Though stuffed vegetables wasn’t uncommon to get in Denmark up through the 70s and 80s, I can only remember, that I’ve got it a couple of times, when I was a child. That changed a bit since I met my husband Dennis. By him I was presented for the entire Turkish cuisine and naturally also for stuffed green peppers. It was not with undivided enthusiasm, that I tasted stuffed peppers for the first time (perhaps because the concept of “cabbage rolls” was quite strong in my memory). But it all was put to shame – perhaps because the Turks have mastered the art to stuff the vegetables with every variety of exciting fillings, ranging from slightly spicy fillings, with or without meat, herbs or stuffed with nuts, raisins and spices.
Dolma comes from the word Dolmak (to be filled) and it makes perfect sense. In fact, you can stuff almost all kinds of vegetables – peppers, tomatoes, onions, eggplants, squash, cabbage leaves and vine leaves. All known as “Dolma”, and are in principle stuffed vegetables. You’ve likely been offered them in one form or another. The most common are Sarma, stuffed vine leaves, which are often eaten as a part of Meze-appetizers. But these stuffed peppers are also quite common and it’s understandable. They are so good and tasty, that it’s hard to imagine.
Like much Turkish food, stuffed green peppers are not so complicated to make. The most difficult is maybe to find these little peppers, which can be quite challenging, if you do not have a ethnic greengrocer nearby. Sometimes supermarkeds as Lidl has them. And also it may tease you to get them to stand upright in a saucepan without overturning. But the trick is to put them really close, so they hold themselves (just imagine taking this picture, where they were to stand in a row. Something of a patience test, I can tell you ….).
Stuffed peppers on a Sunday:
I think the stuffed peppers are super cozy to make in the weekend, when everybody is home. It’s nice to have some time to go and cuddle the peppers and enjoy the wonderful smell throughout the house. For my husband this smell of Dolma is the smell of childhood (they got it quite often, when he was a child). Fortunately, he has learned to appreciate it again and now our whole family are enjoying it.
It takes some time to make them, but it pays off in the end – the taste and smell of the peppers that bubbles in the pan, is fairly unique and quite stunning. The scent is slightly perfumed and the taste is very aromatic – of course depending on the filling. I’ll usually use a good sprinkle of dried peppermint like my mother-in-law did and her mother before her. And I just think it fits perfectly well together with the meat. Others use dill, pine nuts or parsley. The filling can be quite different, depending on which region of Turkey, you get them (or where the chef is from). So the possibilities are many.
My recipe is the classic version, which you get in most places.
Zeytinyagli Biber Dolmasi - stuffed peppers
- 12 small green peppers
- 1/2 cup rice
- 250 gram lamb-or beef, minced
- 2 medium size onion, finely chopped
- 2 medium size tomatoes, finely chopped
- ½ bunch italian parsley, finely chopped
- 1 tsk tørret pebermynte
- 3-4 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 cup water
- salt and pepper
- 1: Rinse the peppers and carefully cut the top of - save them for later2: Mix the meat, onions, tomatoes and rinsed rice with parsley, mint, salt and pepper.3: Fill the peppers carefully with the stuffing - about 3/4 up. There must be room so the rice and meat can expand a bit. Some fry the stuffing separately and boil the rice in advance -I don't do that. Just mix it all together and put it into the peppers.4: Put the peppers close together in a small pan, so they do not fall over. Add the pepper tops on top of the stuffed peppers and maybe a slice of tomato in between.5: Mix water and tomato paste together.6: Carefully pour water / tomato mixture into the pan to the peppers. The water should reach about ½ up on the side of the peppers. Add butter. Add more liquid if needed.7: let it cook on medium heat for about 35-40 minutes so the rice is finished and puffs up.8: Serve them warm with green salad and good bread. Or let them cool and serve as part of the meze table along with several other small dishes.
If you like, you can also serve a mix of stuffed peppers with stuffed eggplants, squash, tomatoes or onions. It all taste really nice.