If using fresh tomatoes, cut a small cross in the bottom of each, place in boiling water for a couple of minutes and then remove. Peel off and discard the skin, roughly chop the tomatoes and then add them to the preserving pan. If using tinned, add straight to the pot from the can.
  3. Add the sugar, chilli, salt, tomato paste and vinegar. Bring to boil, stirring constantly.
  4. Simmer for about 45 minutes or until the mixture has a thick consistency.
  5. Bottle in sterilised preserving jars. Store in a cool place for up to 12 months.

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on April 30, 2022 as "Pepper hints".

For almost a decade, The Saturday Paper has published Australia’s leading writers and thinkers. We have pursued stories that are ignored elsewhere, covering them with sensitivity and depth. We have done this on refugee policy, on government integrity, on robo-debt, on aged care, on climate change, on the pandemic.

All our journalism is fiercely independent. It relies on the support of readers. By subscribing to The Saturday Paper, you are ensuring that we can continue to produce essential, issue-defining coverage, to dig out stories that take time, to doggedly hold to account politicians and the political class.

There are very few titles that have the freedom and the space to produce journalism like this. In a country with a concentration of media ownership unlike anything else in the world, it is vitally important. Your subscription helps make it possible.

Select your digital subscription

Month selector

Use your Google account to create your subscription