Yes, I’m talking about stuffed peppers, but if I called them that would you read this post? Probably not. I certainly wouldn’t.
Stuffed peppers have a bad rap. They smack of 1970s dinner party. Especially when served on brown Denby plates like the ones we’ve got. And they’re exactly what you imagine a chiffon clad, Singapore Sling swilling, Margo Leadbetter from The Good Life would have insisted her caterers serve after reading about them in The Lady. Stuffed peppers are démodé. Perhaps that’s why I love them.
The other day someone I know posted a photo on Facebook and wrote, “You know you have a good Armenian wife when you come home to dolmas.” Though I’d never heard of dolmas, I knew I wanted a taste. I immediately started researching and was a bit taken aback when I realized the peppers I was drooling over were indeed very similar in construction to the nasty, season-less, stuffed peppers I refused to eat as a child.
Dolma. Dolmeh. Sarma. Kidonato. Whatever you want to call it, people have been stuffing fruits and vegetables for ages. From the Greeks who lived in Constantinople to present day grandmothers in the Balkans, the Caucasus, the Levant, and Russia.
Below is my recipe for peppers filled with seasoned rice, lamb, and beef. I serve it with a yogurt sauce. Would I say it’s Armenian, Persian, Turkish? I don’t know but it sure is delicious and when I eat it it makes me want to whirl around the Wallachian hillside to the sounds of an accordion and a furious violin in between sips of amber Georgian wine.
8 medium sized sweet peppers
1 small green bell pepper, finely chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 large garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup mixed rice and bulgur wheat (the rice I use is Camargue red)
800g mixed lamb and beef mince
1/2 cup flat leaf parsley, finely chopped + some extra for garnish
1/2 – 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or more depending on how much heat you like)
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
the juice and zest of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon sea salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup crushed tomatoes
roughly 500ml beef stock
Yogurt sauce = 1/2 cup Greek yogurt, the juice of 1/2 a lemon, 1 small garlic clove grated
First things first. Wash, dry, and hollow out your peppers. Then place them in a large pot that has a bit of olive oil on the bottom.
Sauté the chopped green pepper, onion, garlic, and cherry tomatoes.
When they have softened, put them in a large bowl. Add the rice and wheat, the parsley, cayenne, salt, pepper, dried oregano, lemon zest and juice, and the meat. Mix well with your hands.
Stuff the mixture into the peppers. Fill them about 3/4 of the way before placing the tops back on the vegetables.
Pour the stock and crushed tomatoes around the peppers. You want the liquid to come halfway up the vegetables, no higher.
Fit a lid on your pot, bring to a boil, then simmer for about an hour.
When your peppers are cooked, remove them from the pot and place them in a large dish. Set them under the broiler/grill for a few minutes. This roasts the top of the peppers and brings out their flavor. While the peppers are roasting, bring the liquid in the pan to a boil and reduce.
To serve, place the stuffed peppers on a plate, spoon over the reduced sauce, some garlicky yogurt sauce, and garnish with parsley. Most of all, enjoy.