Spece të mbushur (Stuffed Peppers)
This is by far one of my favorite meals. This partially because is it a whole meal in one pepper and mostly I am obsessed with peppers.
I understand that this may not be an original Albanian dish. I also know that many people will comment about the fact they they (or most likely their mothers) make it different but, as I have said before, this is a dish I grew up eating in my Albanian household.
What you will need:
Bell Peppers- I used 4 for this meal but you can use as many or as little as you want as long as you adjust the rest of the ingredient amounts. Also feel free to use other color peppers.
Ground Beef or Turkey or what ever other protein you prefer
Onions, Carrots, Extra Peppers
Handful of Rice
Start by cutting the peppers in half and cleaning them out. My mother sometimes cuts off the top and fills the entire pepper but I prefer this way for two reasons: one, allows for portion control and two, can peppers can lie better in the pan.
Once the the peppers are all set, preheat the oven to 400, and prepare a skillet for your stuffing by pouring a little oil and letting it heat up. Now start chopping up all your veggies. Make sure to chop them up really small and evenly so they cook evenly and will fit in the peppers.
Once that is done, put everything in the skillet and start sautéing.
Cook until the onions are translucent and the veggies are soft then you can add the seasoning. For this meal I used the mother of all Albanian seasoning Vegeta. Not to say that this is an Albanian seasoning but, it is used in almost ever meal that my mother has ever cooked for our family. You will probably see me use it many other time in other meals. If you don’t have access to Vegeta (usually found in the international food aisle or international food stores), you can use salt pepper and a little garlic powder.
Not its time for the meat. Add the ground beef (or protein of your choice) to the veggies and begin breaking it apart and mixing it with the other ingredients. Cook thoroughly until the meat is no longer pink.
After the meat has cooked through, grab a handful of rice and mix that in as well. If you don’t feel that it is enough rice you are more than welcome to put in more. The key is to make sure there is more meat and veggies than rice mostly because there won’t enough moisture in the pan to cook all that rice. The mixture should look something like this:
Now its time for the fun part! Also the slightly difficult and dangerous part so be careful. Start stuffing the peppers to the top. If you are afraid that you might not have enough mix only stuff the peppers to the top and continue till you are done with all the peppers. You will most likely have more mixture than you expected so this is when you pile it on top of the peppers till you have little mounds of mixture in each pepper.
Pour a little water at the bottom of the pan. I would say about a water of a cup maybe less. This will create steam and cook the rice thoroughly.
Now cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake at 400 for 20-25 min. After this time check to make sure that your rice is cooked by sampling a little bit of the mix. If it is not cooked, cover the pan again and cook for another 10-15 min.
Uncover the pan and let it roast in the oven for about 5 min.
Once its all done, grab yourself one and enjoy! I hope you like this dish as much as I do!