Yesterday, my husband and I were both out, me shopping, him working. He called me on the phone close to our meeting up time and told me that he had a surprise for me. A surprise?! I was really surprised, my hubs had a surprise for me. Thank God he didn’t tell me what it was on the phone, because he always does that and ruins the surprise, he calls up and tells “hey honey I am on my way home and I got flowers for you” and he turns up at the door and says “surpriiise!!” with a big and cute smile on his face, and I am like “duh?!” This time he kept it to himself that he bought me a book on Ottoman Cuisine. The book contains some very interesting info on 19th century dining habits of the Ottoman elite.
Anyways (thanks to the person who invented this word), back to our recipe… Stuffed vegetables, poultry and meat are very popular in Turkish cuisine. Zucchini comes the third on the list of things-to-be-stuffed, I suppose, after vine leaves and capsicum. 8-ball zucchini is one of the cutest things you can find in a garden, imho. We call them Cretan Zucchini, I don’t know why and feel quite lazy to look it up on the internet. If you have minced meat, rice, zucchini and tomatoes in your kitchen, this recipe is pretty much ok to play around with depending on your liking of herbs and spices.
10-12 8-ball zucchini, any kind of squash would do
300 grs of minced meat, beef or lamb or a combination of both
Rice (uncooked) — I’ve measured one level tablespoon of rice for each squash and no stuffing mix was left in the end
Water (I measure the rice with a cup and add water twice the amount of rice)
1/2 cup of sunflower oil or 100 g of butter
1 clove of garlic
1 tablespoon of tomato paste
1 tablespoon of red pepper paste (you can find this in mid eastern shops, it’s basically a mixture of red bell peppers, red chillies, salt and olive oil)
1/2 teaspoon of ground black pepper
1/2 cup of chopped dill
A dash of sugar
Salt (1.5 teaspoons)
Chop the onions finely, crush the garlic. Peel and grate the tomatoes. You can use a food processor to do all this. Wash the dill, drain and chop it. Wash and drain the rice. Add half of the tomato paste and pepper paste, onion, garlic, tomatoes, minced meat, spices, dill and half of the salt into the rice. Add in half of the oil or melted butter. Mix thoroughly. Here is our stuffing.
Wash the zucchini, drain and cut their tops off careful not to damage them. Carve away the fleshy bits in the center of all the zucchini with a small knife or with the tip of a potato peeler.
Stuff the zucchini with your rice-meat mix. Put back the tops and line the dolma (stuffed vegetable) into a pot. Remember we used only half of the tomato and pepper pastes, salt and oil/butter? Now, add all those remaining ingredients into water, mix and pour over the dolma. Cook the dolma on low heat with the lid on for 20-30 minutes. You can check with the tip of a knife or fork to see if the dolma are softened and cooked. Remove from the heat once they are done.
You can garnish with fresh dill weed and yogurt. In Turkey, yogurt is a must-serve with this one.