Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Dolmeh Felfel (Stuffed Capsicum)


Dolmeh is one of the most versatile dishes that one can find in the Mediterranean region. Most countries in this part of the world have their own version of a stuffed... thing, be it capsicum (peppers), grapevine leaves, aubergine (eggplant), zucchini, tomatoes, portobello mushrooms (portabellas), etc.


The idea for cooking Dolmeh this past weekend came again while I was roaming around in the supermarket. With all the fresh spring herbs and big, colourful capsicum staring me in the face, I couldn't resist making it. Strange thing is though, that I've always thought that this dish is one of the easiest to make, but it wasn't until I actually wrote down the recipe that I realized how elaborate it actually is; I'm going to assume that it's something to be proud of!


Despite being complicated to make, the complexity in taste and texture coming from the starchy but aromatic stuffing, sour tomato flavoured sauce, and crisp peppers, makes it all worth the effort! Perfect for a summer's day, especially with a lovely glass of wine.


Ingredients (Serves 3)
  • 3 capsicums
  • 2 medium onions, grated separately
  • 120g ground beef
  • 2 cups parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 cup coriander (cilantro), finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup mint, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup basil, finely chopped
  • 6 strands, savory
  • 1 tbsp dried tarragon, soaked in 2 tbsp hot water for 15 minutes
  • 1 cup rice, half cooked
  • 1 cup tomato paste
  • 4 limes' juice
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 1/2 tbsp turmeric
  • Salt, pepper to taste
Directions 
  1. To make the stuffing, begin by adding 1 onion to a frying pan, and heat over low heat until its juices evaporate and it becomes a pale brown colour.
  2. Add turmeric and 1 tbsp oil and fry until the onions become golden brown. 
  3. Add the meat and fry thoroughly. Add in the herbs, reserving 2 strands of savory for the sauce (below).
  4. Add rice and fry for yet another 5 minutes.
  5. Dilute 1/2 cup of tomato paste in 2 cups of boiling water and add it to the pan. Increase the heat to medium-high. Stir well and let it boil until the water evaporates.
  6. Add 1tbsp lime juice and adjust spices according to taste. 
  7. To prepare the capsicums, cut the top part off and de-seed them to make room for the stuffing. Generously stuff the capsicums by pressing down the stuffing as much as possible while making sure that the peppers keep their shape.
  8. In a saucepan, fry the remaining onion with a tablespoon of oil until golden brown. Add tomato paste and heat for 3 minutes. 
  9. Add 3 cups of boiling water to the mixture, along with salt, pepper, and a couple strands of savoury.
  10. After 5 minutes, add the rest of the lime juice and let the sauce boil for another 5 minutes.
  11. Carefully place the stuffed capsicums in the pan so that they are covered up to 3/4 of the way to the top. Make sure the sauce does not go over the cut you made for stuffing.
  12. Cover the pan and let it simmer on medium heat for 30 minutes or until the peppers are cooked but crisp. Serve hot!
Variations

Dolmeh Gojeh Farangi (Stuffed Tomatoes)
I kept the original stuffing here, but substituted peppers for tomatoes. Overall, it was good, but no match for the peppers that offer a whole variety of different and distinct flavours. The tomatoes didn't have that much taste to begin with and obviously, as can be seen in the photo, I overcooked them a tiny bit. Still, it's not something I'm keen on trying again... at least for now.