• 8-10 dried red cubanelle peppers (or 8 red bell peppers)
  • 1 large onion (or 2 smaller), finely chopped
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 cubanelle pepper (or green pepper), finely chopped
  • 1 cup white rice, uncooked
  • 200 grams ground pork
  • 300 grams ground beef
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp coriander powder
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tbsp dried savory
  • salt, to taste
  • 1 1/2 cup water
  • 1 cup natural yogurt
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed

A typical recipe in Bulgarian cuisine is stuffed peppers, or palneni chushki. There are many variations on the theme of stuffing peppers: they can be green or red, large or thin, fresh or dried, with or without meat, with or without feta cheese, etc. This recipe is particular for its use of sundried sweet red peppers, or red cubanelle peppers. During the hot summer months, you can see garlands of red peppers hanging in front of typical Bulgarian houses. Cultivated from the garden, the sweet red cubanelles are hung together to dry in order to be used for stuffing in the winter, or are ground in sweet paprika. Therefore, this is a heartwarming recipe for the winter months, with ground meat and spices dried from the summer.

Stuffed dried peppers have an aromatic and smoky taste that quite particular. Their vegetarian version is an important dish from the Christmas Eve meal, which is traditionally completely composed of vegetarian dishes as it is on the last day of the forty-day Advent fast until Christmas day. So if you prefer a vegetarian dish instead, follow the same recipe and simply replace the ground meat by adding 1 extra cup of white rice instead.

You can also bake the stuffed peppers in the same baking dish as sarmi (cabbage rolls) as the juices of the sauerkraut and the dried peppers will combine and contribute to each other’s aroma, that is if you choose to prepare both dishes at once. Alternatively, if dried red peppers are hard to find, use fresh red bell peppers instead: choose smaller ones, as their skin is thinner and sweeter.

Directions

  1. Soak the dried red pepper in a bowl filled with warm water, so that they become tender. Alternatively, if you choose to use fresh red cubanelle peppers or fresh red bell peppers, wash them well, cut off the tops and clean them from the seeds.
  2. In a large frying pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the finely chopped onion and the garlic and fry for about 2 minutes.
  3. Add the finely chopped carrot and cubanelle pepper to the onion and fry for a few more minutes, until they start getting tender and releasing their aroma. You may add a few tablespoons of water so that the vegetables don’t stick and burn at the bottom of the pan.
  4. Add the uncooked rice to the frying pan stirring, get it well coated by the oil and fry for about 1 minute.
  5. Add the ground meat to the frying pan and brown well, stirring constantly so to mix well the pork and beef meat together.
  6. Finally, once the meat is cooked, but not dried, sprinkle all the spices: Bulgarian paprika, freshly ground black pepper, ground coriander and turmeric powders, dried savory (or the same quantity of fresh savory if you prefer) and a pinch of salt to taste. Stir well into the meat and take the frying pan off the heat.
  7. Proceed to stuff the red peppers with the meat mixture with a small spoon.
  8. In a large baking dish, place the peppers snugly against each other so that the stuffing doesn’t fall out. Pour in the cup of warm water to soak the peppers, adjusting the quantity more or less according to the size of your dish: it should be full to the 3/4 with water.
  9. Heat the oven over medium heat, at about 200°C (400°F) and bake the stuffed peppers for about 1 hour 30 minutes. Make sure the water is simmering and that the top of the peppers doesn’t burn. If so cover them with a piece of aluminum foil and remove the cover towards the end just enough to roast them until golden.
  10. In a small bowl, prepare the easy sauce to serve the on top of the peppers: beat 1 cup of natural yogurt with 1 crushed garlic clove (or more if you like).

Serve these delicious stuffed peppers warm, with a piece of crusty bread. Top them off with a spoonful of yogurt and garlic sauce, as garlic is a great match for this recipe. Or for a more conventional version, try them with a coulis of hot white bechamel sauce.