These are not your average stuffed bell peppers. At least not where I come from and the reason is simple, because these beauties come from Turkish cuisine, and they have a little twist to them! Even though my first acquaintance with Istanbul last year did not end with forever love and fascination I must say Turkish cuisine well deserves further investigation. Then again I am attracted to every cuisine of a nation which shores touch the Mediterranean sea. There are times when this woman is not so hard to please... I have to warn you though, this recipe is a bit of an effort, but it is so good that I have kept coming back to it over and over again.
In Turkish they call them Biber Dolmasi and this recipe is from "Mezze: a culinary journey of discovery" by Beverly Blanc. This is a magnificent book with fantastic photos and recipes and available for purchase in Estonia at Apollo.
I will post the whole recipe unmodified, because my usual modifications take place due to lack of ingredients not actual preference or a need to improve the recipe.
olive oil for cooking
1 onion, finely chopped
1/2 tsp ground sumac (I usually skip it, because I have no idea where to get it in Tallinn)
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
generous 1 cup fresh ground lamb
1 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
large pinch of cayenne pepper or to taste
5/8 cup basmati rice, rinsed, soaked in cold water for 30 minutes, and drained
2 tomatoes, grated, juices set aside and skins discarded (I cut the tomato into half and then grate holding from the skin side, so that eventually only the skin remains)
2 tbsp blanched almonds, toasted or chopped (i buy almond chips and then toast them)
3 tbsp currants (by all means do not skip this!)
2 tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 tbsp chopped fresh mint
3 large green bell peppers, cut half, seeds removed, but keep the stalk (when I have small bell peppers I double the quantity and only cut off the top)
1 tbsp tomato paste, dissolved in 1 1/4 cups boiling water
salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 180C. Heat the olive oil, add onions, sumac and cook over medium heat, stirring for 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring, for another 3 minutes or until the onion is soft. Add the ground meat and cook stirring to break up lumps, until no longer pink. Stir in the allspice, cinnamon, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper and cook stirring for 1 minute.
Stir in rice and tomatoes and bring to boil. Continue boiling , stirring occasionally, for 3-5 minutes or until the tomato juices have evaporated. Stir in the almonds, currants and herbs. Set aside.
Divide the lamb mixture among peppers. Arrange the pepper halves in the casserole or skillet so that they remain upright. If the skillet/casserole is too wide then to secure that peppers remain upright during the whole cooking process set potato wedges to secure the peppers.
Spoon 1 tablespoon of tomato paste liquid over each pepper. Add 4 tablespoons of olive oil and salt and pepper to the remaining tomato paste liquid and pour around the bell peppers.
Bake in the pre-heated over for around 50 minutes to 1 hour or until peppers are very tender and the rice is cooked (1 hour is usually enough), If the tops of peppers start browning too much, then cover. Taste and adjust the seasoning of the tomato liquid if necessary before serving.