Stuffed bell peppers and a bonus recipe!
Greek food holds a special place in my heart, and our tummies. We spent about 2 weeks in Greece at the beginning of this year, and were instantly mesmerized by the people, amazingly good food, and vibrant culture. While we did experience a generous amount of Greek food during our trip, I secretly felt there was always more, unseen and unexplored by us. I came back and found myself reading more about Greek kitchen, the flavours, ingredients, and techniques. We slowly found ourselves eating more Greek food than Italian, and I have been ever since frequenting the Greek restaurant in my neighborhood! There is something amazing about mediterranean kitchen. Perhaps owing to my Indian roots, the spices and fresh flavors attract my taste buds quite naturally.
I had several encounters during my holidays in Greece where I found amazing parallels with some of the Indian recipes. For example, deep fried aubergine dipped in a batter of flour is such a common tea time snack in India. Another amazing familiarity was Halva. Halwa, not just has a similarity in name with its Greek counterpart, but tastes so similar back in India. The exact recipe is something I'd need a blog post entirely to justify its greatness. In any case, we are certainly ready, and eager to go back to Greece. This time perhaps to Crete, a multidimensional land with enough diversity to have its own place in the Greek kitchen.
The inspiration for this recipe comes from the lovely stuffed grape leaves I had during my vacation. I cannot find fresh grape leaves here in the Netherlands, so I chose to use bell peppers as a proxy. The grape leaves are usually slow cooked, and the filling is often rice and meat based. I didn't manage my portions during the cooking process and ended up with a huge batch of stuffing. It wasn't a problem though! I just added some extra spices to the rice and lamb mix and ended up with a bonus recipe, perfect for the next days!
Time to prepare: 10 minutes
Time to cook: 60 minutes (mostly oven time!)
- 1 cup Greek yogurt
- 1 tsp lemon zest
- 8 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 6 small bell peppers
- 1 cup rice
- 250 gms minced lamb/mutton
- 2 yellow onions
- 1 tomato
- 5 cloves of garlic - 1 clove minced, 4 cloves chopped
- A handful of fresh herbs - oregano & mint
- 1 tbsp Garam masala
- 4 cups of of vegetable/mushroom stock
- Salt to taste
- Yogurt dressing
- Mix the yogurt, lemon zest, 2 tbsp olive oil, 1 clove of garlic - minced, a few leaves of mint - chopped, and salt. Set aside.
- Prepare the bell peppers by removing the top and hollowing the insides. wipe the outside with a few drops of olive oil. Retain the top of the peppers as they act as excellent individual pepper covers while baking them!
- To a hot pan, add chopped onions and garlic, and cook for a few minutes until the onions slightly brown.
- Add the tomatoes and cook for a few more minutes.
- Add the minced lamb, salt, and the remaining herbs. Cover and allow the meat to cook for 10 minutes.
- Clean the rice well, and add that to the pan. Add 1.5 cups of stock and cook on medium heat until all the water has been absorbed.
- Fill the stuffing into the peppers. make sure not to fill the stuffing until the bring of the pepper and allow for some expansion space. I usually fill the pepper 3/4 with the stuffing. Add the stock to the peppers and fill them to the brim.
- Place the peppers on an oven-proof dish and cover the dish with aluminium foil. Bake at 170 degree Celsius for 40 minutes. Take the foil off and bake at 200 degrees Celsius for 5 more minutes.
- If you have any of the stuffing left over, just add the garam masala to the rice and meat mixture, add the remaining stock and let the rice and meat cook thoroughly. This provides for the bonus recipe on the dinner table!
- Bon apetit!