11 July 2016

LENTIL, RICE AND KALE STUFFED PEPPERS, WITH TOMATO SAUCE

LENTIL, RICE AND KALE STUFFED PEPPERS WITH TOMATO SAUCE

Don't you just luuuv stuffed peppers! Well, if you are my age, I bet, you do :-). They are without doubt one of my favourite childhood dishes. They bring back memories of hot summers in Austria: garden, ping pong table, badminton, old lopsided wooden shack, 'Tante Finni' hiding in neighbour's garden... and... paddling pool. Just big enough to provide some cool and lots of entertainment for us girls (well once you were finished filling it with buckets and buckets of hot water to take the edge off the cold from the garden hose), and most definitely big enough to create a big mess on the grass at the end of the day - what fun!


LENTIL, RICE AND KALE STUFFED PEPPERS WITH TOMATO SAUCE

Made in the traditional Austrian way, my mum would stuff the peppers with rice and minced meat and then cook them in a spicy sweet and tangy tomato sauce, until soft, fragrant and tasty. Oh the wonderful pepper perfume filling the house, flowery, sweet and delicious! On opening the front door, you knew what was cooking.

Today, Austria is a thousand kilometres away, the back garden gave way for a terrace in the city, and I have outgrown the paddling pool - or so they tell me ;-) Anyway, with all the neighbours overlooking our small terrace-trial sanctuary, maybe just as well. But what I am really missing most this summer, is, well, summer. It's beginning of July, and apart from a couple of, mediocre at most, hot days, there's still none in sight - ouch!


LENTIL, RICE AND KALE STUFFED PEPPERS WITH TOMATO SAUCE

So at least this dish brings some consolation, and the beautiful scents that fill the house are luckily all the same, even though this version is a little different from my mum's. Another remnant from this spring's Detox diet, it's more like its vegan cousin. But we like it so much, that we've made it several times since the diet. It's the healthy relative, but nonetheless hearty, gorgeous, and full of flavour, and leaves nothing to be desired. Below recipe is for four peppers, but I tend to make it in big quantities nowadays, as the peppers get better every day, and we don't have to fight over the left-overs they can be easily re-heated. I think they are best warm, rather than hot, as it brings out their flavour, but they are also nice served at room temperature. I think they would make a great side-dish for a BBQ, or packed in boxes for a picnic - the two more grown-up and less humiliating versions of fun these days :-)


LENTIL, RICE AND KALE STUFFED PEPPERS WITH TOMATO SAUCE

Below ingredients are by the way only guidelines. I have used mixed Camarque rice and brown rice before, but you could of course use white or Basmati. The lentils can be replaced with black beans (just mash them with a fork to break them up a little before adding them to the other ingredients), and I have used other greens, such as broccoletti (broccoli rabe), and even spinach, instead of the kale. You can also change the quantities of the ingredients for the filling, but just make sure to add plenty of greens, as they add a lovely creaminess to the filling, as well as being healthy of course. Or stuff other vegetables, such as tomatoes or courgettes, they are just as nice. But don't skip the cumin. It goes so well with both the lentils and beans, and adds a lovely mediterranean note.


LENTIL, RICE AND KALE STUFFED PEPPERS WITH TOMATO SAUCE

Serves 3-4

For the Peppers: 
125g mixed Camarque rice, rinsed and drained
olive oil
3 shallots, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large carrot, finely diced
1 large tomato, finely diced, skin left on
350g blanched kale, or a big bunch of whatever greens you prefer
small bunch of coriander leaves
1 tsp cumin
pinch of cayenne pepper
organic vegetable stock cube, to taste
salt, to taste
freshly milled black pepper
1 medium tin brown lentils, drained and well rinsed
3-4 red or green medium peppers, cleaned and cut in half lengthwise

For the Sauce:

olive oil
2 shallots, finely diced
2 large tomatoes, finely diced, skin left on
1 tin tomatoes
organic vegetable stock cube, to taste
salt, to taste


Finely dice the tomato, carrot and shallots. Chop the coriander leaves and mince the garlic.

LENTIL, RICE AND KALE STUFFED PEPPERS WITH TOMATO SAUCE

Wash and cook the rice for app. 18 mins, or until soft, according to packet instructions. Camarque or brown rice might take a little longer. Rinse well and keep aside. Rinse and drain the lentils using a colander.

LENTIL, RICE AND KALE STUFFED PEPPERS WITH TOMATO SAUCE

In a medium to large frying pan, fry the diced shallots in a little olive oil over medium heat until translucent. Add the minced garlic and fry for another minute. Add the diced carrots and tomato and keep on frying. Season with stock cube and black pepper.

LENTIL, RICE AND KALE STUFFED PEPPERS WITH TOMATO SAUCE

Add the kale and fry. (If still necessary, clean and wash the kale, then blanch the leaves in a pot of boiling salted water for 3 minutes). At the end, stir the chopped coriander under the vegetable.

LENTIL, RICE AND KALE STUFFED PEPPERS WITH TOMATO SAUCE

Put the vegetable mix together with the cooked rice and rinsed lentils into a large pot. Add the cumin and cayenne pepper and stir well, then check for seasoning, adding more spices, salt or pepper as necessary.

LENTIL, RICE AND KALE STUFFED PEPPERS WITH TOMATO SAUCE

Wash the peppers, then cut them in half lengthwise and remove the white skins and seeds. Season them with salt inside and out, then rub the outside with a little olive oil. Place them into an oiled ovenproof dish cut side up.

