Leafing through my untidy pile of scribbled notes and ingredient lists, I chanced upon a tattered piece of paper from when I was travelling in Turkey. It said ‘dolmas’ (stuffed grape leaves) on the top, and ‘rice, beef, garlic, sumac, raisins, and tomato paste’ jotted below. Not a recipe by any means, but ingredients that I could identify in the dish. Albeit not a revelation, stuffing these peppers was inspired by those dolmas. A hybrid, this dish is Turkish inspired with a slight Mexican accent.

So long as we stay organized, it comes together really quickly. Much of the cooking and prep can be done in advance: I make large batches of tomato sauce and store for the week (can be frozen too). The rice goes in the rice cooker, and cooking the beef takes 10 minutes tops. Also very undemanding in terms of the actual cooking process, you can either assemble the dish and keep refrigerated and cook just before serving, or finish cooking it and refrigerate; it reheats very well.


Serves: 2-3
  • 4 medium peppers, halved lengthwise and de-seeded (with the white membrane removed)
  • 20 grams feta cheese (optional)
  • Fresh basil to garnish
  • 1 cup brown rice (cooked)
  • 200 grams minced beef
  • ⅓ cup kidney beans (cooked)
  • 3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 3 tbsp tomato purée
  • ¼ cup fresh basil, chopped
  • ¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 ½ tsp dried chilli flakes
  • Salt, to taste
  • 6 tomatoes (or) ¾ of a can (or) ¾ cup passata
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 3 tbsp tomato purée
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried chilli flakes
  • ¼ tsp sugar
  • 2 sprigs of fresh thyme (optional)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt, to taste
  1. First make the tomato sauce: If using fresh tomatoes, blanch them in a pot of boiling water until the skins start to peel off; peel the skins back completely and then purée in a blender.
  2. Add olive oil to a pot and sauté the onions and garlic until the onions become translucent. Add the oregano, chilli flakes, sugar, and thyme along with the blended tomatoes (or canned if using) and tomato purée. Season with salt and clamp on a lid. Cook on a low heat for 10 - 15 minutes until the sauce starts to darken and reduce slightly. Set aside.
  3. For the filling: Add olive oil to a pan and tip in the beef. Break up any clumps with a spatula and stir fairly frequently until the meat is completely cooked through, about 5-7 minutes.
  4. Add the garlic, oregano, chilli flakes, tomato purée, kidney beans, and salt, and stir through.
  5. In a bowl, mix together the cooked rice, parsley, basil, and the prepared beef mixture and toss together until everything is well combined. Taste and adjust seasoning.
  6. To assemble: Pour the tomato sauce at the bottom of the dish. Fill each half of the pepper with the beef and rice, and arrange them cut-side up on the sauce. Cover with foil and bake in a pre-heated 180 C/ 360 F oven for an hour, or until the peppers have shrunken in size and have cooked through.
  7. Remove the foil and cook uncovered for another 10 minutes. Sprinkle on the feta and fresh basil, and serve hot.


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