Across the Middle Eastern and Mediterranean kitchens they stuff things, from vegetables to vine leaves to bread and pasta - they enhance the flavour by changing the texture and taste of the original ingredient to create something awesome.
There is something so refreshing about a whole pepper stuffed with a fragrant rice mixture, filled with crunchy pine nuts, succulent currants and finished with the clean flavours of lemon and mint, and a good glug or three of good quality olive oil. I've made a vegetarian version, but traditionally this is a meat dish, using ground beef or minced lamb. The filling can also be used to stuff other vegetables like eggplant and zucchini, or popped into vine leaves and steamed.
Finally, don't be shy with the olive oil, I've used 3 tablespoons in cooking the rice, but added extra to the cooking dish.
Rice Stuffed Peppers
- 8 small peppers (capsicums)
- 1 cup rice
- 1 cup water or vegetable stock
- 2 medium onions, finely chopped
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 small fresh tomatoes, or 2 tomatoes from a can of tomatoes, chopped finely
- 1/3 cup pine nut, toasted
- 1/3 cup currants or sultanas
- 1 teaspoon all spice
- pinch cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/4 cup fresh mint chopped finely
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- juice of half a lemon
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
1. Heat the oil in a pan over medium heat and add the onion, cook for 10 minutes stirring until onion has softened and add the rice. Stir to coat the rice with the oil and add the water or stock.
2. Cook until the liquid has been absorbed and then add the remaining ingredients. The mixture will be slightly uncooked.
3. Cut the top off the peppers, and carefully remove seeds and membrane, leaving the peppers whole. Stuff with the rice mixture and place the top of the pepper back on, or a slice of tomato (which is more traditional). Put them into a dish that allows you to stand them up so they don't topple over.
4. Empty the juice from the canned tomatoes into the dish, squeeze the remaining lemon half on top and drizzle in some more olive oil. Cover and bake at 180 degrees Celsius (350 degrees Fahrenheit) for 30 to 40 minutes until rice is cooked. Alternatively, stand the peppers in a saucepan, add water to come one third up the peppers, drizzle with olive oil, a squeeze of lemon, cover and simmer gently for 20 minutes until cooked.
5. Serve with fresh lemon, thick yoghurt and chopped mint.