LENTIL, RICE AND KALE STUFFED PEPPERS WITH TOMATO SAUCE

Pre-heat the oven to 180°C (fan). Stuff the peppers with the filling.


LENTIL, RICE AND KALE STUFFED PEPPERS WITH TOMATO SAUCE

Cover the dish with aluminum foil, then bake the peppers in the pre-heated oven for app. 1 hour, or until the peppers are soft, i.e. their skin can easily be pierced with a small knife, and they start to shrivel just a little. Towards the end of cooking time, remove the foil and leave the peppers to brown and caramelise a little, paying attention that the lentils and rice on top don't dry out and get too hard.

LENTIL, RICE AND KALE STUFFED PEPPERS WITH TOMATO SAUCE

While the peppers are cooking, prepare the tomato sauce. In a large pan, fry the chopped shallots over medium heat in a little olive oil until translucent. Add the fresh, chopped and the tinned tomatoes. Season with vegetable stock. Leave to cook over medium heat until the tomatoes are soft and the sauce has thickened a little. Check for seasoning and add more stock cube or salt as necessary.

LENTIL, RICE AND KALE STUFFED PEPPERS WITH TOMATO SAUCE

Serve the peppers on top of the sauce.


LENTIL, RICE AND KALE STUFFED PEPPERS WITH TOMATO SAUCE

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LENTIL, RICE AND KALE STUFFED PEPPERS WITH TOMATO SAUCE


LENTIL, RICE AND KALE STUFFED PEPPERS WITH TOMATO SAUCELENTIL, RICE AND KALE STUFFED PEPPERS WITH TOMATO SAUCELENTIL, RICE AND KALE STUFFED PEPPERS WITH TOMATO SAUCE

Serves 3-4:

For the Peppers: 
125g mixed Camarque rice, rinsed and drained
olive oil
3 shallots, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large carrot, finely diced
1 large tomato, finely diced, skin left on
350g blanched kale, or a big bunch of whatever greens you prefer
small bunch of coriander leaves
1 tsp cumin
pinch of cayenne pepper
organic vegetable stock cube, to taste
salt, to taste
freshly milled black pepper
1 medium tin brown lentils, drained and well rinsed
3-4 red or green medium peppers, cleaned and cut in half lengthwise

For the Sauce:
olive oil
2 shallots, finely diced
2 large tomatoes, finely diced, skin left on
1 tin tomatoes
organic vegetable stock cube, to taste
salt, to taste

1. Prepare the vegetables: Finely dice the tomato, carrot and shallots. Chop the coriander leaves and mince the garlic.

2. Boil the rice and rinse the lentils: Wash and cook the rice for app. 18 mins, or until soft, according to packet instructions. Camarque or brown rice might take a little longer. Rinse well and keep aside. Rinse and drain the lentils using a colander.

3. Fry the Vegetable: In a medium to large frying pan, fry the diced shallots in a little olive oil over medium heat until translucent. Add the minced garlic and fry for another minute. Add the diced carrots and tomato and keep on frying. Season with stock cube and black pepper. 

4. Add kale and coriander: Add the kale and fry. (If still necessary, clean and wash the kale, then blanch the leaves in a pot of boiling salted water for 3 minutes). At the end, stir the chopped coriander under the vegetable. 

5. Mix vegetables, rice and lentils, and season: Put the vegetable mix together with the cooked rice and rinsed lentils into a large pot. Add the cumin and cayenne pepper and stir well, then check for seasoning, adding more spices, salt or pepper as necessary.

6. Prepare peppers: Wash the peppers, then cut them in half lengthwise and remove the white skins and seeds. Season them with salt inside and out, then rub the outside with a little olive oil. Place them into an oiled ovenproof dish cut side up. 

7. Stuff peppers and pre-eat oven: Pre-heat the oven to 180°C (fan). Stuff the peppers with the filling. 

8. Cover and Bake: Cover the dish with aluminum foil, then bake the peppers in the pre-heated oven for app. 1 hour, or until the peppers are soft, i.e. their skin can easily be pierced with a small knife, and they start to shrivel just a little. Towards the end of cooking time, remove the foil and leave the peppers to brown and caramelise a little, paying attention that the lentils and rice on top don't dry out and get too hard. 

9. Prepare the sauce: While the peppers are cooking, prepare the tomato sauce. In a large pan, fry the chopped shallots over medium heat in a little olive oil until translucent. Add the fresh, chopped and the tinned tomatoes. Season with vegetable stock. Leave to cook over medium heat until the tomatoes are soft and the sauce has thickened a little. Check for seasoning and add more stock cube or salt as necessary.

10. Serve: Serve the peppers on top of the sauce .



Tips: 
- Don't cook the peppers for too long. They are nicest with a little 'bite'. But don't undercook them either, as they won't be as tasty and will not connect so well with the filling. You should be able to easily pierce their skin with a sharp knife and they should shrivel just a little. Don't let them shrivel up completely and get too soft. 
- The foil is important during cooking, as the upper layer of lentils and rice can get too hard if cooked at too high heat. Only remove the foil towards the end of cooking time to let the peppers brown and caramelise a little. 
- I like to buy Kale and other greens when in season and blanch and freeze them in portions for later. This way I just have to let them thaw a little. You can of course add fresh leaves to the pan, or blanch the greens a little there and then as needed, it will just take a little longer, including the washing, cleaning, etc.
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