Tag Archive | Mahshi

Keep Stuffing: Stuffed Eggplants

So to keep with the whole stuffing theme, I’m posting my aunt Hanan’s recipe for another kind of mahshi (stuffed vegetables): stuffed eggplants. The steps are very similar to the stuffed turnips recipe, but this one calls for less ingredients.

Eggplants occupy a special place in my heart. They have the most amazing taste, and a very rich, creamy texture. The simplest way Palestinians fix eggplant is to fry slices in hot oil till they turn golden, then garnish them with crushed garlic, lemon juice, and hot chili peppers. We serve this with bread, and you have the simplest, most delicious melt-in-your-mouth meal ever. Aside from that, there is a multitude of ways to prepare eggplant, ranging from layering it between tomatoes and ground beef like a casserole, to pickling it with a stuffing of walnuts and ground hot chilis.

It is such a versatile vegetable, and an absolute pleasure to consume.

Of course, in keeping with their love of stuffed things, my Khalili relatives make stuffed eggplants at least once a month (usually more, especially if my uncle Abed happens to get a good deal on eggplants at the vegetable market and comes home with 30 lbs of the stuff, to the exasperated groans of my aunt). So here you go: Batinjan Mahshi!

Note: In Palestine and Jordan, they use medium-sized to large, round-shaped eggplants for stuffing. When I made stuffed eggplants recently and took pictures for this blog, we only had a slender, long, kind on hand that was somewhat like a Japanese variety. Worked just fine.

Ingredients (serves approx 5)

1 batch of Best Mahshi Stuffing Ever

approx 9 lbs of eggplants

2/3 cup salt

6-7 cups pureed tomatoes (puree fresh tomatoes in a blender/food processor for best taste)

2 tomatoes, sliced

1 cup of water or stock (beef/lamb/chicken/vegetable)

salt&pepper to taste


Method

Cut the green tops off the eggplants. Using a ma’warah (coring tool), core the eggplants, removing as much of the insides as possible without poking a hole through the skin. If the eggplants are big enough, you might be able to use a spoon to help make the process faster.

As you can see, the eggplants we had on hand were this slender type that were unfortunately very difficult to core without poking holes through the skins or cracking them near the tops.

Discard the insides of the eggplants.

Try not to crack the eggplants near the "mouth," like I did here. Little cracks like these can expand with cooking and make the whole eggplant burst.

Next, fill a big bowl with water and add the 2/3 cup of salt, stirring until the salt dissolves completely. Take each eggplant and dunk it in the salty water, letting it become completely immersed, before removing it and putting it off to the side for stuffing.

Stuff the eggplants with the rice stuffing, making sure to leave about an inch worth of space at the top for the rice to expand upon cooking. Insert slices of tomato to plug the mouths of the eggplants so the stuffing doesn’t fall out.

You will need a large pot to cook the eggplants. When making mahshi, always remember that you have to make a protective layer at the bottom of the pot to keep the actual vegetables up off the direct heat. Some people slice up a potato and layer the slices at the bottom of the pot, others use soup or chop bones – this is definitely the best option because it gives the dish a lot of extra flavor, and the meat fans at your table can munch on the little bits of meat amid bites of eggplant and rice. If you don’t have bones on hand, and don’t want to cut up a potato, you can wash the green tops that you cut off the eggplants, and layer those down instead. (Just remember to fish them out of the pot later and not accidentally serve them!)

Arrange the eggplants in the pot.

Combine the pureed tomatoes, the cup of water or stock, and salt&pepper to taste, then pour the mixture over the eggplants in the pot. Place something heavy, such as a plate or bowl, on the eggplants to keep them pressed down, so they don’t float around in the liquid.

Cook on high heat until the tomato mixture starts to boil. Let boil for two minutes, then turn the heat down to medium-low. Cover the pot, and let it cook for about an hour to an hour and a half.

To serve: Arrange the eggplants on a serving platter; serve the tomato sauce in individual bowls too, for dipping the eggplants in. Also serve fresh yogurt on the side.

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The Stuffing Begins… (Stuffed Turnips)

Yes, the stuffing begins … and I don’t mean turkeys.

(I don’t do Thanksgiving.)

Since I just posted my recipe for the Best Mahshi Stuffing Ever, I thought it would be appropriate to follow it with an example where you could actually apply the stuffing recipe.

Stuffed turnips are the perfect choice right now, as the fall root vegetables are at their prime. Although the recipe is a bit labor-intensive, the end result is really worth the effort. (Also, Palestinian cooking is usually labor intensive in general, so you just have to deal with it!)

I find the use of both sumac and pomegranate molasses for acidity in this recipe really unique – I actually think this dish is on the more “creative” end of the spectrum when it comes to traditional Palestinian food, just because of how the vegetable is treated, as well as the strange flavor combinations that bring out the best of the spicy turnip. Most importantly, the turnips end up turning pink from the sumac, and nothing can possibly be better than pink turnips.

My “Lift Mahshi,” or stuffed turnips, are a must-make!

Ingredients (to serve 5)

1 batch of Best Mahshi Stuffing Ever

9 lbs medium sized turnips

3 cups vegetable oil, for frying

6-7 cups pureed tomatoes (puree fresh tomatoes in a blender/food processor for best taste)

1 cup water

2 cups of good quality sumac (should be quite sour)

1/3 cup pomegranate molasses

salt to taste

Method

I like to divide the tasks of preparation up in my head so that it’s easier to tackle. I’ve divided them up here as: Coring, Frying, Stuffing, and Cooking.


i. Coring

With a knife, cut off the rough tops and bottoms of each turnip, then peel them. Rinse them off.

