Stuffed Capsicums Recipe

Saturday, October 25, 2014

What do you do when you have an abundance of capsicums in the fridge? Stuff them, of course!

Seasonal produce can lead to the creation of many an inventive meal. I wish I was the kind of cook who could conjure up a meal, with complementing textures and a balance of flavours, from whatever I have in my fridge. But I'm not. Instead, I'm happy to share with you that I have a confidant in Google and my reliable cookbooks.

Cookbook recipes are the inspiration for my cooking, as well as a form of entertainment. For me, reading a cookbook is like reading a magazine, except that one will be greeted with the extra bonus of being able to glimpse and drool at a collection of beautiful food photos along every page. The way I read a cookbook is the same way I read a magazine - front to back, reading every word on every page, starting with the ingredients and ending with the final step of the method. I'm methodical like that.

But sometimes, cookbooks cannot tell you how to cook a capsicum, because they are limited in their content. The internet, on the other hand, is limitless. Look up in the index of a cookbook the word 'capsicum', and you may find a handful of recipes that list capsicum as an ingredient. Type it into Google and up will pop a plethora of pages from which you can learn how to store, prepare and cook capsicum.


Despite the handiness and convenience of the internet and all the wonderful food-dedicated websites and online resources at your fingertips, nothing beats the feel of the smooth, thick pages of a lead-heavy cookbook between your fingers. But when the cookbook just can't help you figure out what to do with too much produce, it comes down to the internet.


What to do with capcisums? Make a capsicum pesto! Chop them up and eat with dip! Add to a bolognese or tomato sauce! Grill or bake in the oven! Make a capsicum soup? Stuff! Stuffed capsicums it was.

I'd never really stuffed anything before other than a chicken, but this dish was surprisingly easy to make. A stuffing of beef mince, rice, tomato and vegetables was sauteed on the stove, stuffed into hollowed out capsicums and baked in the oven with a little bit of stock for 40 minutes.


The beef and rice stuffing is very forgiving, you can add any vegetable to the mixture as long as it's finely chopped. This makes it perfect for any excess produce you have in the fridge.


The stock allowed the capsicums to steam through and become just soft enough to take on a sweet, mellow flavour, but sturdy enough not to fall apart when standing alone. A sprinkling of parmesan on top added a unami dimension and the rice made it wholly satisfying rather than a half-snack, half-meal, as well as soaked up all the lovely tomato flavour. The stuffed capsicums that came out of the oven were blistered, steaming and pleasingly plump. 


There was a noticeable difference in the level of sweetness in each of the different coloured capsicums. This is, of course, because were are all the same variety of capsicum, simply at different levels of ripeness. The red capsicums we found were the strongest, but this depth in flavour at times could overpower the mild filling. The stock the capsicums were baked in was infused with the deep flavour of the pepper, and can be kept in the fridge and used in cooking to impart that wonderful taste to anything from braises to sauces.



And so from an outburst of what on earth am I meant to do with all these capsicums?! comes a meal that's satisfying, delicious and (almost) one pot, a joy in cooking something a little different and a new recipe to add to the repertoire.

Beef and Rice Stuffed Capsicums
Adapted from this recipe

Ingredients:
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 500g lean beef mince
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 can tinned chopped or crushed tomatoes
  • 1 1/4 cups rice
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas (no need to defrost, but you can if you like)
  • 1 capsicum, finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup parmesan
  • 8-9 capsicums, to stuff
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
Method:
  1. Preheat oven to 190 degrees celcius or 180 degrees fan forced
  2. Cut the lids off the top of each capsicum, about 1-1.5cm, to expose the inside. Be careful not to cut too close to the end as to cut off the stem of the capsicum; the lid should be whole without any holes! Peel or cut out the bitter membrane and seeds lining the capsicum.
  3. Heat the olive oil in a deep, medium to large fry pan over medium high heat. Add onion and garlic and fry until translucent.
  4. Add mince and fry, stirring to break up, until browned. Stir in tomato paste and let cook off for 2 minutes, then add tinned tomatoes, rice, pine nuts, peas, chopped capsicum and any other vegetables you wish to add.
  5. Simmer over medium heat for 5 minutes or until most of the liquid has evaporated. You don't want there to be too much liquid as it will make the bottoms of the capsicums soggy; it should be quite dry.
  6. Use a tablespoon to transfer the rice mixture evenly into the capsicums, placing each in a baking dish side by side for support once stuffed. Be careful not to pack the mixture in too tightly as this will increase the baking time. Top with the parmesan and replace lids.
  7. Pour stock into the baking dish so that it surrounds the base of each capsicum. Cover with foil and bake in the oven for 20 minutes, then uncover and bake for a further 20 minutes or until capsicums are softened and lightly blistered and filling hot inside.
  8. Enjoy! 
Note: the stock may be saved and kept in the fridge for up to a week. 

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3 comments

  1. Love stuffed capsicums! Did you accidentally leave out the stock in the list of ingredients?

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    Replies
    1. They really are so versatile and yummy. Yes I did happen to leave to it, thank you for the tip! All fixed up now :)

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