My Dad was born and raised in Lebanon, and came to Australia when he was 21. My Mother is Australian. We were raised on a mixture of Lebanese and Australian food. Christmas dinner can be roast lamb with potatoes and pumpkin, with a side of hommus and kibbi. The food is one of my favourite parts of my Lebanese heritage.
Mihshi kousa b'banadoura (or stuffed zucchinis in tomato sauce) is still one of my favourite Lebanese meals. Most of my absolute favourites are those cooked by my Aunt or Grandmother (Teta) which I have no idea how to make! One day I hope I can learn these recipes so that I can share them with my future family. Thankfully my husband adores Lebanese food!
The only tricky part of this dish is hollowing the zucchinis. I use a special scoop that I got from a Lebanese bakery. It looks like a thin pipe, cut in half lengthwise. However you could use an apple corer instead. The zucchini pulp is not used in this dish, but we keep it to add to soups, or to make fritters. However this time, my husband used it to make zucchini and sultana muffins (recipe in the Handmade Help cookbook)
1 med onion, finely chopped
1 tbs ghee or olive oil
2 tsp salt (or to taste)
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp cinnamon or mixed spice (I use a combo of cinnamon, ground clove, nutmeg and a little ground ginger)
1 1/4 cups white rice, washed and drained
500g minced lamb
1/2 cup water
18 small or 12 medium Lebanese zucchinis
2 med onions
4-5 tbs ghee or olive oil
4 garlic cloves, sliced
1 1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)
2x 455g cans chopped tomatoes
2 cups water
1 teaspoon of dried mint
To make the meat stuffing, saute 1 of the chopped onion in the ghee/oil until soft. Mix the onions, along with the spices, salt and pepper into the rice. Add the lamb and the water and mix with your hands until well mixed and a smooth consistency is reached.
Wash the zucchini and cut off the tops. Scoop out the pulp, being careful not to break the skin. Rinse and drain the zucchini.
Fill each zucchini with the meat and rice filling, only to about 3/4 full to allow for the rice to expand during cooking. Make any leftover meat mxture into meatballs to be cooked with the zucchinis or save it for another day.
Lightly brown the 2 chopped onions in the ghee/oil (do this in the pot you will cook the zucchinis in). Add the garlic and cook until fragrant. Spread the onion mix evenly over the bottom of the pot and place the stuffed zucchinis on top in closely packed rows and layers. (Add any meatballs around the zucchinis). Mix the canned tomatoes with the water and salt and pepper and pour over the zucchinis. Sprinkle over the dried mint.
Cover the zucchinis with an upturned heat proof plate to keep the zucchinis from floating. Cover the saucepan. Bring to the boil and then turn down to a simmer and leave to cook for 60-90 mins.
Serve the zucchinis piled on a platter with the juice poured over the top. Make sure you have lots of pita bread to serve it with!