With a “corer” (ma2warah), core out the insides of the turnips, scraping the tool around inside to hollow them out.

Sharp teeth on the corer

You don’t want the hollowed-out turnips to be too thin though, or they will fall apart upon cooking, so be careful. If you accidentally poke a hole through them, don’t worry; I will address how to fix t hat below.

Some of the holes are really big on this batch of turnips, but don't worry; you'll plug them later after stuffing them..

Important: Do not throw away the insides of the turnips! Keep them in a bowl to the side, because you will be using them later.

ii. Frying

Heat the oil for frying in a pan. When hot,  fry the turnips on all sides till they’re golden brown. The vegetable will start to form bubbles on its exterior as it fries; it’s kind of neat to watch.

When the turnips are fried, take them out and put them on paper towels or newspaper to absorb some of the oil. Let them cool.

iii. Stuffing

Once the fried turnips have cooled down, they’re ready to stuff. Fill each turnip with the stuffing, and use the tip of your pinkie finger to measure when they’re good to go: there should be about the tip of your pinkie’s worth of space between the stuffing and the “mouth” of the turnip. Don’t worry about being accurate; the basic idea is that you need to allow space for the rice to expand inside the turnip when it cooks.

Finally, close the mouths of the turnips with some of the turnip insides you have sitting off the side. This should prevent the stuffing from spilling out of the turnips.

Holes: If you accidentally poked holes through your turnip while coring, patch them up by putting some of the turnip insides back into the turnip and covering the holes with them. Then, you carefully put the rice stuffing in over the patches, and continue on as above.

iv. Cooking

In a large bowl, combine the tomato puree, the cup of water, the sumac, the pomegranate molasses, and salt to taste. Stir to blend well.

Put a few tablespoons of oil in a large pot, then add a few handfuls of the turnip insides you have waiting off to the side. You want the layer of “insides” on the bottom of the pan to be about an inch thick.

Next, carefully place the stuffed turnips in the pot, with the mouths facing upward. When you layer them on top of each other, try to be gentle so they don’t fall over.

Pour the tomato puree mixture over the turnips. The puree should just barely cover the turnips; if you don’t have enough to cover the turnips, just add some water to bring the liquid up to the tops of the vegetables.

Put the pot uncovered on the stove on high heat, until the tomato puree mixture comes to a boil. Let it boil for 2 minutes, then turn the heat down to medium-low, and cover the pot. Let the turnips cook for about an hour to an hour and a half, until the turnip is tender and the rice inside is cooked and soft (after about an hour of cooking, you can take one out and cut it open to see how far cooked the rice is, and based on that, decide how much more cooking time the pot needs).

To serve:

Fish the turnips out of the pot, and serve them on a platter or in a large bowl. Ladle out the tomato sauce into small, individual bowls to serve with the turnips, making sure to scrape the bottom of the pot to get that layer of turnip insides. This sauce is the best part; you drizzle it over your turnip after you cut it open – or, if eating with your hands (the best way!), dip the turnip into the bowl of sauce as you eat! Also serve the stuffed turnips with little bowls of fresh yogurt and some slices of lemon/lime.

Extra: If you still have turnip insides left over, fry them like a hash brown in a frying pan with some oil until golden. Add salt and pepper; this stuff tastes amazing.

Tired of Boring Mahshi? Perfect Stuffing Recipe Right Here!

Don’t get me wrong; I love mahshi, or “stuffed” things (usually vegetables), of all shapes and sizes. Our family is from the city of Khalil, and trust me, Khalilis will stuff anything they can get their hands on. Khalilis have stuffed eggplants, turnips, tomatoes, bell peppers, zucchini, grape leaves, cabbage leaves, “tongue leaves” (I don’t know what they’re called in English), cucumbers, carrots, and even eggs. Yeah. So I’m programmed to love mahshi. And I do.

But sometimes, the stuffing just gets really boring.

Today I’d like to share a recipe for stuffing that is way better than any stuffing you’ve ever tasted. You can use it for stuffing pretty much anything. Once I post the recipe for the stuffing itself, I can then follow it with different kinds of mahshi variations, because each vegetable has its own particular method of preparation.

So here it is! And yes, I’m using American weight measurements today!

To 3 cups of washed, short-grain American or Egyptian rice, add:

1/2 cup of washed basmati rice

1/2 lb ground lamb or beef

1 large onion, grated

1/4 cup chopped parsley

1/4 cup vegetable oil

2 tbsp salt – or more, if you prefer

2 tbsp curry powder

2 tbsp allspice (or “mixed bharat” if available)

1.5 tbsp turmeric

1.5 tbsp ginger

1.5 tbsp black pepper

1 tbsp coriander

1 tbsp cumin

1 tbsp cardamom

2 teaspoons of cinnamon

Method

Mix it all together! Done! This is your way better than anything you’ve ever tasted stuffing. Trust me.

By the way, you can always add more or less of any of the spices above, based on your personal preference.

This batch of stuffing actually has more meat in it than usual, because we wanted a meatier experience that day :p

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