Spetzofai is one of my favourite summer dishes and probably the one I most enjoy eating at our summer house. It’s a very popular traditional quick summer stew of sorts, named after the word spetza, an alternative name for pepper, and the word food. The reason why we make it so often is probably because it contains two of the season’s most delicious produce, fresh tomatoes and sweet and crunchy green peppers, which our garden always has in abundance. The addition of sausage makes the tomato sauce even more flavourful and wholesome.
The dish is popular all around Greece, but Pilio, the mountain where our summer house is located, boasts the best version. In all honesty, I’ve only had the dish at a restaurant only a handful of times. I’m stubborn that way- when I know that I can make a dish I love at home, easily, from scratch and using the best ingredients, I usually avoid a more commercial version of it.
But it’s not just the taste I don’t want to mess with, it’s the memories too. The whole process, the picking of fresh vegetables from the garden, the leisurely cutting, dicing and slicing, the frying, the wait for the sauce to thicken, the dish itself, these are all part of my summers there. Year after year we make this, year after year we celebrate our blessed garden, taste the food, have too much of it and wash it down with our neighbour’s strong wine.
The actual cooking is pretty quick and very easy; there is a bit of frying required, which is not ideal for hot summer days, but trust me, you guys: this is such a delight to dive into, it’s totally worth the short while you’ll spend over the pan. The version we make uses small, sweet green peppers (but the bell variety can also work) and also includes aubergines, which we also grow, so in the mix they go as well. If you want to go the more traditional route, you can leave them out, however I would recommend them, as they turn so soft and sweet when cooked, they make the whole dish so much more tasty and flavorful.
12 small green peppers (or 4 large green bell peppers)
1 large aubergine
1/2 cup olive oil for frying
250 gr spicy sausage, sliced thickly
3-4 medium tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon paprika
salt and pepper to taste
Wash all the vegetables; remove the stems and seeds from the peppers and, depending on their size, either half or quarter them. Half the aubergine lengthwise and cut in medium slices. Remove the stems from the tomatoes, half and put in a food processor. Pulse until you have a watery pulp with no big tomato chunks.
Warm half of the oil in a large, deep pan over high heat; add the peppers and aubergine and fry until soft and only slightly browned. Remove from the pan and place on plenty of kitchen towels.
Add the rest of the oil to the pan and fry the sausage on both sides until just hardened. Remove from the pan and place on more kitchen towels.
Quickly scrub the pan and then add the pulsed tomatoes, sugar and paprika. Bring to the boil and add the peppers, aubergine, sausage slices and salt and pepper to taste (and depending on how spicy the sausage is).
Lower the heat to medium-low and cook until the sauce is thickened, 10-15′.
Serve hot with plenty of crusty bread.