Last week I felt a huge urge to make one of my belated grandma’s dishes – stuffed vegetables Kurdish style. My beloved grandma passed away 3 years ago, and I’ve been missing her ever since. Sometimes I feel she comes to visit me. I can really feel her presence near me. And then I usually end up cooking one of her amazing dishes that I miss so much, which is what happened last week.
However, this time, things got really weird. As I was working on preparing the stuffed vegetables with my daughter, my phone kept ringing with the notification ring that I have for our cousins’ group on WhatsApp. I didn’t look to see what it was about because I was busy cooking and my hands had food on them. After I put the pot on the stove to cook, I went back to the phone to catch up on the conversation, and the first text that came up was from my sister and read “I’m so in the mood for grandma’s stuffed vegetables”. I was stunned!!! The following texts from my cousins were in the same spirit, and they all lamented the yummy food they miss, and how they all missed grandma. I immediately took a picture of my stuffed veggies and posted it in the group. The feeling that maybe grandma was trying to communicate with us didn’t leave me for days…
Anyway, last week, making the stuffed vegetables, I only stuffed the vegetables I already had at home. I skipped the eggplants and the grape leaves from grandma’s original dish. Although they add tons of flavor and a gorgeous look to the dish, I didn’t feel like going food shopping.
For this reason, I’m not using the name grandma used. The combination of vegetables doesn’t really matter, but I feel that I would like to use the real name when I make the full rich version of my grandma’s amazing recipe.
As was expected, the stuffed veggies came out delicious, but not as delicious as when grandma made them.
Hope you get inspired and try to cook this dish yourselves.
4 medium tomatoes
2 large onion, peeled
8 small courgettes for stuffing (light skin version of zucchini)
For the filling:
1 small onion
2 tbs oil
2 cups rice
½ lb ground beef
I small tomato, diced
½ cup thinly chopped celery
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 large garlic clove, minced
2 teaspoons tomato paste
¼ cup oil
½ teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon citric acid
Preparing the vegetables:
Trim the stems off the courgettes. Using a small teaspoon or a corer, scoop out the flash, leaving a wall ¼ inch thick. Keep the extracted vegetables flash in a separate bowl to use in another dish.
Cut the top of the tomatoes, and using a spoon, scoop out the seeds and the inner flash. Leave the flash of the outside wall intact. Keep the extracted flash in a separate bowl to use in another dish.
Cut the top and bottom of the large, peeled onions. Make a cut along the length of the onion all the way to the center. Place the onions in a pot with boiling water for a few minutes, until the onions soften, and the layers start separating. Remove the onions from the water and set to cool. Pull apart the layers into individual leaves.
Preparing the filling:
Chop the medium onion thinly. Sauté in a saucepan with two tablespoons oil, until golden brown. Transfer the onion to a large bowl. Add the rice, meat, celery, tomato, tomato paste, garlic, parsley, oil and spices. Mix everything well. The filling should be very salty and sour. The flavors dissipate and balance during the cooking process.
Stuff the emptied courgettes and tomatoes with the filling, about three quarters of the capacity, to leave room for the rice to swell. Arrange the courgettes tightly on their side in a large saucepan. The tomatoes should be standing with the opening facing up.
Fill each layer of the onions with a heaping tablespoon of the filling and wrap the onion around it loosely to allow the rice some room to swell. Place tightly in the saucepan, with the opening facing down, to prevent the onions from opening while cooking.
Place a plate, face down, on top of the vegetables.
Fill the pot with water, just enough to almost cover the vegetables and cover the pot with a lid. The vegetables themselves will extract more liquid during the cooking process.
Bring the pot to a boil, lower the heat and let cook covered on low heat until most of the liquid is gone, and there is a small amount of thick sauce remaining on the bottom of the saucepan.
Another option is to bring the pot to a boil and then transfer it to a 275 F preheated oven, and bake covered for 3 hours. Whichever cooking method you choose, check the pot a couple of times, to make sure there is some liquid in the pot. If there is no liquid left and the rice is not yet fully cooked, add a little bit of water, cover and keep cooking.