Stuffed bell peppers are picking up the pace in the culinary world that’s ever searching for more new meals.
The best way to leave a mark in this world is to either be very nutritious (get recommended by dietitians, nutritionists and doctors), super delicious (gets recommended by hosts taste buds), or be creative/aesthetic (gets recommended by sight or mind). Better still is when you’ve got all 3 working for you and that’s what mahshee is doing – getting all 3!
Stuffed bell peppers or mahshee is incredibly tasty, nutritious and depending on how creative you are, it can be a beautiful sight to behold. And just in case you’re wondering who are the originators to say thank you to, that’ll be the middle east.
Stuffed Bell Peppers
From the name, you can already tell what this dish is all about. There’s a stuffing and then, there’s something to be stuffed. Mahshee is the actual Arabic word for stuffed, not mahshee. But sure enough we all understand how people could spell mahshi as mahshee.
The term mahshee is an umbrella term for any meal that involves stuffing vegetables or even tomatoes with a rice mixture. The rice mixture is the stuffing and it is made with herbs like parsley and dill, rice, olive or any other type of oil, tomatoes, tomato paste, meat, spices and seasonings.
Commonly stuffed items are bell peppers, tomatoes, zucchini, eggplants and squash. Any vegetable that can be “stuffed” can be used for mahshee. Grapes leaves and cabbage rolls are rarely stuffed since they demand special rolling skills – you’ve gotta be skilled to take on these veggies.
Bell peppers are one of the most commonly stuffed items. Stuffed bell peppers, though from the middle east as well is more closely associated with Libya and as such, it is regarded as a Libyan dish . Another reason is that the Libyan version is known to leave taste buds stunned.
In a few places, the dish is associated with Egypt. In Egypt, Egyptian mahshee is a common dish loved by both old and young, and it’s almost always served in banquets especially at iftar during Ramadan.
Mahshee is delicious, flavorful and the recipe is really simple to make and flexible enough to accommodate your preferences. It can serve as a vegetarian meal as well. For a vegetarian mahshee, all you have to do is to omit the meat in the recipe below. The meat is usually lamb but you can also use beef or chicken, it is usually either cubed (very tiny cubes) or minced or ground.
Bell peppers, also known as sweet peppers or paprika.
They have a fruity smell, are sweet and lack the fiery heat peppers are known for. They can be stuffed, sautéed, pickled, grilled or even eaten raw. The most interesting thing about these peppers is that they come in a variety of colours – green yellow, orange and red. Thus using all 4 colors make a plate of mahshee colourful.
Mahshee ingredients such as cilantro, parsley and your preferred seasoning in the rice mixture lends the rice mixture a fine aroma. Remember to use fresh ingredients if you can – fresh is better. Also, anaheim can be used in the stead of bell peppers if you find the bell peppers too big.
To make the simple and fast dish, you’ll need:
- 12 bell peppers
- 5 cups parsley, chopped
- 5 cups cilantro, chopped (omit if you’re not a fan)
- 2 cups fresh dill, chopped
- 1 cup of short grain rice
- 12 oz lamb, cubed or minced
- 12 green onions, chopped finely
- 2 medium-sized tomatoes, chopped
- 5 tablespoons of olive oil
- 1 ½ tbsp of salt
- Cayenne pepper, to taste
- 12 oz tomato sauce
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- ½ cup of diced onion
- 3 cups of stock, broth or water – quantity depends on the size of the pot. It shouldn’t cover up your stuffed peppers.
- Cinnamon and allspice, to taste (very optional)
- Before chopping your ingredients, make sure they’re rinsed and free from grits.
- In a saucepan, add olive oil and sauté the chopped onions. Stir in the tomato paste, tomato sauce, salt, pepper, cinnamon and allspice, if using. Allow to boil.
- Rinse the rice and drain, add to the saucepan, reduce heat to low and leave for 5 minutes.
- Then, remove from heat and add all other ingredients except the bell peppers and stock. Stir together and let the rice mixture cool.
- Rinse the peppers and cut off the stem, you don’t have to slice the top off. Remove the stem, and carefully core the peppers to leave just the outer skin. Avoid breaking or tearing the outer skin.
- Stuff the cored bell peppers with the rice mixture. While stuffing, leave enough space in the pepper for the rice to expand when cooking.
- Line your pot with parsley leaves, cilantro leaves or rings of onions and tomatoes. Use anything you’ve got to make the bed. This is to prevent the stuffed peppers from getting charred.
- Place the stuffed bell peppers into the pot. Arrange closely and upright.
- Pour the stock (for extra flavor) into the pot and turn up the heat to medium-high. Turn to medium-low once the liquid starts boiling.
- Leave for about 35 to 40 minutes or until the rice is cooked. Check on it to ensure the cooking liquid doesn’t dry out lest your peppers get charred.
- Remove from heat, allow to cool and then serve.
Just in case, you’re too lazy to follow that recipe, a faster way is to mix all the ingredients together except the cooking liquid. Core the vegetables to be stuffed, stuffed with the rice mixture and leave to cook.
To stuff leafy vegetables, blanch them first and then cool.
What Else Is There To Mahshee?
Your oven can come in handy. Some persons bake the mahshee from start to finish while others start the cooking on a stove top and finish up in the oven. When it comes to baking of mahshee, a few other ingredients are routinely added and the cooking liquid can be omitted. And of course, you don’t need to make a bed of vegetables for your stuffed peppers.
Two major ingredients usually added are the Worcestershire sauce and of course your preferred shredded cheese. It’s practically the American version of it. Mahshee just got cheesed up and well, no one can deny that Worcestershire sauce is good.
To make using an oven, grease a pan and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Cook the cubed or minced lamb meat and onion on a stove top over medium high heat. Then mix along with every other ingredient (save some cheese) and stuff the bell peppers with the rice mixture.
After stuffing, sprinkle the saved cheese as some sort of toppings. Bake for 30 minutes, the cheese should be bubbling by then. Allow to cool before you serve. By the way, you can also throw in some frozen corn and of course minced garlic.
This whole addition of shredded cheese and Worcestershire sauce takes away the authenticity of mahsheee as an authentic Libyan dish. If you wish, you can skip out on them and stick to the traditional ingredient for mahshee.
Stuffed bell pepper recipe is a sure way to eat sweet peppers differently. The stuffing is made with a perfect blend of ingredients that can be personalized to one’s taste. Don’t forget to try stuffing other vegetables or you could make different kinds of mahshee in one go.