Ever since I moved out of my mother's house there is one dish I have been craving above all - Serbian Stuffed Peppers! Since my mother or grandmother are not around to make them for me, it was becoming obvious that I had no other option but to make them myself.
Stuffed peppers were a staple dish for my family as I was growing up in Serbia. It takes about an hour and half to prepare, and the smell of it simmering on the stove brings forth the memories of my grandmother's village, the days spent around the fireplace, playing cards and games and of course of Holidays - Christmas, Easter, Family Saints (Slava).
Serbian traditional cuisine is a spectacle of taste and smell caused by the impact of different groups of people who have passed through the area and settled in this region bringing their culinary traditions to the table. This fusion of different influences resulted in originality that provides unforgettable dishes primarily based on organic produce and meat. Serbian cuisine is characterized by very diverse, strong and spicy ingredients, which are a combination of Greek, Bulgarian, Turkish and Hungarian influences. In Serbian villages, the kitchen is still a central part of the house next to which everyday life and gathering of the whole family are essential.
SERBIAN STUFFED PEPPERS
PREPARATION TIME: 20 – 30 min
COOKING TIME: 2 – 2.5 h
4 Tbsp sunflower or canola oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 lb ground beef
1 tsp coarse salt (or according to taste)
½ tsp freshly ground pepper
¾ cup of short grain rice (any risotto rice)
2 cup tomato sauce or juice, smooth or chunky (depending on taste)
8-10 red, yellow. or orange bell peppers, smaller in size
1-2 potatoes peeled and cut into circles
2-3 spoons of flour
3 spoons of grounder red paprika (2 spoons added to the big saucepan and 1 to the small saucepan)
Now let us start cooking:
1. Heat the oil in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and saute until translucent. Next, add minced ground beef and stir until mostly browned. Season with salt, pepper and add rice. Stir until rice is coated in oil, for 2-3 minutes. Take off the heat and let it cool down a little bit.
2. Clean and cut the tops off the peppers, using a spoon remove the insides including the seeds. Check the bottom of the pepper as sometimes there is a little (3 - 4mm) black stalk, this should be removed as can be a little bitter.
3. Stuff the peppers with lightly cooked minced meat by pressing the mince filling in with a spoon and filling the peppers to the top.
4. Place the stuffed peppers in the pan, plug the opening with a round potato slice and add tomato paste/soup
5. Add 2 cups of water and a little bit of salt, pepper and a little bit of grounded red paprika.
6. Simmer gently with the lid on for 45 minutes to an hour (until peppers are nice and soft)
7. Now in a small saucepan heat up 4 spoons of oil, add a little bit of flour and grounded paprika and stir without stopping until you get a uniformed sauce. Add 2 spoons of water from the big saucepan in which you are cooking the peppers to the sauce together with 2 spoons of tomato soup and stir on top of the heat for a couple of minutes more.
8. Add the sauce to stuffed paprika's pan, cover the pan with a lid and cook for 10-15 minutes more.
9. Remove the paprika from the over and serve warm with parsley, sour cream and crusted bread (according to taste)!