DUBAI: Stuffing vegetables is an art relished by many in the Middle East. Peppers are easy to fill while others, like cucumbers, carrots and turnips, can be a bit more challenging. Humble vegetables are elevated to another level once stuffed and served with a tantalizing sauce. I love making stuffed peppers since their shape acts as the perfect vessel for any filling. Try a colorful yellow and red pepper combination for a dish that is a treat for the eyes and the appetite.
24 mini bell peppers
1 cup short-grain rice (presoaked, rinsed and drained)
4 tsp clarified butter (or butter)
300g finely diced lamb or beef
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp all-spice
Salt and pepepr
1 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp dried mint
12 cloves garlic
4 cups (1 L) pureed tomatoes, peeled, seeds removed
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 cup beef or chicken stock
1 lemon zest (optional)
Toasted pine nuts (or almonds), parsley or mint.
Serve with labneh or a mixture of 1/2 cup yoghurt and 1/2 cup creme fraiche or sour cream.
1. Preheat oven to 190˚C then place the rice, butter, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp allspice, minced garlic, 2 tbs dried mint, and salt and pepper in a large bowl, mixing well. Add the minced lamb and mix it into the rice with clean hands.
2. Fill the hollow peppers about three quarters full and place 1 tomato slice on top. Repeat for all peppers. Place the filled peppers in a deep baking dish.
3. In a saucepan, heat the olive oil and sautée the sliced garlic for one minute before pouring in the puréed tomatoes. Add in the water, tomato paste, 1 tbs dry mint, fresh mint, parsley, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp allspice, salt and pepper.
4. Pour the tomato sauce all around the peppers. Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes until rice is cooked. Serve hot with any extra tomato sauce and a sprinkle of your chosen garnish.