I made challah this weekend and it was so successful that I had to make it again. The question was: What do I serve with it? After several rounds of bargaining, Jan and I settled on lamb stuffed bell peppers.
Jan is always on me to pack in more vegetables into my dishes, “meat as flavoring!” I thought about cabbage rolls, but they are a bit fussy—boiling, cooling, and separating the cabbage; stuffing and rolling; making a separate sauce; and finally cooking it all together. Jan prefers stuffed peppers anyway.
Kofta is a general Middle Eastern to Indian term for ground meat mixed will other things. You may form the mixture into balls, loafs or—as I am doing—stuff it into something—leaves, vegetables, whatever. What you mix into the meat, and what you do with it then, is limited only by your own imagination.
Many people cut off the top of the bell peppers and they then try to cook them standing upright. They have devised many elaborate methods to keep the peppers from falling over while cooking. I prefer to cut my peppers in half and cook them laying down. You get a better brown meat crust and it looks just as nice.
When you select your peppers try to chose the ones with four lobes at the base. Do not remove the calyx—where the stem connects to the pepper—when you slice them. Trim away any stem and set the pepper upright. Slice down, cutting the calyz in half, and down through the rest of the pepper. Chose where you make your cut carefully, you what each half to lay flat when it is stuffed.
Karl’s Lamb and Apricot Kofta Stuffed Bell Peppers
½ cup dried apricots, chopped finely
½ cup sweet onion, minced finely
6 cloves garlic, minced finely
1/3 cup celery, minced finely
¼ cup carrot, minced finely
2 Tbs. flat-leafed parsley, minced finely
1 Tbs. tomato paste
1 Tbs. coriander seeds, ground
½ tsp. black pepper
½ esp. Kosher salt
1 egg, lightly beaten
¾ lb. lamb, coarsely ground
2 Tbs. hot water
½± cup sour dough bread crumbs
4-5 bell peppers
1. Prep all of the vegetables to go into the meat mixture and place them in a mixing bowl.
Tip: I prefer to chop my vegetables finely, but you may use a larger dice if you prefer.
2. Add the seasonings and eggs to the bowl and mix well.
3. Add the meat to the bowl, breaking it up slightly.
Tip: I ground my own meat to get a coarser grind that the butcher would use. I half froze the meat to get a better cut on the meat. If you do this, let the meat return to room temperature before adding it to the bowl.
4. Pour the hot water over the meat and mix the ingredients in the bowl together.
Tip: The hot water melts the lamb fat slightly and makes it easier to mix.
5. Add enough bread crumbs to firm up the mix and then let the kofta mix rest for 10 minutes, to rehydrate the bread crumbs.
6. Cut the bell peppers in half, pole to pole and remove the membranes and seeds.
Tip: Do not remove the calyx, the base of the stem, but trim away the pith and seeds attached to the inside it.
7. Stuff the peppers with the kofta mixture and brush the peppers ant the top of the meat with some olive oil.
8. Arrange the peppers in a shallow baking pan and pour one quarter cup of water into the pan.
Tip: The water prevents any juices released from scorching and burning onto the pan.
9. Bake the peppers at 350º F for 35-50 minutes, until the meat is brown and crusty.
Tip: The peppers are done when an instant read thermometer inserted into the thickest pepper reads 160º F.
10. Transfer the peppers to a serving platter or, if you have used a decorative casserole, directly from the pan.