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Thursday, April 10, 2014

Dr. Pepper

peppers stuffed with beans
Still hot bean stuffed peppers

   ''The misleading name "pepper" was given by Christopher Columbus upon bringing the plant back to Europe.At that time peppercorns, the fruit of an unrelated plant originating from India, Piper nigrum, was a highly prized condiment; the name "pepper" was at that time applied in Europe to all known spices with a hot and pungent taste and so naturally extended to the newly discovered Capsicum genus.'' (Thank you Wikipedia:)
    
    Peppers came from Mexico, it was brought to Europe immediately after the discovery of Americas, around the year 1493. To be honest I can't imagine how Europe had looked before peppers came.
    Balkan people love peppers. They can't live without it even during winter times, so they stack their peppers in so many different ways. I'll try to list some of those here:

- they dry it and grind it and that powder they add to most of their dishes, in the west also known as paprika (name for pepper in Eastern Europe),
- they dry chili ones, smoke them, crush them and add them when they wanna make a hot dish
Drying peppers in Souther Serbian villages
- they pickle it and eat it as a salad,
- they make ajvar, spread made out of grilled aubergines and peppers and eat it as a side dish or a bread spread,
- they roast it and leave it in the freezer, so they can make roasted pepper salad in winter or eat it in an omelet,
- they put it raw in the freezer so they can add it to the dishes like đuveč (mixed vegetables in clay pot baked in an oven)
- and last but not least, they dry big pieces and keep them for making stuffed pepper dishes during winter time.
    Stuffed peppers are the Balkan's funkiest dish. You can stuff them with various stuffings, and make the vegan, vegetarian, tasty, nice looking... Coolest thing to bring out in front of your guests from foreign lands because it's so colorful. Dried stuffed peppers in winter is the thing you need to forget about the weather outside and start thinking about where you're gonna go when the summer time comes.
dry peppers soon to be stuffed with beans
This is how dry peppers look like
    I saw big dried peppers long before I found out what people use them for. You can't miss them on Serbian markets. Although for a long time I didn't know what they use them for. One time my Mexican friend wanted to make some home made Mexican dish and bought those. He thought they are chili like the ones in Mexico, they weren't, so he needed to add some chili paprika to make his dish taste more Mexican. Few years after that i went to my friends place in Niš, southern Serbia. His mom made stuffed dry peppers (with rice and meat), and that dish was amazing. I made it immediately after I got home and since then I'm addicted to it, although I stopped adding meat to the original recipe after some time..
    I especially like peppers filled with beans. That's a traditional dish that's mainly eaten in southern parts of Serbia, as well as in Bulgaria and Macedonia. I changed an old recipe a bit, adding more onions and tomato pure. Since there's a sacred rule, that if you prepare oven baked beans you should add a lot of onions to it, I figured it's not gonna be any different with oven baked beans that's baking inside peppers, and I'm very proud to say I was right.


Ingredients:
- dried peppers, you usually get 10 in one pack you buy at the market,
stuffing peppers with beans
Stuffing peppers with cooked beans
- beans (use white beans, I fucked up and bought some dark beans before, so I used in dish to get rid of it. I mean it was good, but white kind is better for these kind of dishes), 250 grams (8,8 oz),
- onions, one big one or two medium ones,
- tomato pure, 2-3 spoons
- garlic, thyme, chili, salt, bay leaf, black peppercorns...

1.  Put your beans to soak in the water the night before. 

2.  Do the same with your dried peppers few hours before start making this dish. 

3.  Take beans out of the water and cook them until they start falling apart from  their skin, you'll need around and hour maybe hour and a half if somebody cheated you and sold you beans from last year harvest. Take a casserole and put some oil at the bottom. 

stuffed peppers and the onions in the casserole
Putting bean stuffed peppers over the sliced onions into the casserole
4.  Take a casserole and put some oil at the bottom. Slice the onions and spread sliced onions around the bottom of the casserole. 

5.  Take beans out of the water, add thyme, chili, salt, 2 crushed garlic cloves, grind black pepper and some oil. Mix it in a bowl. Take peppers out of the water and stuff one by one with beans, after you stuff each pepper hold two sides of the top tight for a second and put it on top of the onions one by one until you fill the casserole. 

6.  Take one cup of the water you cooked beans in add tomato pure to it and mix it with a spoon. Pour that mixture over the stuffed peppers, add some more salt, thyme, one bay leaf and some more whole black peppercorns. Leave it in the preheated oven for at least 45 minutes (hour is also ok) on 200 degrees. Check it from time to time.
stuffed peppers with millet kasha
Stuff peppers with parsley on top served with millet kasha

     If you are vegetarian you can eat this dish with one spoon of sour cream or cream cheese. If not it goes well with vitamin salad, cabbage salad, sauerkraut  etc.
  
*Photo of drying peppers is taken from the web site www.superodmor.rs

2 comments:

  1. I'm also wondering how the Balkan cuisine looked like before peppers were brought there! My boyfriend's always joking with me, because I love stuffed peppers and use peppers generally for lots of dishes... But without an external point of view, I'd never have noticed it, it's just the vegetable to put in almost everything!

    Interesting articles, keep sharing :)

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    1. Hi Dani!
      I was also wondering how Balkan cuisine looked like before peppers and tomatoes came. For example I know that one of the most famous Serbian pastry called proja which is now usually made from corn flour was made from millet flower instead (in Serbian it is called proso) from where this pastry got its name. We don't have too many information about Balkan cuisine from Medieval times today, but I think back then it was similar to the Russian cuisine for example, with a lot of wheat, buckwheat, millet, oats, barley, different grassy and root vegetables.
      I'm glad you like my blog :)

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